Today in Madonna History: July 19, 2004

On July 19 2004, the first of three shows at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre during Madonna’s Re-Invention Tour was reviewed by Angela Pacienza of the Canadian Press:

TORONTO (CP) – The original Material Girl strutted, writhed and wriggled Sunday, showing her fans she still had the goods to compete with performers half her age.

Madonna’s concert, the first of three in Toronto, was an over-the-top theatrical production complete with costume changes, choreographed dance numbers and an ever-changing stage. After an awkward, avant-garde video display where she appeared to turn into a wolf, the 45-year-old singer opened with Vogue, her tribute to New York club life. Dressed in a glittery corset, black short-shorts and knee-high boots, Madonna sashayed from one end of the stage to the next with the help of a moving sidewalk – a conveyer-belt built into the entire front section of the stage. Aptly titled the Re-Invention Tour, the set went through several incarnations, at times appearing as a Renaissance painting, a war field, a circus, a traditional concert stage with a full band in the centre and finally, a dance club. Moving parts included a V-shaped catwalk that dropped down on top of the floor seats, giving Madonna greater access to fans at the back end of the Air Canada Centre.

It’s been 11 years since Madonna’s strutted on a Canadian stage and fans showed they’ve been patiently waiting with thunderous applause throughout the show. “It’s good to be back, Toronto,” she told more than 16,000 fans who paid up to $300 – considerably more than the top-ticket price of $55 for her 1993 stop. “Just because I’ve changed my ways doesn’t mean I don’t still like to have fun.” She briefly mentioned a run-in with Toronto police in 1990, when officers investigated reports of lewd acts during her concert. “I’m a good girl,” she purred.

The Material Girl has re-invented herself dozens of times since she left her Michigan working-class home in the late 1970s. Her most memorable persona was the sex-crazed diva, a harbinger of the current generation of pop music tarts. She offered the crowd some of that sauciness on Sunday with suggestive dance moves – although the show was relatively tame compared to her former self. Instead of sexual provacativeness, she filled the two-hour set with religious iconography. An illustration of Jesus was her backdrop for Mother And Father. She wore a T-shirt with the words Kabbalists Do It Better during Papa Don’t Preach.

Madonna’s calmed down considerably in recent years, with her current role of demure mother, children’s book author and spiritual practitioner. The show seemed structured to show off Madonna’s new maturity, urging people to think about government, religion and world events, rather than push the usual buttons with simulated sex scenes. Her fans didn’t seem to mind and said they continue to support her chameleon career.

Carla Filoso drove from Ottawa for the show. “She’s probably the most influential artist of our time,” gushed the 24-year-old, who spent $300 on her floor seat ticket. “She’s re-invented herself about 100 times.” Natalie Michaud thought the ’80s icon was worth buying a ticket from a U.S. scalper for $700 US. On top of that price, the 25-year-old psychology student flew from Grand Falls, N.B. with her boyfriend for the show. “I grew up with her. I love her,” she gushed from her floor seat.

Madonna didn’t disappoint, working her way through the maze of past hits with confident ease, even finding inventive, modern ways to interpret her ’80s songs. Express Yourself saw her treat a rifle like a baton, twirling it round and round and giving the song a more political slant. Burning Up, a syrupy pop ditty from her first record, became a bold, new wave rock song. Wielding an electric guitar, Madonna belted out her signature song, Material Girl to some of the loudest screams of the night. Other hits included Frozen, Into The Groove and Crazy For You.

Madonna, who found time earlier in the day to stop in at the city’s Kabbalah Centre, proved herself a versatile performer, putting on a Vegas-style show that left the audience panting right until the red-and-white confetti sprayed overtop during the finale, her song Holiday – the singer’s first Top 40 hit back in 1983. With a huge library of songs to choose from, Madonna seemed to have picked one to represent her many image makeovers. Lament, from Evita, showed a bit of the sophisticated lady. Like A Prayer was her first religious foray. Hanky Panky, from the film Dick Tracy, reminded fans of Madonna’s many attempts to conquer acting. Her button-pusher attitude was let loose during American Life, with dancers dressed like soldiers attacking others dressed as religious figures including a nun and a rabbi.

She performs again Monday and Wednesday. The three Toronto shows are her only stops in Canada. Her tour ends in Lisbon in mid-September.

Today In Madonna History: June 22, 1985

On June 22 1985, Angel/Into The Groove spent its second week at #1 on the Hot Maxi-Single Sales chart (then titled 12 inch Single Sales). It also inched its way closer to the top of the Hot Dance/Club Play chart (then titled simply Club Play), moving from #3 to #2.

Mainly driven by the popularity of Into The Groove (which was available exclusively on the Angel maxi-single in North America) with its heavy rotation on MTV, in clubs and its prominent appearance in the hit film Desperately Seeking Susan, the release would spend a total of twelve weeks in the top-5 of the Hot Maxi-Single Sales chart, including seven non-consecutive weeks at #1. Being a niche format that rarely generated enough mainstream interest to earn certification-level sales, Angel/Into The Groove has the distinction of being only the fourth maxi-single in history be certified Gold in the U.S.

In Canada, interest in Into The Groove prompted Warner Music Canada to issue Madonna’s first North American cassette maxi-single in addition to the standard 12 inch vinyl. The experiment clearly proved successful, as Warner Music Canada would continue to offer her subsequent releases in both formats several years before the U.S. followed suit.

Today in Madonna History: May 27, 1990

On May 27 1990, Madonna played the first of three shows at the Toronto Skydome during her Blond Ambition Tour. The shows were Madonna’s only Canadian dates for the tour.

I was fortunate enough to have attended this show when I was twelve years old. Not only was it my first Madonna live experience, it was my first live concert experience. The morning tickets went on sale my mom was working out-of-town so she let me skip sixth-grade for the morning and I headed downtown to Sunrise Records…I managed to score two 100-level tickets directly facing the stage. I don’t think the word “excited” would sufficiently describe how elated I was to be going to see Madonna. The next two months felt like the longest two months of my life, but I couldn’t have been happier. I watched the Ciao Italia! concert on VHS daily during the lead-up, hoping that the new tour would be equally good. Needless to say it far exceeded my expectations – and my mom’s as well! We had the best time dancing and singing and just being utterly blown away by the spectacle. I couldn’t have asked for a better first concert experience, or for a better memory. Much love to the two M’s for making it possible! – Justin

 

Today in Madonna History: May 2, 2016

On May 2 2016, three of Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour dancers – Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea & Oliver Crumes – were interviewed by Gill Deacon for CBC-Radio’s arts and culture show, Q.

The dancers were in Toronto to promote their documentary, Strike A Pose, which was being screened during the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival between April 27–May 7 and the Inside Out Toronto film festival from May 27–June 5, 2016.

For anyone who hasn’t yet watched Strike A Pose, be sure to check it out! It’s a beautiful film!

Today in Madonna History: April 26, 2003

On April 26 2003, Madonna’s American Life single spent the first of two weeks at #1 on the Soundscan Canadian Singles chart.

American Life was the final two-track physical Madonna single issued by Warner Music Canada, while production of CD maxi-singles would continue domestically until the 2006 release of Jump.