Madonna 8/29/01 @ the United Center

Let me ask you a question...Is it wrong to be in love with somebody you know that you will never meet? Is it unhealthy? Will I be ruined for all my future relationships? Cuz I am in love. And she has only one name. Madonna!

I saw Maddy recently in concert at the United Center. Maddy is what people in the KNOW call her. The show was suppose to start at 8. We got there at 5:15. I wanted to take no chances. The doors didn't open until about 6:30-7. The excitement inside of me was mounting. When the doors opened we went straight to are seats. Just to check out where they were located. We just went in the hallway just to look out. Not bad, I thought. Then we went to get some food. After eating, we went to go sit down and wait for the show. My friend went first to are seats. I was throwing away my food. When I got in the hallway and saw where he sat, I thought, he better move cuz we are going to be kicked out cuz those can't be are seats. He was so close to the stage. Well, he was RIGHT!!! Those where are seats. Are seats where about 20-25 feet away from the stage. The seats where eye level to the stage. The seats where elevated. Perfect viewing. I kept on grabbing him and saying, "I can't believe Madonna is going to be right in front of us". I could have made it to the stage and touched her before the security guards caught me. She didn't start until 8:55, but who cares!! The whole show was theatrical and visual. She must work out all the time. Pretty amazing. Don't listen to the complaints of "I want to hear her old stuff". The new stuff has depth and meaning. I saw her coming to are side of the stage. I looked around and noticed nobody waving so I started to wave at her. And she did it. She looked right at me. Into my eyes, maybe? Soul, possibly? And she waved right back. After I picked myself up off the floor and cleared my head. I enjoyed the rest of the show. Knowing that deep down, if only maybe, for one brief second...I found my soul mate.

--Shane, Chicago -

Madonna 8/29/01 @ the United Center

Like The Phantom Menace, Madonna's Drowned World Tour had an uphill battle from the start. Being the first world tour of hers since 1993 (and that was a limited one), it had a hype that would be impossible to live up to. While I had taped the HBO broadcast, I had deliberately chosen not to watch it until after I had seen the real thing. So when I saw it, I was seeing it for the first time.

Like The Girlie Show and Blonde Ambition, Madonna chose to break the concert up into several theatrical segments. The guises for Drowned World were cyberpunk, Geisha, electric cowgirl, flamenco dancer, and glitzy ghetto. Like before, she had an ensemble of dancers and, like before, she was backed up by the wonderful Niki Harris and Donna DeLory.

The first set was the concert equivalent of modern abstract art. It opened quite minimally with Madonna strumming the guitar and singing "Drowned World/Substitute for Love." After her appearance on Letterman, I knew she would be playing much guitar. More on the guitar later. Then, we had her dancers come out wearing gas masks amidst dry ice and fog. Why? The song was "Impressive Instant" and while I love the song, it looked a mess on stage. Madonna has always had tightly choreographed numbers before, and while this was certainly choreographed, it just seemed visually cacophonic. She picked up the guitar again for "Candy Perfume Girl" and "Ray of Light" (which kicked serious ass) while some symbolic dancing was done. "Beautiful Stranger" was also one of the songs of this set, and this was the first indication that Madonna still had the campy aspect of her performance within her. She prefaced the song by asking if the audience if she made us horny. Of course she does.

The next set was my personal favorite of the evening: the Japanese set. Rising from the floor, wearing a kimono that spanned the entire length of the stage, Madonna launched into the Stereo MC's mix of "Frozen." This was a stellar, ethereal performance. Then, we were treated to an amazing blend of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix set to "Sky Fits Heaven" and bookended by parts of the sedate ”Mer Girl." The one annoying thing was that as the set changed, there was an Asian instrumental version of "Open Your Heart" heard, although Madonna chose not to sing that particular song. This just deliberately teases the fans. The Japanese section was closed effectively with a haunting performance of "Nobody's Perfect." In this song, Madonna sings and fights off an abusive samurai.

