Madonna drowns Boston

By Nikolas Markantonatos


Fleet Center

August 7

Since she last hit the road for a world tour the Queen of Pop has spawned a pair of tykes, exchanged wedding vows, and put out two of her finest albums yet, Ray of Light and Music. Finally, after waiting eight years,

Madonna dusted off her saddle and rode into one of the most spectacular tours of the year.

The Material Mom donned four distinct personas that have characterized her chameleonic image of the past several years and used Cirque du Soleil spectacles to create a dramatic showmanship of her songs in Drowned World Tour 2001.

The highly imaginative and theatrical show was also characterized by stunning choreography, striking video, and artful, although minimal, set design. The result: a mind-numbing spectacle of aural and visual bravado from one of the world’s most eminent artists.

Out are the days of schlock-shocking audiences with her exploration of kitschy sexiness circa her “Like a Virgin” era. Madonna now looks to amaze and thrill with her spiritual (Ray of Light) and ghetto-funk cowboy swinging (Music) metamorphoses.

Madonna first emerged out of the smoke-drenched stage on a rising platform as a punk diva, complete in worn-out black garb and burned tartan kilt. Examining the “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” performance it’s presumable that this is where the matriarch first drew the analogy between ravaged landscapes and her soul-killing obsession with success (the overall theme of the tour).

She later went into “Impressive Instant” which showed off her sporadic dancers-10 in all, in jackboots, Mohawks, and gas masks-hurtling across the stage when they’re not chasing or humping the bitchy, strutting Madonna. While performing a hammering “Candy Perfume Girl” Madonna flips the bird as she punches out power chords (admittedly quite well) on a Les Paul guitar. “Do I make you horny baby?” she shouts out to the audience before she rips into a pole-humping “Beautiful Stranger”. Dark roots peeking through her bottle-blond hair, Madonna continued to cavort onstage as she sang “Ray of Light.”

Faster than a speeding light Madonna transforms into a geisha for a Butoh Japanese sequence in which she rises center stage in a black and red kimono with an astonishing 52-foot sleeve span. Silhouettes of scorched trees against racing clouds of blood red illuminate the set’s 38 video monitors, creating an emotionally chilling and vulnerable mood during her performances of “Frozen” and “Mer Girl.”

Continuing this theme of female empowerment behind the haunting set, a sword-wielding samurai chases Madonna during “Nobody’s Perfect,” where he eventually cuts off a lock of her raven-hair. The Empress of Pop turns aerial for a soaring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Madonna theatrical performance for a battle with a samurai during “Sky Fits Heaven.”

The evening’s most shocking moment came during an outfit change as horrific images of a bruised and battered Madonna flickered on the video screens, followed by her appearing on stage armed with a shotgun and shooting her abuser for “Mer Girl.” As another costume change was under way the audience was treated to a cartoon montage depicting women fighting, being abused, sexually objectified, and eventually raped during “What It Feels Like for a Girl.”

The third chapter in Drowned World Tour 2001 plays out Madonna’s Music-era get-up-a playful cowgirl complete with rhinestones, cowboy hat, bell-bottom leather chaps and jacket. “I Deserve It” once again allowed Madonna to show off her skills as a guitar strumming diva. Later she rides into a hip-thrusting, leg-kicking urbanite during the country-western two-step “Don’t Tell Me.”

Madonna strips off the tight leather jacket and reveals an American flag tank top ready to lap-dance a mechanical bull during “Human Nature.” She continues her pre-’98 exploration with “Secret,” accompanied by a beautiful black and white montage of riverside baptismals and the well-sung “You’ll See.”

In the evening’s fourth and final act Madonna turns into a Flamenco/Ghetto Fabulous diva. She sports a Spanish-style black, backless dress with complicated crisscross bra straps over hip sling pants for a candle-adorned and tenderhearted Spanish rendition of “What It Feels Like for a Girl.” Her performance of “La Isla Bonita” affirmed that she dipped her feet in Latino music long before Ricky Martin shook his bon-bon to a worldwide Latin craze.

Her ghetto fab vignette was replete with a fur coat and rhinestone T-shirt that read “Mother” on the front and “F*cker” on the back. The look welcomed two of the biggest hits of her 18 year career-the ancient hit “Holiday” and confetti shooting and flashy encore of “Music,” which showed a video collage of her past-marking the only time Madonna was willing to go nostalgic.

The concert showed off her love of metaphysical adjustment, playing off her favorite themes of spirituality, individuality, self-expression, and sexuality. She asked for forgiveness but has “absolutely no regrets.” Madonna, who surprisingly seemed at ease on stage, has turned from a strict showbiz obsession and turned to love and motherhood and family.

Despite a cancellation of a New Jersey show just days prior to the Boston performance due to a severe bout of laryngitis, Madonna’s voice was in fine form. Strong and prodigious, no doubt due to the vocal expansion she received during her Evita training, her vocals have never sounded better.

As Madonna turns 43 her energy level barely seems to vanish. Never did she pause to catch her breath nor did she slow down during her high-power choreography. Her appeal to audiences is just as incredible. Teens to the elderly were taken aback from the electrifying spectacle and her robust life force and intelligence.

The show clocked in at a respectable (especially for a solo artist) 105 minutes, filled with an extravagant 22-songs. The most audible complaint from the near 20,000 fans at the sold out arena was the lack of Madonna’s oldest hits. But this wasn’t a greatest hits tour-Madonna has time for that later. For now she’s only willing to stun audiences with her latest forays in music and to better stress her career’s one constant: change.