Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Madonna: Drowned World Tour 2001 (2001)
Studio Line: Warner Bros.

She has more Top 10 singles than any woman in history and has sold over 150 million albums worldwide.

But Madonna live in concert has always been a special experience - as it was at The Palace of Auburn Hills (outside her hometown of Detroit) for an HBO special during her recent tour for her latest hit album, Music.

Selections: Drowned World/Substitute for Love; Impressive Instant; Candy Perfume Girl; Beautiful Stranger; Ray of Light; Paradise (Not For Me); Frozen; Nobody's Perfect; Mer Girl Part 1; Sky Fits Heaven; Mer Girl Part 2; What It Feels Like For a Girl (remix); I Deserve It; Don't Tell Me; Human Nature; The Funny Song; Secret; Gone; Don't Cry for Me Argentina (instrumental); Lo Que Siente La Mujer (What It Feels Like For A Girl); La Isla Bonita; Holiday; Music.

Director: Hamish Hamilton
Cast: Madonna
DVD: Standard 1.33:1; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - double layered; 24 chapters; Rated R; 106 min.; $24.99; street date 11/13/01.
Supplements: Picture Gallery; Weblinks.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: D+/A-/D

July 21, 2001 brought an event I long thought would never occur. On that day, I drove to Philadelphia and saw Madonna perform live for the first time in eight years.

Such a long lay-off doesn’t lack precedent, even among active artists. The Rolling Stones didn’t tour between 1981 and 1989, and Paul McCartney stayed off the road from 1980 until 1989; he’s also been away from the tour bus since 1993, which gives him another eight-year break. Heck, Macca didn’t come to the States for a whopping 13 years, as he went from 1976 to 1989 without US tours.

During those lean years, I was pretty pessimistic I’d ever see McCartney or the Stones, but their lay-offs weren’t as frustrating as Madonna’s. At least neither the Stones nor McCartney threatened to tour, but Madonna frequently declared her plans to hit the road. After the release of both Bedtime Stories in 1994 and Ray of Light in 1998, Maddy publicly stated that she’d soon be coming to a town near you. I still remember the 1998 MTV Video Awards interview in which Kurt Loder openly mocked her insistent indications of future intentions.

Of course, Kurt’s skepticism was appropriate, as Madonna stayed off the road. With the 1996 birth of her daughter Lourdes and then the 2000 delivery of son Rocco, it seemed even less likely that she’s ever tour again. In fact, I remained so doubtful about the whole enterprise that I refused to believe it until the summer 2001 Drowned World Tour actually began.

Even then, I couldn’t quite accept it as reality. I’ve been a big Madonna fan since 1985, and she’s one of a very small list of artists who won me over based on their live shows. I saw her on the 1985 “Virgin” tour mainly to impress a date; I actively disliked Madonna’s music at the time. The relationship with the girl went nowhere, but I found myself quite impressed with Madonna’s performance, and a longtime love affair with her work started.

Since then, I saw Madonna on each subsequent tour, even the 1993 Girlie Show, which only played three cities in the US. (For the record, she came to Philadelphia, New York and Detroit; I saw her in Philly.) I enjoyed all of these and dearly wanted to see her again. For many years, this didn’t seem likely.

With tickets in hand since June, I greatly looked forward to my exposure to the 2001 “Drowned World” show. I planned to hit six shows: two in Philly, two here in DC, and two in Miami. Initially I planned to avoid setlist postings from the early parts of the tour in Europe, but that resolve lasted approximately 12 hours; I couldn’t resist hearing more about this hotly anticipated show.

I was glad I did this, for my initial encounter with “Drowned World” was a definite disappointment; had I not already known the setlist, it would have been a disappointment and a shock. Before the tour started, friends and I discussed potential setlists. We knew that recent hits like Music, “Ray of Light”, and “Frozen” were shoo-ins, so the main question revolved around what catalog tunes would make the show.