After a weird anime video to "What it Feels Like for a Girl," we entered into the electric cowgirl segment. It started with Madonna strumming the guitar for "I Deserve It", seated atop a plastic wrapped bale of hay. After that, we finally got a really great choreographed number with "Don't Tell Me." The dancing here was slick and amazing. Only Madonna can make line dancing seem cool and sexy. She then launched into one of my favorite songs, "Human Nature", the bitchiest song she's written. We were then treated to a parody song before Madonna taking the lead guitar in "Secret" and "Gone." While I like the songs immensely, the staging was a bit static on these two.

Next, came a lengthy dance number set to an instrumental version of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." To me, this was a huge disappointment as I was waiting for Madonna to emerge as Eva Peron and launch into a show-stopping performance of that song. Instead, we got the spanish version of "What it Feels Like For a Girl." We were robbed, especially as we heard the English version during one of the set transitions. That said, I liked the remix it was set to. Then, surprisingly Madonna actually sang an old song, "La Isla Bonita" which was a warm and beautiful number, perfectly capturing a lazy summer siesta. Again she played guitar on this one and it was an acoustic version of the song. This was easily the best part of the entire evening.

The two encores were in glitzy ghetto costumes and were comprised of "Holiday" and "Music." "Holiday" was the recent remix set to Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You" and that went over very well. "Music" was not only the finale, but with the video screens, a summary of Madonna entire career. As she bowed out, I felt I had truly witnessed an amazing spectacle. There's no doubt about it, Madonna had turned in yet another stellar and riveting performance.

But once the excitement wore off, I had to admit that I didn't like it as much as The Girlie Show or Blonde Ambition. I thought maybe that's because I saw those on video instead of in nosebleed seats. I dismissed this as soon as I watched the HBO concert and realized I felt exactly the same. What was the Drowned World tour lacking? Well for one thing, it lacked Madonna's hit songs. I love Madonna's music and both Ray of Light and Music are excellent albums. I can also understand Madonna's desire to move forward and leave the past behind but given how she has successfully reinvented old songs in her concerts before, this seems a shame. The other problem is that some songs just aren't good concert songs. That's not to say they are bad songs. As much as I like "Gone", "Candy Perfume Girl," and "I Deserve It" having Madonna just sitting or standing there, strumming her guitar just doesn't cut it. When I see the spectacle and theatricality of Blonde Ambition and The Girlie Show I realize that Madonna is taking herself way too seriously now. It seems that she's so desperate to prove that she's a "real" artist now who has found motherhood, spirituality, and the ability to play the guitar that she's ironically forgotten what we loved about her. I miss the campy, absurd, and naughty Madonna. The only glimpse of it we got was during the cowgirl section with "Human Nature" and the made up "Funny Song." I know I would gladly have sacrificed such filler material as "Gone" or "I Deserve it" for a new interpretation of "Vogue" or "Like a Prayer."

It seems that Madonna was so desperate for everything to be perfect that we lose a human element in Drowned World. If you watch the video or DVD for The Girlie Show, there are several lovely moments where Madonna just breaks into a smile or laughs with her dancers and singers. They even goof the transition from "Express Yourself" to "Deeper and Deeper" and Madonna seems laid back about it. In short, with The Girlie Show, Madonna was having a good time, camping it up, being silly, and not giving a damn (or at least appearing not to give a damn.) Now, she's begging for respect that the show, while awesome and spectacular is a bit colder, lacking the humor and warmth that have made her other shows so much fun. There are some attempts but they feel so calculated and planned in Drowned World. While the "Do I make you horny" line gets a huge response, it's planned and contrived and rather hollow.

In short, Drowned World is worth purchasing as it's complex, riveting, and entertaining. For a pop concert, it's one of the best that's ever been. For a Madonna concert though,'s better than The Virgin Tour. Next time, Madonna needs to lighten up and have fun on the stage again so we have fun as well. I feel, as a Madonna fan, a little guilty for this harsh appraisal. I certainly don't wish to give the impression I didn't like the concert--far from it. It just wasn't The Girlie Show.

--Trey Korte, Wis. -

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