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The Blue Material Girl : Pop music: Madonna's lusty 'Girlie Show' tour opens in London to cheers of 72,000 fans.

September 27, 1993|JEFF KAYE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LONDON — Madonna launched her "Girlie Show" world tour here Saturday night with a lusty performance that was part big-top circus, part Broadway musical and part soft-core porn.

Her hair is short and blonde, like an urchin, and her work remains dominated by matters sexual.

Despite the scanty costumes adorning the star and her troupe of singers and dancers, and the liberal doses of group groping and gender-bending, there wasn't anything that could be called shocking. Anyone who had hoped the pop queen would try to outstrip her recent sensual explorations in "Sex" (the book), "Erotica" (the album) and "Body of Evidence" (the movie) would have been disappointed.

Still, not many concerts start the way this one did: with a topless dancer slithering seductively down a silver fireman's pole. Below the dancer was a clown, who remained onstage throughout most of the show.

Very symbolic, probably.

Ultimately, the show proved a huge success with the sell-out audience of 72,000 on a chilly night at London's Wembley Stadium. Madonna was to perform again Sunday night before setting out for hither and yon--but not Los Angeles.

The crowd's approval came in sharp contrast to the response of the British press, which has taken a rather mean-spirited stance against the Material Girl since her arrival in London earlier in the week. Mean-spirited, that is, when it's said anything at all.

London's infamous tabloids, which in the past have devoted huge resources to capturing her every movement and utterance, have this time declared her boring and kaput and chosen to virtually ignore her. One tab, the Daily Mail, proclaimed itself a "Madonna-free zone."

Madonna's two-hour show, which opened with the song "Erotica," featured 15 numbers and almost as many costume changes. The singer first appeared as a dominatrix dressed in black jacket, hot pants and elbow-length gloves and holding a whip. She quickly dispensed with the jacket, however, to reveal a matching bra.

By the third number, "Vogue," she was wearing a sparkly new bra and a fancy headdress.

Appearing at one point as Marlene Dietrich--with top hat, tails and heavy German accent--Madonna seemed to be crooning a '20s Berlin cabaret song. But it soon became clear she was singing a Teutonic rendition of one of her early hits, which had now become "Like a 'Wirgin.' "

For the song "Express Yourself," the singer descended onto the stage atop a glittering disco ball, her head covered by a blonde Afro wig.

The complicated and energetic ensemble dancing throughout the show included suggestions of the major sexual possibilities: Madonna rubbing up against the gorgeous girls and hunky guys. The guys with the guys. An orgy.

At other times, the agile cast of about a dozen dancers and singers could have been out of a Gene Kelly movie, the musical "Hair" or a day at the races in Ascot.

Madonna's "Holiday" was given a military theme, with a huge American flag displayed at the back of the stage and the singer and dancers dressed in greatcoats. The standard arrangement of the song, which brought the crowd to its feet, was interspersed with military-style drumming and Madonna's recitation of a marching call-response rap that was, shall we say, of an extremely graphic sexual nature.

There was a sense that this adoring crowd had seen and heard all this stuff before from the mistress of image makeovers.

But no one seemed to mind.

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