Madonna never goes away and yet she always comes back. The woman of a thousand icons is a self-inventor and recreator on a never-ending scale. One minute she’s flopping around in a white dress to “Like A Virgin” at the 1984 MTV music awards, then she’s a solid supporting actress in A League Of Their Own, and next she’s a Kabbalah-thumping, protective mother who knows when to relinquish her wild side.

A little background first: I always viewed Madonna as the bane of my existence. As the only boy growing up in a house with four women, Madonna had a prominent role in that matriarchy. When the Dirty Dancing VHS tape needed a rest from overheating in the VCR, Madonna was surely booming out of the stereo. I thank you for your sympathy.

So, surely you can understand where some initial animosity might register with me whenever someone merely mentions the singer's name. However, it’s time to put all bias aside and embrace the reality that Madonna is one of the biggest stars of all time for a reason—female liberation and empowerment to the utmost degree.

The Confessions Tour concert CD/DVD takes all the themes of Madonna’s career and meshes them on a big plate of fun. Performing songs both classic and new (mostly new), the former Material Girl owns the London crowd on a night where she swears she didn’t even know it would be filmed. I, for one, believe her, because you don’t get that big without giving it your all every night.

The festivities kick off with a horse-oriented video on the stage’s jumbo screen for “Future Lovers/I Feel Love.” After a daunting sequence of the horse galloping in various locations, Madonna bursts onto the scene in complete horseback attire. Men prance around the stage while she has a whip in hand, suggesting a dominatrix-like assertion to the crowd that she is in control.

The show’s screen images bounce from politically charged and socially aware to just plain weird, sometimes even taking up the whole TV screen with persistent flashes, leaving me wondering if I might develop epilepsy. This is definitely the weakest and most artificial piece to an otherwise eclectic concert.

For “Like A Virgin,” the tune that made her a household name, she rides a horse saddle attached to a pole. I’m still not sure what the horse theme is all about, but it seems to resemble the star’s carefree, wild spirit. She wails on the guitar to “I Love New York” and while she is no Hendrix, it's astounding to see her harness a musical instrument. And when she yells on stage, “New York is not a place; it’s a fuck you attitude,” it’s magnificent.

Now, on to the blown-up controversy surrounding the event: the mock crucifixion. This is done during the song “Confessions” and there is nothing to it. Some breakdancers do their thing and Madonna rises up at the back of the stage strapped to an enlarged, blue-checkered cross. There is nothing obscene like fake blood or wounds, so any true controversy cannot be found by me (she doesn't say this is what it was like when Jesus actually died or anything).

My favorite parts of the concert are whenever Madonna is on stage. Due to the fact she has to change clothes a lot, the intermediary segments between songs with either breakdancers or other expressive artists had me thinking, So where’s that Madonna chick? On one of the occasions she returned, to perform “Ray Of Light,” I’ll admit that I caught myself singing along in a high-pitch tone. Which is extraordinarily awkward even for me.

The exalted one is every bit as charismatic, charming and lively as ever. I recommend the DVD more than the CD because she's more interesting to watch than to listen to, but The Confessions Tour is a great way to relive another event that put the one-name icon back on the map, yet again. Madonna, I confess: You rock, girl.


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