- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

It’s one thing for alpha male Mick Jagger to be 60, lithe and lecherous, but what’s a 45-year-old alpha female like Madonna to do? Sing “Like a Virgin” ‘til she’s 80?

The old lions of the rock era are able to get away with perpetual adolescence, but only up to a point.

Music critics and culture observers — upset, perhaps, over their own expanding waistlines and receding hairlines — are quick with disapproving snickers at Mr. Jagger’s catwalk-preening and Roger Daltrey’s microphone-lassoing antics.

Codgers such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young are given a pass for their age. The standard seems to be: If you must be old, be ugly. Having it all is very impolite.

But where does that leave Madonna, who has it all and then some? (Like Mr. Jagger, she’s in frenetically good health.)

Call it a double standard — because it is — but our popular culture doesn’t know quite how to handle the kind of supercharged, confrontational female sexuality that Madonna pioneered, if that female is much past her 30s.

Really, who wants to see Blondie’s 58-year-old frontwoman, Debbie Harry, relive the decadence of the disco era?

At 45, and after 20 years of international stardom, Madonna has taken on the freight of wealthy middle age: a filmmaker husband by the ho-hum name of Guy; a stately country home in Britain; and a fake English accent to match.

Also, she was named Britain’s best-dressed woman by — get this — Good Housekeeping magazine.

No wonder she’s calling this current tour Re-Invention.

Madonna, who closes her two-night engagement at the MCI Center tonight, has dealt with advancing age in traditional ways: family and religion. However, Madonna being Madonna, she’s taken an unorthodox approach to both tickets to contentment.

Seven-year-old Lourdes, Madonna’s daughter, came courtesy of a discarded stud, Carlos Leon, the singer’s personal trainer for a time. Son Rocco, 3, also was born out of wedlock, but Madonna married his father, British director Guy Ritchie, a year later.

Her faith is a popularized version of kabala, an esoteric system of Judaism. Look closely tonight and you’ll notice Madonna wearing a red piece of thread around her wrist — a sort of charm that kabalists wear to ward off envy and ill will. (Britney Spears sports one in her latest video.)

For a cool $25, you can purchase a Red String of your very own tonight, along with specialty kabala water — if you’re spiritually as well as physically thirsty.

In her quest for spirituality, Madonna’s experience has mirrored that of Prince, another megastar of the ‘80s touring arenas this summer.

Prince — born two months before Madonna, he in Minnesota, she in Michigan — is said to proselytize door-to-door in Minneapolis as a representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He also has taken the unusual step of dropping, for propriety’s sake, sexually explicit songs such as “Sexy M.F.” and “Head” from his set lists.

Madonna hasn’t experienced that kind of revelation; everything — the naughty (“Erotica”) and the sublime (“Ray of Light”) — is fair game for her.

All of which points up a big difference between the Purple One and the Material Girl. There will come a time when Madonna simply will be incapable of performing; the legs will get creaky, the biceps will become saggy.

Unlike Prince, Madonna has no musicianship on which to fall back (notwithstanding her awkward stabs at acoustic guitar on her most recent album, last year’s “American Life”).

Madonna has succeeded for two decades on the strength of an uncanny ability to present herself in endlessly new guises.

Her continual success has required, in a word, reinvention.

Eventually, maybe soon, there will come a time when that well dries up.

WHAT: Madonna

WHERE: MCI Center

WHEN: Tonight at 8

TICKETS: $303, $153, $93, $48

PHONE: 202/432-SEAT or www.ticketmaster.com

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