Madonna

Echo 

Madonna

As the clock ticked past 8:45 at Chicago's United Center last Tuesday evening, the lights finally dimmed and the bit the audience had been collectively chomping dropped out of sight, replaced by an expression of something approaching awe. It was almost surreal to see Madonna in three dimensions, so long has she been a part of the American mass media.

Buff and lean as a bantamweight, she entered from the dark, walked to the lip of the stage and ejaculated a shot of steam from a hose held crotch-level by a member of her entourage. Ever the bad girl, she couldn't resist greeting the 28,000 or so in attendance with "Fuck you, motherfuckers." A bit juvenile, perhaps, but just another facet of Madonna's sadomasochistic relationship with her fans, who might as well have said, "Thank you, ma'am. Can I have another?"

Plenty has been written about Madonna's look for the show's four acts: the kilted punkette; the samurai princess; the urban cowgirl (and audience members who thought they'd wear a cowboy hat and be novel were outsmarted by about a quarter of the crowd); and the cool Latina in Gaultier. What other reports neglected to say was how much the show smacks of her Sex book, although it's perhaps more subtle.

Just as that controversial tome empowered her to take bisexuality to the masses, her concert focused on Madonna's public flirtings and private shames. When the Japanese-themed segment (which included an animated rape) ended with a projection of Madonna's face battered and bruised, the real Madonna on stage was triumphantly breaking the neck of her male antagonist. One couldn't help recalling reports of ex-husband Sean Penn smacking her around. And "What It Feels Like for a Girl" found her tangoing with four very butch female dancers in Italian T-shirts and trousers with suspenders. As when she and Sandra Bernhard seemed to be dating in the '90s, Madonna was again yanking the public's chain, daring America to ask her such banal questions as, "Are you gay?" What does it feel like for a girl of Madonna's complexity and artistry? Like anything she desires.

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