Prior to 2001, two songs appeared during every Madonna tour: 1983’s “Holiday” and 1984’s “Like A Virgin”. I saw no reason to doubt they’d be here during “Drowned World” as well, and I also thought 1990’s “Vogue” was a lock. Nothing else felt as likely, but I still figured her long roster of hits would be adequately represented.

How wrong I was! As it stood, of the 19 songs played during the show, only two existed prior to 1994: “Holiday” and 1986’s “La Isla Bonita”. Otherwise, absolutely nothing we heard in previous concerts reappeared in 2001, and the vast majority of the songs came from Ray of Light and 2000’s Music. From 1994’s Bedtime Stories, we got “Human Nature” and “Secret”, while 1995’s “You’ll See” - from a compilation of ballads called Something to Remember - rotated with Music’s “Gone” during parts of the US leg; “You’ll See” didn’t show up at all in Europe, though. Finally, Maddy introduced a new tune called “The Funny Song”, a comic spoof of country music conventions.

Anyone who went to the “Drowned World” show and expected to see a greatest hits concert left sorely disappointed. As I noted, I departed the FU Center in Philly with a number of complaints, but none revolved around the setlist. I knew what I was getting before I entered the arena, and I was fine with the emphasis on new material. I prefer it when artists challenge themselves and their audiences, and I applaud Maddy’s choice to stage the show she wanted to do, not the one she thought would be the safe choice.

Otherwise, I felt somewhat disenchanted with the “Drowned World” show. Inevitably, when I see someone I’ve watched a lot in the past, I compare the new performance to the old ones. Add to that the fact I’ve re-screened the video of the “Girlie Show” many times over the last eight years, and the situation becomes more complicated. Though it lagged at times, I generally really liked that performance, and it seemed tough for me not to compare it and earlier concerts to the new one.

After I went through the opening night in Philly, however, I quickly came to embrace “Drowned World”. I needed a little time for the show to sink in, but when I saw a second concert the following night, I enjoyed it much more. I took in four more “Drowned World” performances and found the show continued to remain engrossing and satisfying.

However, a lot of folks felt otherwise, mainly because of Madonna’s emphasis on new material. Of course, this still meant a lot of hits entered the mix, from “Frozen” and “Ray of Light” to “Beautiful Stranger”, but it lacked the killer classics through which Madonna made her name. While the prior songs received a good reception, “Holiday” encountered virtual rapture; when it started, the roar that came from the crowd was always astonishing.

“Drowned World” challenged the crowd, which many folks didn’t necessarily want. Lots of people view concerts as a place to go to down some beers and party, and they left “Drowned World” unhappy. This wasn’t a fun show, but it was well paced and provocative, and it provided a consistently compelling and intriguing experience.

Apparently vaguely based on a series of books by J.G. Ballard, “Drowned World” - also the title of a Ballard novel - followed a four-pronged structure. Madonna started the show in a very low-key manner with the generally subdued title song, Ray of Light’s “Drowned World (Substitute for Love)”. This first act provided a faux punk rock theme that heard Maddy snarl, “Fuck off, motherfuckers!” at the conclusion of the set’s third tune, “Candy Perfume Girl”, one that also featured her on lead guitar. Between “World” and “Girl” we found Music’s insistent “Impressive Instant” during this faux punk rock segment of the concert. Maddy followed “Girl” with a mildly seductive and bouncy version of “Beautiful Stranger” from the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack.

A crowd-pleasing tune followed with “Ray of Light”, and after that, Maddy split the scene before the segue into the next segment of the show. After a music video for “Paradise (Not For Me)” - which featured a canned vocal accompanied by live band combined with some unusual live performance by male dancers - Madonna emerged in extravagant Japanese garb for a dramatic version of “Frozen”. This second set comprised the “geisha” part of the show, and after “Frozen”, it continued through “Nobody’s Perfect”, “Mer Girl”, “Sky Fits Heaven”, and a reprise of “Mer Girl” before Maddy again left the stage and we saw some pornographic anime. (Really!)

