Thursday, June 01, 2006

Confessions Tour: MGM Grand 5/27/2006

Madonna's Confessions Tour stopped at the MGM Grand Garden Arena over Memorial Day weekend -- and I can hardly believe I was there. Way back when the dates for the tour were announced, I was going to be all noble and say "Oh, I don't need to go because I went to the last two tours and going again is just excessive." Well, as Heidi says, what a cold consolation my nobility would be if I had missed the tour. I was already pretty excited because I was really impressed with the set list and the Jean Paul Gaultier costumes for the tour, I thought, were top notch.

We flew out of Des Moines around 7:20AM on Saturday and (via Chicago) arrived in Las Vegas shortly after noon. The plane ride from Chicago to Vegas was exceptionally long -- three + hours -- but it was generally clear and it was so cool to watch the terrain change from 37,000 feet. We started out over the farmland of the Midwest, then got to the Rocky Mountains (which were so cool from an airplane! I was afraid they'd look flat but you could really see the contours of the mountains.) And then you got the western desert. They say that Iowa is desolate, but let me tell you, it's got nothing on western Colorado and Utah. You couldn't see any sign of human life for miles and miles. The descent into Las Vegas was a bit on the rocky side, as the winds were gusting upwards of 40 mph.

Because of the windy conditions, we didn't get to ride the Stratosphere. In all honesty, it's probably better that we didn't as it was one hell of a long way from the MGM Grand and, while we did go about half way up the strip to the Wynn Las Vegas, it felt like we traveled quite a long way and going the rest of the way up the strip really wasn't in the cards.

We got to the MGM Grand and I checked my carry on luggage so I didn't have to lug it all over Vegas. After that we got on the Las Vegas monorail (with the "Monorail!" song from "The Simpsons" stuck in my head!) and ate at the Wynn Buffet which one of Jeff's friends had recommended. It was pretty pricey -- about 37 dollars a piece -- but the food was very good and there was just about anything in the world that you could possibly want to eat on the buffet. They had prime rib that was exceptionally rare in the middle (Christina Crawford would definitely reject it!) but it was yummy as were the carrots and mashed potatoes. Fortunately, Jeff insisted on paying for my lunch as he knew it would be expensive and that he was pretty much dictating where we went. It was good and we both felt like we should have been taken out on Jabba's sail barge after lunch.

With lunch out of the way, we started exploring various casinos in Vegas as we still had a good 5 hours to kill before the show. While we were at the Wynn, I came across the slot machine that would eventually steal 4 bucks from me (I know, high roller that I am!) It was the Alien slot machine. You could play it as either a 1 cent, 2 cent or 5 cent slot, and I, of course played it as a penny slot. The aliens were wild, and every time they came up they snarled at you and their secondary jaws came out. Jeff has a picture of me actually playing the machine, but I haven't seen his pictures yet. Needless to say, I had to get a picture of this machine before I left. It was only appropriate that this be the machine that took me for my 4 dollars in Vegas. I was up by a couple dollars at one point, and I should have quit while I was ahead, but that's just not the type of mindset that Vegas propagates.

We also stopped by New York, New York and The Venetian (which Heidi says looks nothing like Venice) -- pictures of which are below.

The thing about Vegas casinos is that while they all look different on the outside, and they're all decorated differently on the inside, they are basically the same damn thing all the way up and down the Vegas strip. After a while, frankly, it gets a little bit boring. Mostly, Vegas is just a den of iniquity, not that that's all bad because if you're looking to be bad, Vegas is the city to do it in. Jeff and I both decided that you could do some pretty bad things in Vegas and people mostly just wouldn't notice.

Anyhow, after getting some Starbucks and sitting in the lobby of New York, New York for a while, we made our way over to the MGM Grand to get set up to go to the show. I checked my camera figuring there was no way in hell that I'd be able to bring it into the concert and we headed for our seats. After passing through the metal detectors (was glad I didn't have my camera at that point) we made our way through a sea of people and I got in line to buy some of the tour souvenirs. I only spent 60 bucks on souvenirs, which isn't too bad because I really thought they had some good merchandise this time around. I ended up buying the tour book (which is an obligatory buy as I have the books from both Drowned World Tour and Re-Invention) I also ended up buying the Confessions Tour coffee mug, which was appropriate because I buy a coffee mug everywhere I go and I bought a 5 dollar key chain as well as a 10 dollar poster. I couldn't believe they only had one poster for sale! Usually they have 5 or 6, but I guess they'd rather sell those online.

