The World Cup of Music: Madonna's Confessions Tour

Boston, MA, USA; July 9, 2006

by Michael R. Smith

The Italians may have won the coveted World Cup, but for whatever reason Madonna never even mentioned it during her second of three sold-out shows at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston on July 9th.


It was just one of many indications that her show was extremely choreographed from start to finish, leaving very little room for spontaneity. Madonna has always had trouble connecting with her audiences over the years, though perhaps that is what preserves the illusion that she is a larger-than-life, untouchable superstar. So, while her fellow Italian-Americans were celebrating in the streets of Boston’s North End, Madonna kept her focus on delivering business as usual.

Her Confessions show has a good, solid set of tunes and the biggest surprise of all is that the best ones are from her latest album, Confessions On A Dance Floor. As a matter of fact, half the show's 20 tunes were from that collection. This certainly gave the audience what it craves most from Madonna -- lots of dance music. Her two backup singers were only seen in the final moments of the show, which gave plenty of much-needed room for her troupe of amazing dancers. There were some moments where the non-stop action of the dancers became somewhat distracting, especially considering how much else was happening on the stage. Besides the lightning-fast precision of the dancers, there was the stellar lighting, the constant imagery on the backdrop video screens and the four lowly members of Madonna's band (who went virtually ignored throughout the show).


Though the attempt was made at assaulting all the senses, the Confessions show seemed to be missing that “extra something special” quotient. Madonna’s voice was noticeably at its best in the opening “Future Lovers/I Feel Love” number, where she emerged from a huge disco ball wearing S&M tinged equestrian gear. She had riding crop in hand as she reigned in her team of dancers, forcing them to submit and obey to her every command. This strong first impression was a long-lasting one indeed, as the remainder of the show would struggle to maintain the same level of high suspense.


Old hits like “Like A Virgin,” “Lucky Star” and “La Isla Bonita” were definite crowd-pleasers, despite Madonna seeming disinterested in performing them to full effect. The weakest portion of the show was the “desert-dweller” part, which was kicked off by a turban-clad special guest introduced as Isaac blowing an ear-piercing horn called a shofar during "Isaac." That damn horn -- and the deafening electric guitar solos in the punk segment to follow -- nearly ruined the entire concert experience for me. Good music isn’t supposed to be cringe-inducing, Madge, you should know that by now.


On some levels, this was a continuation of her two previous stage spectaculars, Re-Invention and Drowned World. It has four distinct acts with five songs apiece -- with all the essential costume changes -- and more than its share of hot sociopolitical and religious themes. Never one to shy away from controversy, Madonna even appears on a crucifix for the ballad "Live To Tell" -- which got the Vatican pretty riled up recently -- and makes plenty of disparaging remarks about our current president and other world leaders who have abused their power.


But the show has largely been critic-proof as it has made its way across the country, a tribute to Madonna's abilities both as a performer and a woman who has outlasted most of her pop music contemporaries during the last two decades. It's just a shame most of the night's show seemed so routine -- with a little more heart, this could have been a spectacular performance.

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