26 July, 2004

Re-invent Yourself

     Madonna never ceases to astound me.  I've been an avid fan for 20 years, and I feel that I know her as well as any fan.  I'm not saying that I know the birth weights of all of her siblings or that I could tell you the birth weights of her kids, but I do feel that I seem to be one of the few who apply the tools of the Literature Major to examine not only her songs, but her life and career choices as well.  Despite this, she continues to surprise me, in ways large and small.
     My witnessing the Reinvention Tour almost never happened.  I'm about to undergo a large move, and I'm feeling a bit pressed for cash.  Last week, both myself and my friend Gregg Williams (a brilliant actor and impressionist), who was to attend the show with me, considered selling our tickets.  The money would have helped me to have the dreaded "First/Last/Security" needed for a new apartment.  We finally decided that our tickets were too good, and that Madonna was too much a force of nature to be missed. 
     From the excitement in the air before the concert, I could tell that we probably weren't going to be disappointed.  Despite the second worst drive to Atlanta that I've ever taken, (made so by horrendous traffic and multiple accidents ahead of us...If you're wondering, the worst drive was one that I took a year ago, which ended about 30 miles short of Atlanta with my car on fire.  The tragic thing was that I had just finished my liter of Mountain Dew, and, having no other liquids in the car, I was afraid that I might have to empty my bladder to extinguish the fire...Luckily, a policeman arrived before I dropped trou.) I felt the tension of the impending move and work drain away. 
     When I saw "The Drowned World Tour," I had floor seats.  My "Reinvention" seats were MUCH better.  As we marched up to Row R, I kept expecting some usher to tell us that we had gone too far and would have to go back.   (Spoiler Warning: Read no further, unless you don't mind my revealing details about the show.) I looked up and saw the catwalk which she would come out on.  It was about 8 feet away from us!  Sitting next to me was a Jewish couple who commented on my "Jesus was a liberal Jew" jersey.  I replied that I hoped that Madonna would notice it, and trade me.  Alas, it didn't happen.  When the show didn't start immediately at 8, the couple and I joked that Madonna was waiting for Shabbes to end.  When the house lights dimmed, both Greg and I began acting like schoolgirls.
     In a word, the concert rocked!  I neither prefer the new nor the old Madonna.  I've loved every album.  When I'd heard that the concert was all "old stuff," I was a bit disappointed.  My low opinion of "American Life" gathered on my first listen never lasted through the second listen.  Luckily for me, she did include 3 songs from that album.  The first, "Nobody Knows Me," is one of my favorites from "American Life," mostly because she totally pegs gossip in the song, labeling it "a social disease." The costumes and motif for that segment were straight from "The Matrix," and held much more meaning and style than the last two films in that trilogy.  American Life" allowed, (in my admittedly 100% anti-W opinion) for a tasteful criticism of Bush, and the dancers looked incredibly hot in fatigues. 
     I've never been a fan of John Lennon's "Imagine."  I find it simplistic.  In a world with "nothing to kill or die for," where are our families?  Wouldn't it be better to do away with the need to kill or die, rather than the things that we feel worthy to make us choose either of those  difficult choices?   I now realize that I've been splitting hairs.  I know what he "meant."  (Of course, this is me, so I still contend that he could have phrased it better)  The spirit of that song was in that concert hall.  It was truly a fitting song for this woman, who has spent her entire career pushing down boundaries between men and women, blacks and whites, and gays and straights.
     This leads me to my favorite moment of the concert, but first, you'll need a little background for my mindset.  A couple of weeks ago, I read an interview with Bette Middler in The Advocate.  I was shocked, and a bit horrified that she will not support the legality of Gay Marriage until "further research is done."  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this woman made her career on the cash and word of mouth of gay men.  She played in bathhouses for Pete's sake!  She'll support bathhouses, but not Gay Marriage.  Needless to say, I'm no longer a fan.  (Special aside for my girl Fran Drescher:  When the ACLU approached Fran and allowed her to choose whatever topic that she wanted to address, Fran created the most poignant of all of their ads and threw her support, popular or not, behind us.  THANK YOU, FRAN!)
     So...back to "Frozen."   The familiar beats began.  I got chills.  The "reinvention" was a bit slower and more haunting than the original.  Performances of the song that I have seen have placed the emphasis on the loss of the singer, using the strength of her love to strengthen the loss.  This time, it was all love song.  Behind Madonna, on the 60 foot screen, were two lovers.  They kissed, touched, and made love.  They didn't @#%.  They made love.  The genitals were in shadow, it was all completely tasteful, but never sexless.  Despite this, it was a moment of love, not simply sex.  The lovers were shown in a warm blue, diametrically opposed to the harsh reds and greens of the Matrix bits.  At the moment of climax, a piercing, heavenly white light shown through both bodies on the screen, uniting them.  I wept the entire time.
     Why?  At other concerts I have seen countless visions of love, from accompanying videos to couples kissing to fathers holding their children.  The lovers were beautiful, but neither the most beautiful people, nor the most talented actors that I've seen perform a love scene.  The performance was the best that I've heard of "Frozen," but that wouldn't make me cry for minutes.  I couldn't stop crying because...both of the lovers were male.
      Rather than make the "Middler Cop-Out," which there was never ANY chance of, Madonna could have said, during the concert, "I support the legality of Same-Sex Marriage."  That would have made me proud.  I wouldn't expect Madonna to shrink from that, even in conservative Atlanta.  What I never dreamt of was a 60 foot tall all male couple engaged not in sex, which is what most straight people imagine when they think of gay at all, but by a loving act, becoming, however fleeting, one.  It doesn't take the same level of courage for Madonna to do this as it would for (no one barred) anyone else, but I celebrate it, as I celebrate the Madonna that I've always known.  The woman who refused to be told that she could not do what the men could do, who said "screw you" to Pepsi when they had problems with her kissing a black man in a video, and who, throughout her career, has refused to put gay men in the back of the bus because she respects and loves them.
     I haven't the room to give attention to the amazing multimedia part of the show, which impressed me far more than did "Drowned World."  I think it's because I understood it more.  Sometime, after the move, I'll reexamine that show and see if my interpretation of it has improved.  I will mention that the reinvention of "Deeper and Deeper," was a highlight.  Madonna dedicated one oldie to the fans that have stuck by her for the last 20 years.  The title says as much about the way that we feel about her....Madonna, we're "Crazy for You."