Next we got the “cowgirl” act of the show, which started with Madonna on acoustic guitar as she quietly rendered Music’s “I Deserve It”. The pace picked up with a bouncy “Don’t Tell Me” and moved to a moderately surly and defiant “Human Nature”, one of the few pre-1998 tunes in the set. Brand-new for this tour, the country mockery “The Funny Song” ensued, and Bedtime Stories’ “Secret” came after it; Madonna played acoustic guitar on both songs as well. The “cowgirl” segment finished with Music’s “Gone”. Though “Gone” filled this spot during the five-city European leg of the tour, “You’ll See” replaced it opening night in Philly. After a few “You’ll See” only dates, the two alternated for parts of the tour, though I don’t think any of the cities got both tunes; each venue heard one or the other.

Anyway, the fourth and final act - which encompassed both an Evita tone and then a “ghetto fabulous” look - opened with an instrumental version of “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, which solely featured the dancers. Maddy re-emerged for “Lo Que Siente La Mujer”, the Spanish-language version of Music’s What It Feels Like For a Girl, and that segued into a spare rendition of True Blue’s “La Isla Bonita”. Maddy briefly left the stage before she returned in pimp wear for a take on “Holiday” that remained surprisingly true to its 1983 origins. This ended the show proper, but Madonna came back after a brief break to finish the concert with a pumping version of “Music”.

About those themes: if you really want to dissect the show and get into it, they do make some sense. For example, all of the songs during the “cowgirl” segment relate to independence, as they spark self-esteem and some defiance of what others tell us to do. The punk act goes more for a searching theme, whereas the geisha bit attempts self-definition, reconciliation and to overcome doubt. The final act lacks the same scope, at least as far as I can tell; it seems to be more random, largely because of the inclusion of the older hits. I suppose it supports an ultimate coming together of people and a push for unity, but that’s pretty thin.

Does any of this really matter? Probably not. The depth exists if you want to investigate it, and if you’d also like to check out Ballard’s books to see how they fit the show, go for it! I haven’t done so, but it’d be an interesting examination to discover if Maddy really did try to use them as a focus for the performance.

Without those connections, however, “Drowned World” still works very well as concert art. All four of the acts seem good, though I probably like the final one the least, if just because it does appear less centered. The moderate gender bending of “Mujer” adds some panache, but the stripped-down take on “Bonita” lacks much worth for me. The song never was one of my favorites, and playing it in a simpler way doesn’t accentuate its stronger qualities. It also doesn’t help that the lead dancer featured during the song is possibly the scariest-looking man I’ve ever seen.

“Holiday” disappoints me due to the fact that the version performed is so literal. Of all Madonna’s songs, only “Holiday” has appeared on all five of her tours, and with the exception of her first trek in 1985, she always spiced it up in some moderate manner. No, she didn’t give it the radical reinterpretations afforded “Like A Virgin” in 1990 and 1993, but she spiced it up and made each one nicely different.

That doesn’t happen during “Drowned World”. To be sure, the version performed seems competent, but it lacks much flair and spark. However, it’s still a highlight of the show, if just because it’s one of the few moments during which Madonna interacts heavily with long-time backup singers Donna De Lory and Niki Haris. They’ve been with her since 1987’s “Who’s That Girl” trek, and they’ve always offered a nice foil for our favorite diva. The way the three mix during “Holiday” adds some warmth and feeling to the show.

“Music” also concludes the concert on a strong note. Simple yet compelling, the tune is one of the best from its album, and the live version does it right. Accompanied by a video reel that shows her various incarnations over the years, “Music” simply rocks, and the production enhances the song’s strengths. (Trivia note: before the tune starts, we hear some synthesized train sounds. Sharp-eared listeners will recognize this as the opening to David Bowie’s “Station to Station”, a cool tip of the hat to the world’s other most famous musical chameleon.)

