In covering "I Feel
Love" as the second song on her top-dollar, whiz-bang Confessions
tour -- which stopped at the United Center Wednesday on the first of
a four-night stand continuing Sunday and Monday -- Madonna made a
rare mistake in the corporate-imaging department.
A huge hit in 1977,
"I Feel Love" was the first international chart-topper entirely
comprised of an electronic backing track, brilliantly crafted by
producer Giorgio Moroder. But its real power came from the
gospel-trained Donna Summer, whose soulful, sexy and very human
singing created the illusion of a woman making love to a machine.
certainly are moments of inspiration in the Confessions show -- as
well as plenty of spectacle -- there is very little soul. Madonna
does her Madonna thing as the electronic rhythms pulse for two
hours, drawing the connection between '70s disco and new-millennial
electronica. But she isn't the woman who gives soul to the machine;
she is the machine itself.
And it's a cash
FUN FACT NO. 1
to the $50 T-shirts and $95 hoodies, souvenir vendors hand out a
full-color eight-page "Official Merchandise Catalog" offering
additional goodies such as a $50 Madonna riding crop ("the bottom is
decorated with an M disco ball!") and Madonna wine ($100 for a
bottle of cabernet, $25 for the "premium de-alcoholized California
red table unwine").
The music first:
Madonna's vocals were much better than on 2001's Drowned World tour.
Finally recognizing that the strength of her limited range is in the
lower register rather than the old helium chirp, her singing --
augmented though it was by tapes and three backing vocalists --
shined on percolating grooves such as "Get Together," "Forbidden
Love," "Sorry," "Like It or Not," "I Love N.Y." and "Ray of Light."
Heavy on newer
tunes and short on signature '80s hits, the set ran together like an
energetic rave tent super mix, and it only fell flat when it
departed from the futuristic disco theme -- as on the misguided
Middle Eastern jam "Isaac/Shofar" or the revved-up version of "La
Isla Bonita" -- or slowed the beats per minute, as on the flaccid
acoustic numbers "Drowned World" and "Paradise Not for Me."
FUN FACT NO. 2
that the well-heeled crowd would just rattle its jewelry instead of
clapping -- or dancing, the reaction she really wanted -- Madonna
scripted her stage patter to include several eruptions of anger at
non-boogieing fans. (Everything in the show is the same from night
to night.) She referred to the paying customers as the nastiest of
cuss words no fewer than three times. Listen, Maddy, for $350 a
ticket plus service fees, you should really leave our moms out of
Now for the
spectacle: As you may have read, we got incredibly athletic dancers,
roller skating, videos of political boogeymen, children struggling
with AIDS in Africa and a self-crucifixion. It was all trite and
tired -- the cross routine, in particular. If Maddy really wants to
push buttons with religious symbolism these days, she should flash a
cartoon of the prophet Mohammed. Look at the publicity that
generated in Denmark!
visual nadir was the so-called "Equestrian segment," which found our
gal doing the nasty atop a grown-up version of a carousel horse.
FUN FACT NO. 3
Equestrian segment references both Madonna's recent horseback riding
accident -- she flashes her X-ray on the video screens -- and a sado-masochistic
sex game called "pony play," which the Web site
DeviantDesires.com defines as "one person taking the dominant
human role of 'master,' 'owner' or 'trainer' and the other person
playing the submissive role of 'pet' or 'pony.' "
It should be
noted that throughout the night, the 47-year-old singer moved with
the lithe grace of a 14-year-old gymnast -- a testament to the power
of yoga. The only complaint here came from the long breaks between
segments. Madge was offstage for 20 minutes of the 120-minute show,
which started 75 minutes late. That means people paid almost $4 a
minute for the time they did get to spend with her -- nice work, if
you can get it.
FUN FACT NO. 4
air conditioning troubles her delicate vocal cords, Madonna has
insisted upon a median temperature of 80 degrees at other arenas on
the tour. Though execs with promoters Live Nation declined to
comment on the A.C. at the United Center, it was as hot and humid as
a picnic in a swamp. The highs on Sunday and Monday are expected to
be 78 and 82. Be prepared to sweat -- and not necessarily for the
reasons Madonna would like.