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Re-Invention Tour Concert Reviews

After all that hype, Madonna plays it safe and bashes Bush
Inglewood, CA - Great Western Forum
May 24, 2004
Courtesy of the Toronto Sun
LOS ANGELES -- Madonna came to rock, not to shock, and preach a little as she launched her Re-Invention tour.

Her first road trip in three years began Monday night at The Forum in Los Angeles. She has three dates at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, July 18, 19 and 21, that sold out in 80 minutes.

Despite early breathless reports about the shocking nature of Madge's latest trek around the world, only one element proved to be true. And it was pretty tame at that.

A simulated execution had Madonna strapped in to an electric chair while she sang Lament from the Evita soundtrack. But when the supposed deep fry came, only strobe lights went off at her feet, and there was no writhing around on Madonna's part and she quickly disappeared into the floor of the stage.

The 45-year-old pop chameleon delivered a glamorous and fun, if slightly preachy, show with just the right mix of new songs and older hits. She included the frothy Material Girl, a song she swore she'd never sing again, but with a twist this time.

"And we are living in a material world and I am a material girl," she sang, before yelling: "But not really!"

True to her rebellious nature, Madonna also incorporated political and religious messages into her hour-and-50-minute set. The most notable anti-war commentary was some Bush bashing during the military-themed title track from her latest album, American Life, which ended with video imagery of Bush and Saddam Hussein look-a-likes sharing a cigar.

There was even a fashion show featuring her dancers in what sounds like a bad bar joke -- two nuns, a rabbi, a priest, etc., on a catwalk that was brought down from the ceiling.

And later, just as the concert ended, an audio recording of Bush speaking was played -- to a loud chorus of boos from the sold-out audience.

Video of explosions and young victims of war were shown both during American Life and Madonna's cover of John Lennon's Imagine. It ended with these words on the video screens: "Spirituality for kids: Make things happen."

But it wasn't all preachy, all the time.

After opening with the religious spoken word monologue, The Beast Within, Madonna's 1990 uber-hit Vogue got the crowd of 15,000 on their feet and dancing and singing along.

Dressed in a pale pink sparkly corset, tiny black shorts and thigh-high black leather boots, she first appeared splayed on a platform rising out of the floor of her technically awesome stage.

With large, moving LED video screens, a conveyor belt-like strip at the front of the stage, and first-class lighting -- not to mention nine incredible dancers and a seven-piece band -- it was pretty much a feast for the eyes, if not always the ears.

Madonna isn't the world's greatest singer, but is known for her "body is a temple" philosophy and dancing abilities, and she also sported some mighty impressive arms, not unlike Linda Hamilton's in The Terminator, that were hard to ignore. (The right forearm was wrapped in a nude bandage. She also later wore a black tensor bandage around her left knee.)

Certainly, Madonna's husband, British film-maker Guy Ritchie, seemed riveted as he stood in the audience just to the right of the stage, smiling and cheering his wife on while a documentary crew hovered nearby. There were, in fact, cameras everywhere, including one on a crane capturing some impressively fluid shots that were broadcast back on the video screens.

A couple of dozen concertgoers were pretty excited to be placed on small pits on either side of the stage, effectively becoming part of the show.

Musically speaking, contemporary songs Frozen and Don't Tell Me proved to be the highlights, while old chestnuts Express Yourself, Like A Prayer, Papa Don't Preach (complete with Madonna and her dancers/singers dressed in T-shirts that said "Kabbalists do it better," in reference to her study of Kabbala, a kind of Jewish mysticism), Crazy For You and Holiday were definite crowd pleasers.

But the most pleasant surprises of the night were her previously limp Bond movie theme Die Another Day, which came off much more energized in concert via a sexy, tango treatment, and Get Into The Groove, which featured Madonna in a kilt -- accompanied by a bagpiper and drummers.
She might be older and more spiritual -- but Madonna still knows how to put on an awesome show
Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
July 18, 2004
Courtesy of Toronto Sun
TORONTO -- After an 11-year absence, Madonna returned to Toronto last night with the first of three sold-out shows at the Air Canada Centre.