If forced to choose between the cowgirl and the punk segments of the show, I’d state that I prefer the latter, but it’s nearly a draw. Despite its popularity, “Ray of Light” doesn’t do much for me, and the presentation seems somewhat generic; the inclusion of many clips from the famous music video doesn’t help allow it to stand out from the crowd.

Some felt that “Drowned World” started the show on too subdued a note, but I disagreed. No, it’s not as provocative as past openers like “Erotica” or “Express Yourself”, but it sets the stage for the evening and creates an appropriate tone. It’s an iconic moment that lets us know that things will be different for this tour, and it informs us of the show’s cool tenor. We also quickly learn that Madonna’s actually singing live this time around; both the 1990 “Blonde Ambition” and 1993 “Girlie Show” tours featured liberal lip-synching.

“Beautiful Stranger” is fluffy but enjoyable, and it allows a little interaction between Maddy and Donna and Niki, which makes it a favorite in my book. “Impressive Instant” strives a little too hard to be outrageous and edgy, but the song’s good, and it’s a nice contrast to the relative mellowness of “Drowned World”.

The highlight of first act is probably “Candy Perfume Girl”, however, despite Madonna’s passivity during the song. She sings and plays guitar while a female dancer does a limber solo routine; a male dancer eventually joins her as well. Why does this one stand out from the rest? Because it’s the track that best fits the punk motif. When Maddy plays guitar during the rest of the show, it’s always in the realm of general rhythm on an acoustic. However, for “Perfume” she grabs an electric and takes the lead. It’s a clumsy and rudimentary offering, but it’s cool just because it’s Madonna playing lead guitar! Her awkward picking matches the “do it yourself” attitude of punk and is quite cool to see.

During the third act, most of the set blends mildly into one. “I Deserve It” and “Gone” are gentle bookends that I like but that don’t bowl me over particularly. Actually, I think “Gone” is a fine tune, but the live performance is almost too understated, and it fails to catch much fire; the intimacy of the presentation doesn’t establish suitable drama or passion. “The Funny Song” seems a little too self-consciously mocking for my tastes, and it never sat well with me. Actually, I liked that segment of the show because it’s the only time Maddy really chats with the audience. The faux Southern accent is annoying, but she varied her comments from concert to concert, which meant this area was always a modest surprise, and she often offered some witty remarks. Unbeknownst to most, Madonna has a killer sense of humor, and when she lets it fly, she’s a riot. Too bad this was the only part of the show that allowed her that freedom, and her statements on the video were pretty bland. I have a feeling I’ll usually skip “The Funny Song” on future viewings.

“Secret” works reasonably well live, though the static presentation doesn’t allow it to breathe. Maddy strums her acoustic guitar and croons, and the song carries the day acceptably, but it lacks much visual panache.

The other song from Bedtime Stories offers the highlight of the cowgirl set. “Human Nature” kicks in nicely after the line dance stomp of “Don’t Tell Me”, and it features one of the sharpest musical performances of the night; the band provide a good pop to it that helps make it more effective. The visual presentation seems a little silly - the mechanical bull is more of a gimmick than anything else - but it’s still a good song that comes across well live.

While I like the other three sets, without question I think the geisha segment is the strongest of the show. From the entrancing video for “Paradise (Not For Me)” through the dramatic presentation of “Frozen” and the gimmicky but still cool Crouching Tiger-inspired theatrics of “Sky Fits Heaven”, this act of the concert offers the most compelling visual elements, and the songs are spirited and involving. Parts of it are violent - particularly the aforementioned anime and also a clip that accompanies “Mer Girl Part II” - but it’s all part of the journey on which Madonna attempts to take us, and it’s quite vivid.

