June 17, 2004
By GLENN GAMBOA
For Madonna, necessity is the mother of "Re - Invention."
Super - savvy culture vulture that she is, the Material Mom knows that if she doesn't re - assert her relevance soon, she could quickly become a fringe best known for writing children's books and being Britney's gal - pal.
On the heels of disappointing sales for her "American Life" album and a hostile reception to her last movie, "Swept Away," the 45 - year - old entertainer has her back against the wall for the first time in her career.
"The Re - Invention Tour" is her way of proving she is not ready to retire to the London mansion with hubby Guy Ritchie and the kids just yet. At Madison Square Garden last night, the first of eight sold - out shows in New York in the next two weeks, she definitely made that point.
Many sing better. Others write better songs. But no one performs better than Madonna especially when she has something to prove.
In the nearly two - hour set, Madonna takes the audience on a whirlwind tour through her 20 - year career. Some songs get shaken up the disco jam "Deeper and Deeper" gets jazzy, "Like a Prayer" gets an electro - country twang and "Material Girl" becomes a pop - punk rave - up. But what is even more impressive is how her elaborate performance art pieces enhance many of the songs. The athletic swinging of her dancers during "Bedtime Story" provides the song a grace that it never would have seen in a straight performance. The intricate moves of her 16 - member dance troupe turned "Into the Groove" into a powerful dance piece instead of simply a dance - pop trifle. "Papa Don't Preach" was filled with playfulness and innocence, even including a ring - around - the - rosie dance.
This is a side of Madonna that she hasn't shown very often, the one that has fun, the one that enjoys the roar of the crowd. She offered genuine appreciation for the cheers much like her decision to bring back songs from her past that she has tired of.
Making peace with her past doesn't mean she's ready to give up on the interests of her present. Kabbala is present in the Hebrew letters that swirl on the big screens behind her and she even sports a t - shirt that says "Kabbalists Do It Better." Her anti - war, anti - Bush beliefs are clearly on display during "American Life," as well as her overwhelming endorsement of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which she said had her in tears. With this tour, Madonna can give the song her full support unlike last year, when she yanked the video to avoid controversy about complaining about Middle East policies in the middle of the Iraqi war. She was rightfully worried about getting Dixie - Chicked if she proceeded, but as it turned out, her album was basically blacklisted anyway.
If anyone could have waged a successful media campaign to get her anti - war, pro - troops point across, it would be Team Madonna. The Material Mom, however, plays things a little safer, which is also evident on "The Re - Invention Tour."
When Madonna dedicated her ballad "Crazy For You" to all her fans who have "stuck with me through thick and thin for the past 20 years," she short - circuited all the critiques of her 2001 "Drowned World" tour, which was high on drama and production but low on fun and any sort of crowd interaction.
Madonna's latest reinvention may be her best one yet. She has not only become a champion of the underdogs but somehow an underdog herself. And as long as she offers amazing performances like this one, she will have an army of fans backing her up.
June 17, 2004
By DAN AQUILANTE
June 17, 2004 - - SHE may have adopted the new name Esther, but it was the same old Madonna electrifying Madison Square Garden last night.
In a barrage of video imagery, campy dance routines and hit songs, last night's opening concert of Madonna's six - show Garden series was more artistic regurgitation than reinvention - despite the title of this tour.
That isn't saying the tightly wrapped "Re - Invention" extravaganza wasn't fun eyeball candy. But in most ways, this show seemed to be the old Madonna in a new bustier.
While the lightning bolt of musical greatness didn't strike the stage during the nearly two - hour concert, Madonna razzle - dazzled her way into the hearts of the devoted audience with an entertaining theatrical revue that was elaborately staged, costumed and cast with a full dance troupe that included acrobats and even a Mohawked skateboard boy.
The 45 - year - old pop legend sang well and looked great. And when it came to her dance - oriented pieces, she was certainly at her most compelling.
Yet, she was at her best when she performed her bare - bones strum 'n' hum "Like a Prayer." Madonna accompanied herself on acoustic guitar, and it was the one song where a feeling of soul came across.
An unfortunate cover of John Lennon's "Imagine," the low point of the night, followed that. She complicated it by playing it beneath images of desperately ill and dying children. "Imagine," one of Lennon's best tunes, was such a downer, it felt as if Madonna pulled the plug on the show.
With all that's been made of her new - found Kabbalist leanings - which inspired her new name - and shadowy spiritualism, it was surprising how little of that made its way into this concert. She took a lesson from her own song "Papa Don't Preach." and didn't gab about finding higher ground. Yes, video images of Hebrew letters and pictures of the Sacred Heart Jesus popped up, but the projections were more graphic design than evangelism.
