The indefatigable Liz Smith holds forth on Madge in yesterday's column. So her last tour wasn't so hot, and now she's serving up the Greatest Hits. I, for one, am glad. As noted below, she's never "embraced her body of work." Even in her first tours she often omitted favorites like Burning Up and Borderline in favor of giving space to newer material. This should be fun, if she'll just relax and sing rather than nervously trying to sing.
'TO rule the world," said Madonna in 1984 after being asked what she hoped to accomplish.
OUR BIG QUESTION surrounding Madonna's upcoming "re-Invention" tour is - "Can Madonna still have fun?" She has transformed herself through motherhood, marriage, spiritual awakening and children's books. (Her third one, "Yakov and the Seven Thieves," is out this June.)
The pop icon's current persona is a bit prim and matronly, with the lurid exception of her now-passe and infamous MTV smooch with Britney Spears. The girl who rolled around brazenly singing "Like a Virgin" at the first MTV Awards, or the woman who posed naked on a Miami highway for her "Sex" book, seems a distant, jaunty memory.
But according to Madonna's sexy, brainy manager, Caresse Henry, the answer is: "Don't you worry, the overriding theme of this show is all about having fun! This is the ultimate Madonna show." The concert, according to others who have seen the star in rehearsal, is absolutely what every fan has been waiting for - Madonna singing her greatest hits. Caresse insists: "She is having the time of her life going back to her earliest numbers and reinventing them musically and in every other way. She was never interested in a retrospective during past tours, but now she is into it all with a vengeance. She is totally embracing her body of work."
THE IDEA for the show came when Madonna's longtime director-collaborator Jamie King showed up at her house with a stage set designed in miniature, inside a Gucci shoe box. The set may have been small, but Jamie and Madonna thought big. Madonna is determined to give her fans "the works" this time around. Every song in the set has been modernized and remixed but is still instantly recognizable. She even belts out one of her first dance hits, 1983's "Burning Up." The star will be dressed to kill in Lacroix, Stella McCartney, Prada, Karl Lagerfeld, Gaultier, Yves St. Laurent and Arianne Phillips.
Jonas Akerlund, who directed several of madame's award-winning videos, is already filming a documentary about this tour. It is not in any way a "sequel" to "Truth or Dare," shot during the "Blonde Ambition" tour in 1990. That endeavor, full of naughty bits, diva-ish acting out and Madonna "performing" scenes from her so-called private life, was amusing and mesmerizing. (Remember Warren Beatty exclaiming, "She doesn't want to live off camera!" Warren's fling with M shocked him into domesticity with Annette Bening.) Akerlund's work will show the "new" Madonna - still full of fire and creativity, if slightly more conventional. "But is she a long way from taking her name as her life's vocation?" I asked Caresse. The manager laughed and then called out, "Madonna, Liz Smith thinks you've become too saint-like to have fun anymore!"
And then, after a lot of background noise and cackling, a familiar voice was suddenly on the phone, one I haven't heard in several years, "Liz, I am happier now than I've ever been in my life. I have two beautiful children and a brilliant, gorgeous husband. I have my work and I have my faith. None of that means I've lost my sense of humor or my sense of fun. If that's boring to some people, I can't tell you how much I don't care."
Madonna spoke with snappy (not snappish) authority. Then she said, "I've got to get back to rehearsal or Jamie's going to kill me. But I'll see you at the Garden, right?" She meant Madison Square Garden, where her six shows in June sold out within minutes. As did 35 others around the world. And to think, 20 years ago, I asked myself why she was on the cover of Time and mused that surely she could not last. Nice to be wrong.