Since I first saw the “Drowned World” show almost four months ago, I’ve tried to settle on its place in the Madonna pantheon, but so far I’ve not been able to do so. Of her five tours, “Blonde Ambition” was the most groundbreaking, and it also offered the most consistently compelling piece. The first two treks - 1985’s “Virgin” tour and 1987’s “Who’s That Girl” stadium outing - were good but seem immature and ordinary compared to the three that followed. However, “Ambition” wasn’t as ambitious as “World”, mainly because the latter more strongly challenged the audience; the absence of many hits and the thematic complexity allowed it to stand out from the crowd.

Musically, “Girlie Show” was the strongest, as it provided literally definitive versions of many songs such as “Vogue”, “Everybody”, “Bye Bye Baby”, “Justify My Love” and many others. It also had some excellent set pieces. However, it lacked the narrative and cohesion of “Drowned World”, and it dragged badly at times; “The Beast Within”, anybody?

Objectively, “Ambition” and “World” are probably tied for Madonna’s best shows, but personally, “Girlie” will always be my favorite, if just because the songs sounded so darned good. I like listening to the others, but the music from “Girlie” remains in heavy rotation for me eight years after the fact; Madonna just doesn’t sound as vital and exciting anywhere else.

That spotlights probably the weakest element of “World”: the band. The musicians are competent but rarely more than that. Apparently they were not experienced with the kind of scope and breadth of this sort of mega-tour, and those qualities show in the performances. They don’t seem more anonymous than the other groups; Madonna always keeps the musicians in the background, and they actually get more attention here than in past tours.

However, they just lack much panache or fire, largely because of the drummer. While Steve Sidelnyk certainly seems competent, he’s no match for Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffet - who played on the first three tours - or “Girlie”’s Omar Hakim. The latter remains the unquestioned king of Madonna drummers, as his percussive instincts took many of the tunes to higher levels. Sidelnyk can’t compete, and the music seems a little flat because of this.

I didn’t care for the fact he played an electronic kit either. No, I’m not really a snob about such things, but in this case, I think that the lack of real drums created a more artificial air and left out the spunk and kick traditional drums could offer. Maybe I’m wrong, and the sound would have been the same anyway, but there’s something inherently distancing about the electronic instruments. Perhaps Madonna wanted that, but I still feel the music suffered somewhat. I like the performances heard during this tour, but they weren’t up to the levels of those in the past.

Since I’d seen the show live a number of times, that obviously gave me a particular vantage point when I watched the Drowned World DVD. Actually, I had a very particular vantage point during my six “World” concerts: for each one, I sat in similar spots to the side of stage left. These seats were close but it was a moderately awkward angle; for example, I couldn’t really see the main video monitor at the back of the stage. Nonetheless, I’ll always take proximity over angle, and since I could see Maddy very well, I was happy.

Anyway, the video of World provides an acceptable representation of the show most of the time, but it also falters somewhat frequently. I prefer concert videos that don’t use gimmicks to “enhance” the action, but unfortunately director Hamish Hamilton found it necessary to use silly effects at times, and he also cuts too quickly through the action. There’s a distinct lack of confidence found in the direction, as it often felt as though he really wasn’t sure what he wanted to show. As such, he tried to pack in as much as possible for fear of missing something, and that rendered the production somewhat messy at times.

To be fair, this tendency did decrease as the show progressed, though problems still occurred. For example, during “Secret” we saw far too many glimpses of the video created to accompany the performance. I know that this was a static presentation visually, since Madonna remained still at the mike while she played guitar and no dancer involvement occurred, but I felt as though I barely got to see Maddy during the tune; the program too often cut away to the banal video. (Note: unlike during “Ray of Light”, we didn’t see the music video for “Secret”; instead, this was a montage used especially for the song during the show.)

One World oddity: prior to the performance on “Mer Girl Part 1”, there’s a brief edit. I have no idea why this is there. The end of “Nobody’s Perfect” fades and then we move to “Mer”. Nothing appears to be missing from the show, as this is the natural progression of the show. Perhaps there was some technical difficulty that necessitated the alteration. It’s not a problem, really, but it seems odd and it slightly distracted me.