In fact, that was one of the biggest problems with this concert. The songs and the staging often had little to do with one another.
There was an anti - Republican undercurrent here, but Madonna smartly voiced no criticism of the president or his foreign policy in words. Instead, she let videos featuring the ravages of war convey her why - can't - we - just - get - along message.
As for the notion that Madonna couldn't sell out the Garden anymore, the reports of the demise of her career were greatly exaggerated. There wasn't an empty seat in sight.
June 16, 2004
Madonna is getting the hang of this kiddie book thing.
Yakov and the Seven Thieves (Callaway Editions) is the third instalment of Madonna's five - book series for the publisher and it's the best, mostly because there is nothing Material Girl - ish about it. (Her first book, the rather boring The English Roses, focused on a catty group of girls illustrated in a very fashion - forward manner.)
The fairy - tale artwork in Yakov, by Russian painter Gennady Spirin, brings authenticity to the story about a sick boy, desperate dad and wise old man in an eastern European village in the 18th century.
Madonna, who cites the influence of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, in all her books, says Yakov was inspired by the Baal Shem Tov, a Ukrainian teacher.
"It's a story about how all of us have the ability to unlock the gates of heaven - - no matter how unworthy we think we are. For when we go against our selfish natures, we make miracles happen, in our lives and in the lives of others," Madonna writes on the cover jacket.
While that's an exaggeration of how important and symbolic this book really is, the story moves along nicely and gets its message about redemption across without being too preachy. it's also appropriately written for its target audience of six - year - olds.
Yakov is the father of Mikhail, who is literally on his death bed. With few options left, Yakov goes to visit the mysterious old man who lives on the outskirts of the village and is rumoured to perform miracles. Unfortunately, the old man's first attempt to help the boy fails. He has an idea, though, to ask all the town's thieves, pickpockets and criminals to put their rather unusual talents toward a good cause.
Of course, being a children's picture book, there is a happy ending with a healthy Mikhail and reformed rascals.
And, it's worth noting that the only female scoundrel, Petra the Pickpocket, bears a striking resemblance to Madonna herself.
June 16, 2004Watch Cynthia McFadden's exclusive interview with Madonna on 20/20 Friday night at 10 p.m.
Madonna's latest makeover - - motherhood and mysticism
Madonna talks with 20/20 about motherhood, mysticism, her latest children's book and her new concert tour. (ABCNEWS.com)
June 16, 2004 Madonna, the master of self - invention, has come a long way since her "Material Girl" days. While she has no regrets about her moves on her climb to pop diva status, she tells ABC News' 20/20, "I brought a lot of chaos to people's lives, because of my selfish behavior."
In her latest incarnation, the wife, mother, children's book author and still - touring pop star says the ruling philosophy in her home is "pick up your s - - t."
Madonna may have made a career on rebellion, irreverence and sexually charged performance, but when it comes to her children, manners are important. "Even my children have to clean up their mess, clean up their rooms. Manners, thank you, please, take your dishes to the sink. I mean gratitude, being grateful, that is, that has to happen If it's traditional to be a decent human being, then I'm traditional," she told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden.
Madonna married film director Guy Ritchie in 2000. They have a son together, 4 - year - old Rocco, and Madonna has a 7 - year - old daughter, Lourdes, whose father is Madonna's former personal trainer, Carlos Leon.
Madonna says her favorite aspect of getting older is "getting smarter" and gives a rare glimpse of her private life with Ritchie. She tells McFadden she believes the key step to a successful marriage is "learning to apologize." She also shares one of the couple's daily rituals, saying that after her grueling performances, she goes in the tub and her husband talks to her about the day. Call Me Esther
Madonna also speaks candidly with McFadden about her study of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbala, which she believes is "incredibly punk rock" and anti - establishment.
"Kabbalists believe in immortality. They believe that you can overcome death, overcome illness, whatever, so, it's incredibly good to be a rebel," she said.
Madonna also reveals that she has also taken on the Hebrew name of Esther, explaining that, "I was named after my mother. My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and I wanted to attach myself to another name.
This is in no way a negation of who my mother is. I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name." To Naughty Children Everywhere
Madonna also discusses her third and latest foray into children's literature, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, which hits bookstores June 21.
Madonna has dedicated the book to "naughty children everywhere," saying that, "Even the naughtiest person in the world, big or small, has the capability to do something good in the world."
Describing herself as "naughty child, number one," she espouses the power of prayer. "I pray every day and I believe that it is a very powerful way to communicate, to heal, to affect change."
20/20 will also air exclusive footage from Madonna's Reinvention tour, which comes to New York City's Madison Square Garden today.