- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

Madonna certainly knows how to express herself.
The 42-year-old queen of pop put on an elaborate show Friday and Saturday nights at the MCI Center. Thousands in the audience waited nearly two hours Friday for her to come onstage after her late plane arrived.
The wait was well worth it. Madonna's "Drowned World Tour" is her first in eight years, and it sold out at all 12 stops — including Washington. (She canceled a couple of the shows because of problems with her voice.)
The Material Girl's opening act enthralled the crowd with a bombardment of visual effects: blazing lights of contrasting tones, dancers wearing light-up gas masks rising from underneath the stage, gigantic netted tubes rolling around and dancers moving in and out of them. The scene was absurd, frightening and intriguing at once. So much so, that one almost forgot about watching Madonna up close on one of the screens projecting her image.
"Drowned World/Substitute for Love" opened the 1 1/2-hour concert — in an oppressively hot arena Friday night — and marked the start of one of four sets to be performed. Madonna indulged in playing the guitar, which she learned recently, and parading around the stage in a black-and-white punk-rocker outfit.
Eventually that gave way to the geisha portion of the concert, which was perhaps the most artistic. Madonna's choreography and dancers always have been highly praised — with good reason.
Gone were the rocker outfits and in came women dressed in kimonos and men in wrap-around outfits, waving swords in graceful moves.
Madonna's appearance for this set was most striking: She was elevated to center stage and wore a black kimono with sleeves that expanded into something like wings.Dancers held the ends of this outrageous outfit at opposite sides of the stage, making the cloth move in waves. This gave Madonna the appearance of being the only constant.
Designers Arianne and Jean Paul Gaultier created her outfit.
Madonna sang from her last two electronica-inspired albums, "Ray of Light" and "Music." At first there seemed to be disconnect between the music and performing act, but Madonna inevitably won the crowd over with her antics. The geisha sequence included a song that had her offstage as her skillful dancers entertained the crowd. Most fascinating of this set was an elaborate act in which several dancers and Madonna hung suspended from the ceiling and played around with kicks and screams, reminiscent of the martial arts movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
The show's third set brought onstage a large mechanical bull named "Jesus. " Madonna's press materials report that the bull was "blessed" by a priest in Cheyenne, Okla., where it was manufactured. This fit into the "cyber cowgirl" part of her show. The fourth part was billed as "Spanish Girl/Ghetto Girl."
Perhaps thebiggest criticism of Madonna's latest tour has come from those who saw her infamous "Blonde Ambition" tour 11 years ago and longed for that rather than her new material. An air of such expectancy filled the MCI Center, as many of Madonna's fans seemed to wish that the singer — now a married woman and mother of two —would expressherself through her earlier hits such as "Like a Virgin," "Vogue," "Lucky Star" or "Papa Don't Preach."
But she defiantly did none of those.
"Holiday" and "La Isla Bonita" were the only older songs she performed, and the latter was done in an off-beat jamming session with drums and guitars accompanying Madonna's singing and the dancers' graceful and passionate flamenco moves.
As part of her flamenco set, she sang "What It Feels Like for a Girl," a much anticipated song, in Spanish.
"Music" ended the Friday night concert in a flurry of flashing bright lights and serpentine streamers dispersed over the floor seats. These seats, according to reports, cost some fans as much as $5,000.
Scalpers, in fact, made a ton of money by selling tickets to Madonna fans.
One couple ecstatically jumped around, screaming they had made thousands of dollars. Another 30-something guy smirked happily after reselling four previously bought tickets for $200 each. He said they had cost about $60 apiece.
Madonna's Web site said tickets initially cost $45 to $250. Through brokers, the prices jumped to $115 to $5,000.
Madonna memorabilia sold at the show was just as pricey, with T-shirts costing $50, a program filled with pictures of the artist going for $25 and a black jean-jacket with the "Music" emblem sewn with multicolored rhinestones fetching $250.
But this is the sort of thing Madonna fans expect, so nobody really complained.

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