Overall, Drowned World is a decent video of an excellent show. Love her or hate her, Madonna’s impact on the culture can’t be denied, and she must be respected for her longevity; most thought she’d have entered “where are they now?” territory years ago, but she continues to be a vital and dominant force almost 20 years after her first hit.

The 2001 “Drowned World” tour showed again why she’s so amazing. Five tours over her career, and none of them seem even remotely similar. I can think of no one else who’s been so consistently creative on stage; Madonna’s not my favorite live performer, but nobody else I like makes each tour so unique. Drowned World may or may not win new fans, and it probably will continue to alienate those who just want the hits. That’s their problem. Madonna doesn’t pander to anybody, and God bless her for it. I hope she doesn’t make us wait eight more years for her next live creation.

The DVD:

Madonna: Drowned World Tour 2001 appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. To call the picture of this show a disappointment would be a severe understatement; while not unwatchable, Drowned offered a picture that seemed much less clear that I expected.

Sharpness was the major issue. From the very start of the performance, I felt the image looked very soft. A few close-ups came across as acceptably crisp and distinct, but beyond those, much of the show seemed blurry and ill defined. The softness wasn’t consistent, by which I mean that some shots looked fuzzier than others. However, much of the concert was affected by this well definition, and the project as a whole seemed blurry and without very good delineation.

A modicum of jagged edges appeared, and some moiré effects caused occasional problems. For the most severe shimmering, check out the veil worn during Madonna’s video segments of “Paradise (Not For Me)”. Those displayed the greatest concerns, though I wasn’t sure of the cause. For this and other parts of the concert that came from the arena video screens, it was unclear if the DVD’s image came from the original material or if those elements were filmed at the show. Normally I’d assume the latter and think that the somewhat weak quality of the video pieces stemmed from them being taken from the stage monitors, but given the ugliness of other parts of this DVD, that seemed uncertain.

Other source flaws appeared to be absent. Colors generally appeared acceptable, but they lacked terrific definition. Part of this resulted from the blurriness of the show; when so much of the project looked fuzzy, that affected everything else. Overall, the hues remained largely distinct and accurate, but they showed some heaviness at times and could be a bit thick. Similar qualities affected both black levels and shadow detail. Dark tones came across as somewhat muddy and flat, while low-light sequences often looked a bit too dim and hard to discern.

Frankly, I’m at a loss to understand how such an unattractive video hit the shelves. At first I suspected that they’d crammed too much information onto a single-layered DVD, but since investigation indicated that Drowned World was dual-layered, that shouldn’t have been an issue. Ultimately, I can’t explain the weak quality of this picture. It’s the second time in recent years that I’ve seen a high-profile HBO concert show such an unappealing image; the 1999 release of Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope Tour also provided a surprisingly weak picture. While I still was able to enjoy Drowned World, the poor visual quality definitely impacted negatively upon the experience.

Happily, the soundtracks of Drowned World offered a much more pleasant result. I refer to soundtracks because the DVD included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Yes, you read that right; although you’ll find no mention of it on the packaging, we indeed find a DTS edition as well. The case also refers to a “linear PCM” track, but this doesn’t exist; in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, the disc offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 version.

For review purposes, I stuck with the DTS and DD 5.1 tracks. From what I could tell, the two sounded virtually identical. A few oddities cropped up during the mix, but these were not unique to one version or the other; the same curiosities occurred during both tracks. Many times the DTS edition is significantly louder than the DD one, but that wasn’t the case here. Indeed, both of them were very loud, so be prepared; act conservatively, start the volume low, and your non-fried speakers will thank you.

The soundfield of Drowned World usually stuck with a fairly standard, largely forward orientation, but the mix occasionally took some liberties with this method. You’ll notice this right off the bat, as “Drowned World” itself provided a very active and immersive track; a vast array of synthesizers swirled all about the surrounds, and this occurred periodically throughout the show. Although this had the potential to become distracting, I felt it worked terrifically well. The surround information integrated naturally and became an extension of the normal soundstage.

