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Madonna - Drowned World Tour 2001

Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 105 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

At least where Madonna is concerned I can skip the introduction...

Madonna is everywhere, man – and there is little chance of escape. Every couple of years she throws to the masses a new album, a picture book, a new image, a movie or a concert tour. This performance from her Drowned World Tour was recorded at The Palace of Auburn Hills in her hometown of Detroit on August 26th, 2001 and beamed via satellite around the planet. This concert is pretty damn impressive.

I know little of The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, but it is hard to imagine that there could have been too much room left for the average punter once the set was built. The multi-layered set is absolutely enormous and to those in the audience, Madonna must have looked like a tiny gyrating ant in comparison. Luckily the onstage action is relayed to the masses via a pair of huge screens.

In the space of just under two hours, Madonna treats the audience to a number of marketable new themes. In the first, she and her entourage appear as punk rockers. This is punk in fashion rather than attitude and judging by the meticulous set detail and the precision staging, I doubt that she is ready to totally embrace anarchy just yet. Nevertheless, this ‘catwalk punk’ is effective and she even goes to the length of crunching a few guitar chords over Candy Perfume Girl. For somebody who has so intently embraced the dance pop market, even a handful of distorted bar chords is kinda fresh.

She appears next on a stage filled with Japanese iconography and featuring a samurai swordsman, choreographed fight sequences and complex harness work (ala Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). There is no doubt that her voice is suited better to higher numbers like Frozen or Ray of Light and she tends to fall flat in the lower register (especially when she is puffed). Still, this has always been the case with Madonna and not only do we expect it but we grudgingly accept it. Curiously, much of what is portrayed on stage is quite violent. At one point, she pulls out a shotgun and nails the Samurai which serves as a rather dramatically leads into her next incarnation as a funky cowgirl.

OK, a Stetson, a pair of boots and a hay bale does not a cowgirl make (especially when the hay bale is covered with a plastic sheet). Nevertheless, it’s pretty stylish and the audience respond gratefully. Let’s face it, Madonna could emerge dressed as a chicken and her fans would still lap it up.

A stylish tango to an instrumental version of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina serves as introduction to her next phase. A lot of the dance routines are left behind and a slower, more acoustic feel is given to proceedings. By far the highlight of the show is an acoustic reworking of her 1986 hit, La Isla Bonita. The song builds on the rhythm of castanets and flamenco, builds to a fevered crescendo and then collapses eight minutes later – exhausted. Striking indeed, and it was just beginning to dawn on me how far we had all travelled with Madonna over the years and how she had matured as a performer, when…

Madonna next appears dressed as a hip-hop gangster with her ‘homegirls’ for a rap version of Holiday and instructs the audience to yell the word ‘whore’ whenever she says the word, ‘pimp’. I guess one should always have room to grow.

Director Hamish Hamilton does an admirable job of capturing the energy of live performance, although given that there appear to be more cameras in use than the Olympics and the Gulf War combined, I’m sure most of the real work was done in the editing suite. Nevertheless, the action is tightly interwoven with the music while the camera changes are fairly seamless and always relevant to what is happening on stage.

Track listing
Drowned World-Substitute for Love
Impressive Instant
Candy Perfume Girl
Beautiful Stranger
Ray Of Light
Paradise - Not For Me
Frozen
Open your Heart
Nobody's Perfect
Mer Girl (part 1)
Sky Fits Heaven
Mer Girl (part 2)
What It Feels Like For A Girl (remix)
I Deserve It
Don't Tell Me
Human Nature
The Funny Song
Secret
Gone
Don't Cry For Me Argentina (instrumental interlude)
Lo Que Siente La Mujer (What It Feels Like For A Girl)
La Isla Bonita
Holiday
Music

After almost twenty years in the game, there is little doubt that the Material Girl has become the Girl with the Material. So large is her back catalogue that although the entire concert weighs in at just under two hours, Madonna only needs to throw in a handful of hits to keep the crowd interested and otherwise plays tracks almost exclusively from her last two albums. Within the next five years we should expect another couple of albums, a few more changes of image, thousands of magazine portraits and another concert just like this one.

  Video
Contract

Given the exceptional quality available on some of the current popular concert releases, and given Madonna’s obvious attention to quality control, I must admit to being a little disappointed by the video transfer. Although still quite colourful, the picture doesn’t really elevate much above VHS quality and lacks the sharpness and clarity of other releases. Madonna’s Drowned World Tour is presented in full frame. A pity, as a wide-screen presentation would have done the concert a great justice considering the size of the set and the amount of action onstage.

  Audio
Contract

Now, this is the reason we go to all of this trouble in the first place! Sound is presented in two channel Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 (yay!). All sound holds up well under scrutiny but, naturally, the DTS surround is by far the superior option. This DTS track is among the very best I have heard and for the most part seems perfectly balanced between all five speakers. The format also works well for a lot of the mixing effects and techniques used in the concert itself (just check out the castanets on La Isla Bonita). The sound is so flawless on this one that if you have any problems with it, you had better take it up with the lady herself.

  Extras
Contract

Picture Gallery: It’s the 21st century. Don’t you think you have seen enough pictures of Madonna? Funny though… that one the paparazzi snapped of her climbing out of the pool in her g-string isn’t featured here...

Sing along with Madonna!:- Though not an extra as such, you can go into karaoke mode by showing the subtitles to each song and singing along to your favourites. For interest’s sake, I gave this a try on Lo Que Siente La Mujer. Now, I don’t speak Spanish, I can’t really sing and I don’t even really know how that particular song goes but, baby, you shoulda been there...

  Overall  
Contract

Where this artist is concerned, you should already know on which side of the fence you belong. The qualities that help make Madonna ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘versatile’ to her fans are the same qualities that make her ‘manufactured’ and ‘contrived’ to her detractors.

Regardless, this is a quality release that highlights a performer well and truly on top of her game and for what it’s worth, she is probably among the best at what she does (this is a crowded marketplace and one must fully consider the alternatives).

Love her or hate her, she’s impossible to ignore.


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      And I quote...
    "After almost twenty years in the game, there is little doubt that the Material Girl has become the Girl with the Material..."
    - Peter O'Connor
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-725
    • TV:
          Sony WEGA 80cm
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DA50ES
    • Speakers:
          Accusound ASC160
    • Centre Speaker:
          Accusound ASC160
    • Surrounds:
          Accusound ASC160
    • Subwoofer:
          Accusound SW150
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