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Madonna: The Reinvention Tour

The Fabulous Forum
Los Angeles, CA
May 24, 2004

By Mary Ladd and Julie Wiskirchen

The Ape Culture editors heard a lot of rumors about this show - semi-naked pregnant women, hot lesbo action, broomsticks, an electric chair, a rewriting of the "Vogue" rap. The only one that was validated was the electric chair. It was center stage, but it didn't zap Madonna and instead allowed her to live to "Die Another Day." Here's Mary's and Julie's take on the really big show.

Mary strikes a pose:

We saw the opening night of the Reinvention Tour. We had bad seats (too far to the side of the stage and in the very top row - we couldn't even see most of the video screens) so we never sat in them...we just moved around, kept one step ahead of the security guards.

There were parts of the show that were really, really interesting visually...and musically. For instance, she did an amazing reinvention of "Burning Up" and this whole Iraq sequence that was on target, so to speak. She had some interesting elements, some interesting cultural juxtapositions in the dancing; but the entire show didn't really live up to my expectations as a whole...she didn't really maintain the same level of visual quality throughout the show.

And that seems important since she's not a very passionate musician and she places such an emphasis on the visual. Even during her best hits, the show lacked the musical energy and excitement that the Prince show had....and also, the visual perfection, the lighting, and the perfection of movement the Prince show had. Everything Prince did was so precise.

It just wasn't edgy enough or colorful enough. For instance, at one point she used an electric chair and sang a song while tied down to it and I was waiting for the light show electrocution (or her "statement" on capital punishment) which never happened....the chair just sank into the stage at the end. So it was a weak moment. I recalled Hitchcock: don't have an electric chair in the show if you're not going to use it? The electric chair was a MacGuffin.

The show lacked color and there were way too many Kabbalah references. And I believe she lip-synced the first two songs. But she played guitar on others and she did a touching fan dedication to "Crazy for You."

There were also some elements of the show that were missteps - she played an audio tape of a Bush speech at the very end and you had no idea what to take from that; you could barely hear what he was saying. It was just confusing.

And at one point she sang a very pop version of John Lennon's "Imagine" and it just seemed flat to me. It's such a quiet song and she had kind of a muddled and imposing music backing her up.

But all that said, for what we paid ($45 plus ticketbastard fees) - I'm glad I went. I had a good time and it was still exciting to see Madonna and hear all the hits live. I was just expecting something stunning start to finish, up to the level of her flawless, formalist and gorgeous videos.

And the Forum is a really kewl retro arena...but hotter than hell inside. But they served veggie burgers!! :-)

Julie vogues:

I saw Madonna on the Drowned World tour in 2001 from pretty much the same side-stage point of view. Both times I felt like I missed out because I couldn't take in the whole visual spectacle from head-on. But when tickets go so fast, it's enough to just "be there." At least we were able to better our seats by sneaking forward 20 rows or so.

To compare this to the last tour - perhaps the spectacle wasn't quite as impressive but the set list was a huge improvement. I don't care much for Madonna's recent techno-influenced material and would prefer to hear her 80s pop. Last time the audience got whipped into a frenzy when she played "La Isla Bonita" and "Holiday" because they were the only classic hits she played. This time she was able to keep the crowd at more of a fever pitch due to playing the hits. It also helped to make the show stand up as a monument to her career and remarkable ability to last and stay relevant. She played 22 songs over the course of nearly 2 hours.

Madonna looked and sounded great. Her waist was so tiny, especially in her army fatigues, that I wondered if she'd had a rib removed. She was incredibly fit and this tour will keep her in shape, with its demanding dance routines. I'll agree with Mary that she didn't seem too energetic - but since the show the following night was canceled due to her having the flu, that may explain her lack of oomph. Still, she kept up with her dancers pretty well and as this was the first night, everybody is still learning and a little awkward. Also, she was in great voice. I didn't hear a bad note all night.

Kicking things off with "Vogue" was a great choice. Madonna added some "yoga vogue" to the routine and sported a jewel-encrusted corset. She came back from her first costume change in non-drab army fatigues. The choreography was impressive in this anti-war section, with the dancers marching and twirling their rifles. A metal catwalk was lowered and it extended out over about half of the floor and the dancers filled it. She also had multiple video screens that moved and opened and closed like curtains. It was hard to see the visuals from where we stood but they seemed to be the usual shots of the horror of war. I can't say that Madonna really added much to the discourse on Iraq, nor can I say that I'm very impressed with the "American Life" tune. Later, she trotted out her dancers in skimpy nun habit-miniskirts, cardinal, rabbi, and Muslim outfits. Again, I felt this was more retread than reinvention and nothing shocking. She was also way over-the-top with the Kabbalah messages. Bits of Hebrew text kept flashing on the screen, and I wondered if subliminal messages were being sent to our brains. Although she appeared to be poking fun at herself when she showed up in a "Kabbalahists Do It Better" T-shirt later in the show, she clearly takes this stuff very, very seriously.

Another costume change brought her back as a "circus whore", for a dazzling sequence that was kicked off with some fantastic break dancing and tap-dancing from the dancers. The dancers made the costume change pauses very easy to take and I liked that there was less cirque do soleil type twirling around on trapezes and curtains as compared to the Drowned World tour. I thought Madonna could have interacted with the crowd more, although she did take time to point out that she wasn't really a material girl after singing "Material Girl," a song she has claimed she hates.

I agree that "Imagine" was lackluster. It didn't create the magical moment that Madonna likely thought it would. I would have rather heard some of the hits she left off the set list such as "Live to Tell," "Like a Virgin," and "Borderline."

The show really took off toward the end, but unfortunately the extreme heat of the arena was getting to me and I lost some enthusiasm. Still, it was great to hear "Into the Groove," "Crazy for You," and "Papa Don't Preach." As for reinventing, it seemed to me that she didn't reinvent all that much and instead played faithful renditions of most of her hits. She did mix up a few - the most successful being a slow, sensual version of "Deeper and Deeper." A definite highlight for me was seeing Madonna perform "Hanky Panky" while clad in a wife beater. With the Dick Tracy soundtrack relegated to the bargain bins of the world, I really didn't expect to hear that old chestnut. It was a great, campy, fun moment.

Madonna worked the crowd into a frenzy with "Music," a song that always gets me moving, and her closing, confetti-strewn anthem "Holiday." The final message on the video screen was advice to the fans: "Reinvent Yourself." It was a bit surprising that there was no encore, but perhaps this is emblematic of the teaching of the Kabbalah - keep self-aggrandizement to a minimum. The Material Girl now wants to leave her fans inspired but doesn't need to bask in endless applause anymore. Her self-esteem is boosted to the extreme, just like her boobs were in that old cone bra.

Read more Ape Culture concert reviews

A Cult Watch archive of news stories about Kabbalah

Visit the official Madonna website

A reinvention or the same-old-same-old? What did you think of Madonna's reinvention?


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