Heat’s on with Madonna’s”Confessions”
“Here’s a confession from behind the computer” – Roberta Fusaro writes on the Telegram & Gazette – “It’s impossible not to be fully riveted by the buzzworthy spectacles that Madonna rolls out whenever she goes on tour. Sometimes, though, it’s not always clear what the legendarily provocative and outspoken performer is trying to tell us. At points during Thursday night’s sold-out show at the TD Banknorth Garden, I wondered: Is it that jodhpurs and bridles can be sexy? That we should be doing more to battle the AIDS epidemic? That we should all wear more leisure suits and leotards?
Ultimately, it didn’t actually matter that the pop icon’s imagery and rhetoric were sometimes perplexing. The sold-out Garden crowd was intent on dancing the confusion away. If there was any sort of message at all, it was simply “get into the groove.”
The 47-year-old Material Girl is touring behind “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” her latest CD and an obvious return to her club roots. So it was no surprise that the live show’s emphasis was on creating a sweaty, Studio 54 vibe; reportedly, the singer is requesting that arenas on this tour turn down the air conditioning. The performance moved at a breakneck pace, with songs looping over and segueing into one another.
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During Thursday’s show (the first of her three performances at the Garden; the others are tomorrow and Monday), Madonna showcased most of the songs from “Confessions,” seamlessly and energetically assisted by a four-piece band, several backup singers, and a slew of well-chiseled dancers. However, there was also room in the set for some inspired revamps of Madonna’s previous chart-toppers – for instance, a brilliant mashup that superimposed The Trammps’ dance classic “Disco Inferno” over Madonna’s own “Music.” The chirpy 1980s radio hit “Lucky Star” was updated for the dance floor when it was paired with the infectious hook of the more recent “Hung Up” – a hook that itself was borrowed from an old Abba song.
The critical elements for which Madonna’s tours and videos are renowned were all in place: expansive staging, precision choreography, crazy/sexy/cool Gaultier-designed getups like the bondage-gear-cum-equestrian outfits Madonna and crew wore for the opening segment of the show and, of course, the toned-beyond-belief body, the strong if limited vocals and the impressive physical stamina of Madge herself.
The opening number typified the evening’s mix of searing dance grooves, over-the-top sexuality and rock star attitude: The singer literally hatched from a one-and-a-half-ton mirror ball that descended on stage. She glared divaliciously as the ball broke apart, then grinned mischievously as the audience roared through the opening strains of “Future Lovers” – which then morphed into Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” Madonna eventually went on to mount one of her male dancers, all of whom were fitted with saddles and bits, while the other performers in her crew galloped suggestively along the catwalk.
This equestrian segment of the show also featured a curious rendition of “Like a Virgin” that had Madonna playfully writhing on a saddle attached to a stripper pole on a small platform stage suspended above the audience. Oddly juxtaposed with the lyrics about feeling “shiny and new” were images of horses and their riders wiping out – a not so subtle reference to Madonna’s fall last summer, which left her with several broken bones.
“Live to Tell,” with its much-talked about crucifixion scene, kicked off the Bedouin segment of the set and presented one of the night’s more puzzling political moments. The singer appears, attached to a mirrored cross and with a crown of thorns on her head. But instead of this set piece being an affecting tribute to the millions of children orphaned by AIDS every year, it seemed inappropriate alongside the rest of the show, as though Madonna were parodying herself – “insert controversial number here.”
The punk and disco sections of the evening ruled – again not surprising given Madonna’s attempt to get back to basics. She sang “I Love New York” dressed in black with feathers at her neck, thrashing at an electric guitar. The number was all power chords, strobes and feedback. “It’s OK – I love Boston more,” Madonna assured the crowd before launching into a grungy but still funky version of “Ray of Light.” A sit-down, acoustic version of “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” allowed Madonna to remind everyone that she can actually sing – no overdubs to hide behind and no dancing to take her breath away. And the “Music/Disco Inferno” mash-up was enhanced by the dancers’ impressive roller-skating feats on the catwalk, as well as Madonna’s “Saturday Night Fever“-inspired wardrobe and dance moves.
The sweat was pouring, on stage and off, by the time Madonna rolled out a remix of “La Isla Bonita” and the evening’s manic closing number “Hung Up.” Gold balloons fell from the rafters as the crowd sang along with the star – “time goes by, so slowly.” Then, all of a sudden, it was last call.