Madonna goes electric.
Story by Tony BonyataHot off the heals of her live HBO concert special - the third highest rated prime-time concert special since 1997 - musical icon Madonna stopped off in the Windy City to perform two sold out performances at the United Center that didn't vary much from the televised special. Eschewing most of her biggest hits and scantily clad Spice Channel antics she, instead, leaned heavy on newer and lesser known material, along with a colorful, master thespian's dream production.
Photos by Phil Bonyata
(Photos of Madonna on bull and in "Mother" shirt
sent by a Livewire viewer)
The show was broken between four vastly distinct sets and costumes (Scottish techno punk, geisha / ninja, urban cowgirl and Spanish senorita), with mixed results. With shoulder length blond locks and clad in a black and white checkered Scottish kilt with black boots, the Material Girl strutted out among the huge cold metal structures on the stage and opened with, "Drowned World / Substitute for Love." While this mellower, odd choice for an intro was hardly the number to grab the attention of her fans, it didn't take long for things to pick up as she stood at the head of the stage armed with an electric guitar, churning out a respectable rock riff that would've made Keith Richards proud. With bondage clad and mohawked coifed dancers gyrating around her, Madonna ended the song in forced punk fashion by blurting out "f*ck you, motherf*ckers!" She shifted gears going from mock punk to Asian Buffet, before later adapting a hokey southern accent during her glam-trash country-gal bit.
While her attempts at punk and country smacked of pretentiousness, it was really no more than Madonna merely dressing down for a fashion shoot, only to discard her rags and duds for the next trendy fad. These were just the visuals and the image, after all. But with Madonna, remember, that's more than half of the package. Her voice, while in fine form, along with her group of polished musicians, who expertly executed their techno-dance floor dexterity, unfortunately played second fiddle to the expertly-timed, but ultimately over-inflated stage productions.
Her erotic stage shenanigans of previous tours may have once raised eyebrows, but her brief dirty dance with a stripper's pole, naughty ride on a mechanical bull amidst a Busby Berkeley hoe-down and heavy-handed use of swishy half-nude male dancers now seemed almost tame in comparison.
Despite the fact that some of the show's production was over the top, her surreal ninja battle - with effects lifted from the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" - was extremely engaging as Madonna blossomed from subservient geisha girl to victorious flying ninja warrior.
While most of the pretty girls and pretty boys in the audience seemed fixated by their host's visual circus, they were nowhere near as invigorated as when Madonna broke into one her early hits,"Holiday." The enthusiasm for this song proved that while she may be doing something different, and even commendable by filling her show with primarily newer music, her fans, who paid up to $250 for a face value seat, may be the ones who were ultimately short-changed.
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