The 45-year-old pop icon notably didn't bring her 2001 Drowned Tour to T.O., disappointing fans, but she seemed to have been forgiven last night judging from the roaring reception.

"Ah, it's good to be back in Toronto," she said towards the end of her hour-and-50-minute set. "It's been so long. Just because I have two children doesn't mean I don't like to have fun."

Believe it or not, Madonna last performed in this city in 1993 with her sexy Girlie Show Tour at SkyDome. (She mistakenly remembered her last visit as the infamous 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour saying: "The last time we were here, the police almost arrested us. I'm a good girl.")

But back in 1993, she was a vastly different artist, single and childless, and without her new-found faith in Kabbalah, the study of a kind of Jewish mysticism that has found her choosing the Hebrew name of Esther for herself.

Not to give anyone the wrong idea.

Last night's show -- which began 45 minutes later than scheduled and found 17,000 anxious fans chanting "Madonna! Madonna!" -- was still a hi-tech, flashy and fun affair but overall more tame, and slightly preachy with plenty of Bush-bashing, anti-war messages and Hebrew references.

Like the L.A. tour launch on May 24, a select group of fans were guided into tiny pits on either side of the stage before the concert began for a first-class view of Madge, although five giant moving video screens enabled the masses farther away to get a good look at The Material Girl. (Given her tour merchandise ranged from $10 for a keychain to $105 for a pink hooded sweatshirt -- so much for her claim she's now The Non-Material Girl.)

Kicking off the night with a slick, stylized video and recorded spoken-word monologue called The Beast Within, the concert really began when Madonna made her big entrance laying down on a platform that came out of the stage floor to the opening strains of her 1990 uber-hit Vogue.

She was quickly joined by nine dancers, all dressed in French period costumes, with her seven-piece band divided into two camps in the shadows on either side of the stage.

The biggest production number, however, came during the title track from her 2003 release, American Life, which saw a gleaming silver catwalk descend from above for a fashion show featuring Madonna's dancers dressed as everything from a rabbi, a priest, a nun, an Arab, etc.

By this point, Madge -- who began the night in a sparkly champagne-coloured corset top, short black shorts and knee-high black boots -- had changed into army fatigues and a black beret with the rest of her dancers brandishing rifles for army-themed choreography.

The background video, meanwhile, was sober images of victims of war ending with a Bush and Saddam Hussein look-alikes sharing a cigar. (Similar video of children in war-torn countries was shown during her cover of John Lennon's Imagine.)

Because this is called the Re-Invention Tour, many of Madonna's songs were reworked, some better than others.

Often she appeared as a solitary figure on stage playing the electric or acoustic guitar on such songs as Burning Up and Material Girl or the new tune, Nothing Fails, respectively.

The weakest link in the entire show was the circus-themed third portion where, for some unknown reason, Madonna dragged out the awful Dick Tracy song Hanky Panky, and turned the normally robust dance song Deeper And Deeper into a cabaret ballad.

Thankfully,that segment was saved by a wonderfully inventive tango version of her James Bond theme song, Die Another Day, before she was placed in an electric chair for the Evita number, Lament.

Other crowd-pleasers proved to be a mix of old and new songs like Frozen, Express Yourself, Don't Tell Me, Like A Prayer and Music.

Although Get Into The Groove, which featured bagpipes, drums and Madonna and her dancers in kilts, and the show-ending Holiday, complete with red-and-white confetti and another stroll down the catwalk, have to be singled out for special mention.

Madonna wraps up the North American leg on her Re-Invention tour on Aug. 2 in Miami before heading over to Europe.

Otherwise, she plays two more shows at the ACC, tonight and Wednesday. The Toronto shows initially sold-out in a record-setting 80 minutes but more seats were released once the Re-Invention production was finalized.

Rumoured among those to be in attendance last night were Madonna's two children -- seven-year-old daughter Lourdes, a.k.a. Lola, and three-year-old son Rocco -- and hubby Guy Ritchie.