From the front, the track maintained very solid stereo separation. Madonna’s vocals offered fine presence as they stayed well anchored in the center, and Donna and Niki’s backup singing emanated nicely from the sides. Instrument delineation seemed clean and accurate, as the different performers appeared to be placed logically and distinctly. Crowd noise popped up from both front and rear, but it didn’t become a significant factor, as the music dominated; the audience ambience contributed to the environment and gave it a live feel, but it never became a distraction.

Audio quality usually seemed absolutely terrific. Vocals came across as warm and natural, and the appeared nicely prominent and distinctive. Occasionally I wondered if Madonna rerecorded some of her singing, but if so, the results meshed cleanly with the live work. In regard to the rest of the music, Drowned World was heavy on the synths - the drums were artificial as well - and these were accurately and clearly reproduced. Guitars sounded crisp and clear, and all of the elements meshed together neatly.

The highs were clean and bright, and they seemed very nicely rendered. For the most part, bass response was very solid, but a few small concerns occurred. The show started out with some serious low-end presence, as the first three songs threatened the foundation of my house. However, the bass became more subdued with “Beautiful Stranger”, and I detected no sign of LFE usage. This continued through much of “Ray of Light” before it suddenly kicked in with subwoofer usage. I found this to seem very odd, as there was no apparent reason to withhold the deepest bass until that particular point.

Most of the show used the sub nicely, and some of the low-end sounded extremely deep and rich. However, the LFE went silent for a few stretches, especially toward the end; “Holiday” seemed a little sterile without that thumping bass I heard during so much of the rest of the concert. To be certain, low-end response remained good even without the subwoofer in action; I thought that the rest of the track contributed nice warmth, and the absence of LFE wasn’t fatal. However, it did keep a few parts of the show from reaching their highest potential. Most of Drowned World earned an “A” for audio and bordered on an “A+”. Nonetheless, less distinct moments gave me a little pause, so I ultimately felt most comfortable with a still-strong grade of an “A-“.

Drowned World includes almost no supplements. DVD-ROM users can access two Internet links that will already be known to Madonna fans: and . In addition, the main DVD tosses in a surprisingly deep “Picture Gallery”. It provides 82 solid publicity shots of Maddy from all stages of her career. There’s nothing fans haven’t seen in the past, but it’s still a cool little collection.

Otherwise, the DVD fails to add any extras. Unlike recent live DVDs from Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, Drowned World couldn’t have included substantial additional songs from other shows. Madonna did “You’ll See” at some 2001 concerts, and it would have made a nice addition to the disc, but that was it; she didn’t vary the setlist at all otherwise, though she did drop “The Funny Song” from the last three concerts of the tour, all of which took place after September 11. Still, “You’ll See” should have been here, and I also would have loved to get isolated versions of the “Paradise (Not For Me)” video and the excellent montage that accompanied “Music”.

While I wish those pieces appeared on the DVD of Madonna’s Drowned World Tour 2001, I didn’t expect them and don’t feel too disappointed they’re not here. However, I am much more bothered by the poor video quality of this disc. The show itself is a fine one, as Madonna provides a rich and compelling presentation that satisfied me over many live viewings last summer. I’m not wild about the directorial choices, but I think it’s an acceptable program.

Unfortunately, the disc looks terrible. The video includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, and these sound terrific at almost all times. Those positives are largely outweighed by the ugliness of the image, as much of World seems very blurry and fuzzy. The picture seems watchable for the most part, but the lack of definition makes it a terrible disappointment. I love Madonna and I’m genuinely fond of the Drowned World show, but the poor video quality means this one should be reserved only for her biggest fans; others will be too put-off by the softness to enjoy the concert.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5409 Stars Number of Votes: 61
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