Anyway, Madonna was fashionably late (which of course made Jeff and me make jokes about how she had to quick run to Target to get some Lee press-ons.) but when the lights went out and the beginning of "Future Lovers" started playing, the crowd just went wild. I have to say, it was gutsy opening with a relatively unknown album track, but for some reason it really worked. Perhaps it was because Madonna's appearance out of a giant disco ball ranks as one of her best entrances ever. I think that the beginning act of the show, which featured "Future Lovers/I Feel Love," "Get Together," "Like A Virgin," and "Jump" is probably the strongest live set she has ever done. Rarely has Madonna been in better voice than she was during this set. The dancers were spot on and Madonna just seemed to be having a blast which is a far cry from when I saw her on the Drowned World Tour and she looked like she was just going through the motions. Granted, we saw her toward the end of the tour that time, and this was just the beginning of the tour this time around, so I suppose some of that is inevitable. I truly love the version of "Like A Virgin" that she did -- and the crowd loved it too. It was the first time in 13 years she's performed this song, and it was amazing to hear 15,000 Madonna fans all singing the "Woh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" part along with her.

After a quick change of clothes, she made her now infamous entrance for the second act on the discofied cross to sing "Live To Tell." That sounded pretty good, too. Her performances of ballads like that have always been a little bit hit and miss. It was a powerful performance and I didn't really feel like the use of the cross was out of place. This set was Confessions on a Dance Floor heavy, featuring the songs "Forbidden Love," "Isaac," "Sorry," and "Like It Or Not." "Like It Or Not" is a song Jeff doesn't really care for, and I really love it and Madonna danced with a chair during the performance -- something I haven't seen her do since probably "Bye Bye Baby" on the Girlie Show.

The next set was probably the weakest, as Madonna's guitar playing really does nothing for me. I'd much rather have her dancing as opposed to having her feet planted playing the guitar. But she kicked it off with "I Love New York" which I initially hated but have come to love for the glorious cheese that it is. She changed the lyric (as she did at Coachella) from "Just go to Texas/Isn't that where they golf." to " Just go to Texas/and suck George Bush's dick!" which seemed a little over the top but the crowd (predictably) ate it up. The highlight of this set for me was "Let It Will Be," and album track from Confessions, but Madonna looked absolutely fantastic and her tripping all over the stage was the kind of organic dancing we haven't seen from her on tour in a while. Too bad her vocals were God-awful. That one really needs some work in the vocal department. She was off-key and messing up words, but really, who the hell cares, right? Anyone who goes to a Madonna concert expecting a pitch-perfect vocal performance is really going for all the wrong reasons. Following that, she slowed it down with "Drowned World" and "Paradise (Not For Me)" which really caused the show to drag. She sounded pretty good on both, except the vocoder on "Paradise" really has to go because it just sounds dumb.

After that, we were ready for her crank it back up again, and man, did she ever! When the disco beats of "Disco Inferno" started playing, followed quickly by the tell tale "Boogie woogie/Do you like to?" the crowd went nuts. Not long after, Madonna and her two dancers came out in John Travolta white suits and she performed a great mash-up of "Music" with "Disco Inferno." After this was "Erotica" mixed in with its original demo "You Thrill Me" which was damn difficult to understand because of the acoustics of the arena. I have to say I was a little bit disappointed by it because I was expecting more. However, I've heard a "studio version" of it and I'll admit, it's growing on me. The she sang what must be one of her favorites "La Isla Bonita" which morphed into "Lucky Star." That segued almost seamlessly into "Hung Up" which brought out a huge audience reaction. It was also the audience participation part of the show. Madonna egged us all on to repeat "Time goes by so slowly" and we were all screaming it (especially the girl sitting next to me!) But it was never good enough, and before she launched into the end of the song, she berated us, saying "You guys suck!!" Balloons fell from the ceiling and an electronic "Have you confessed?" scrawled across the screen and it was over. At $4.15 a minute, I got more than my money's worth. I'd say it's probably my favorite tour, even more so than Re-Invention, which was a lot more hit filled. This one just had a great energy from the get go and Madonna just seemed like she was having a great time, even in Vegas which traditionally has tough crowds as most of the good seats go to high rollers.

There's a whole other story about us getting back to Iowa, but that's going to have to wait till later as I'm pooped out and, as a reward for anyone who read this far, here's an mp3 file of "Like A Virgin" from the Confessions Tour.

Madonna - Like A Virgin (Confessions Tour)

(all pictures of the concert courtesy of

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