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Jonas Åkerlund

"The Confessions Tour", filmed at London's Wembley Arena during her worldwide sold-out 25-city "Confessions Tour" (2006's Top-Grossing Tour World-Wide), features songs from throughout the dance diva's career but largely focuses on "Confessions On A Dance Floor".

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
English DTS 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 1/30/2007

• Live CD
• Three Behind the Scenes Segments
• Photo Gallery


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Madonna: The Confessions Tour (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 14, 2007)

Between 1985 and 1993, Madonna embarked on four concert tours. From 1994 to 2000, however, she entirely avoided the road. I thought she’d finished with touring forever, but 2001’s Drowned World Tour proved me wrong.

And how wrong I was! Back in 2001, I figured Drowned World would represent one last concert fling for Madonna and we’d not see her on stage again for years – or maybe ever. But that wasn’t remotely the case. Madonna returned for another outing via 2004’s Re-Invention Tour and came back around again on 2006’s Confessions Tour. That’s three tours in the span of five years, a feat that echoes her schedule from 1985 to 1990.

Hopefully this means we’ll see Maddy on the road again in 2008 or 2009. As seen during these recent tours, she’s lost none of her ability to put on a great show. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive an official live DVD from the excellent Re-Invention Tour; a documentary called I’m Going to Tell You a Secret covers that trek but offers only a few glimpses of the actual concert.

We’re not stuck in limbo for the 2006 tour, however, as this DVD establishes. Logically called The Confessions Tour, the program lets us see an entire 2006 concert. Shot in London near the tour’s end, we find a show that heavily emphasizes Madonna’s most recent album, 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor. 10 of the concert’s 19 tunes come from that release. (I don’t count “Confessions” and “Sorry (Remix)” as proper “songs” since they’re used simply to link parts of the show and give Madonna time to change clothes.) The new album offers “Future Lovers”, “Get Together”, “Jump”, “Forbidden Love”, “Isaac”, “Sorry”, “Like It Or Not”, “I Love New York”, “Let It Will Be” and “Hung Up”.

That’s the most number of songs from one album Madonna’s ever featured in a concert, so fans looking for the greatest hits vibe of Re-Invention won’t come away happy. (Drowned World featured even fewer old tracks, but it didn’t concentrate so heavily on one album.) As for the other nine tracks, two originated from 2000’s Music: the title tune – here mashed up with “Disco Inferno” to create “Music Inferno” – and “Paradise (Not For Me)”. 1998’s Ray of Light also contributes its title song along with “Drowned World/Substitute For Love”.

This leaves a mere five songs for the Golden Oldies side of things. To my disappointment, Madonna omits “Holiday” for the first time ever. No, I’m not all that wild about the tune, but I liked the fact it was the one consistent thread through each of her tours. The title song from 1992’s Erotica makes its first appearance in 13 years, though, and we find two tunes from 1986’s True Blue: “La Isla Bonita” and “Live to Tell”. “Bonita” is a Madonna regular, as it last popped up in 2001, but this is the first use of “Tell” since 1990. Another title track comes out with 1984’s “Like a Version” in its first performance since 1993, while 1983’s “Lucky Star” rounds out the show. That tune makes its first reappearance since 1987!

Since I saw the Confessions show live 15 times, I figure I should be able to adequately judge how well the DVD represents the tour. I must admit I didn’t much like the show when I first saw it. Part of that stemmed from my love or Re-Invention; other Madonna die-hards disagree, but I think it might have been her best tour. Maybe the less than great seats I had for the first couple of shows – coupled with a crummy, muddy sound mix at the Glendale Arena – also made Confessions a tough show for me to embrace.

Whatever the case, it took me a few viewings to embrace Confessions. I eventually came to like it very much – not as much as Re-Invention, mind you, but a lot more than what I took from those early Arizona performances. I’d put Confessions at least on a par with Drowned World, and it’s probably better, to be honest.

I definitely like the spin Madonna gives the new songs. I really enjoyed the Confessions album, but I didn’t listen to it during my 15-concert spree. When I gave it a play after the tour’s end, I found it tough to take. I’d come to enjoy the live renditions of the songs so much that they sounded stiff and sterile in their studio renditions.

Don’t take that to mean that Madonna radically recasts the Confessions tracks. She alters some of the older tunes to varying degrees, but the Confessions stuff receives fairly literal treatment. Nonetheless, the tunes get a nice kick in the pants. There’s a spark and groove to them not as obvious in their studio incarnations. These elicit plenty of show highlights and help keep the concert flowing. A performance so oriented toward new stuff – especially given the dance floor tone of these tracks – could have gotten old. That doesn’t happen, as the Confessions tunes work very well in the live setting.

Looking at the older tunes, “Erotica” stands out as my favorite reworked number. It gets a lithe, sensuous reworking that makes it brand-new and possibly better than its original take. I’m not quite as enamored of the “Music Inferno” mash-up, but it’s a fun new edition of that tune. Since it’s the only song to appear on each of Madonna’s last three tours, it’s good that she spices it up a bit. “Like a Virgin” and “Live to Tell” also work rather well in their new versions. “Lucky Star” and “La Isla Bonita” aren’t quite as strong, but they’re more than fine.

As a stage production, Confessions proves very consistent. I don’t think I like it as much as Re-Invention, as it lacks that show’s wonderful highs. On the other hand, it also fails to suffer from the 2004 show’s lows. Not that a lot of those occurred, but Re-Invention clanked at times; Madonna’s cover of “Imagine” is one of the least interesting things she’s ever done. Confessions keeps us involved and entertained from start to finish without any significant sags.

Confessions boasted arguably Madonna’s best-ever live vocals. After 1996’s Evita, she sang with greater precision and strength, but she developed a fussy, overly mannered take on songs. With Confessions, she finally loses the Broadway feeling but she maintains the positives. She sounds simply great throughout the show.

Speaking of singers, my biggest complaint about Confessions comes from the diminution of backup vocalist Donna Delory’s role in the concert. Back in the 90s, she and fellow singer Niki Haris played a major part in the performances and served as Madonna’s foils. That dropped a bit in 2001 but they still had a lot to do in the Drowned World show.

Due to a rift between her and Madonna, Haris didn’t come along for Re-Invention and was replaced by Siedah Garrett. She and Donna didn’t get as much to do as Donna and Niki did back in the day, but that still had more than a few times to shine.

To my major disappointment, Confessions almost always keeps Donna and new co-vocalist Nicki Richards in the background. Their only real spotlight moment comes as they strut around the stage with Madonna during “Lucky Star”. Otherwise, they’re usually stuck in the corner of the stage. I loved seeing Donna and whoever work the stage, so I feel sad that this factor no longer occurs.

Maybe that’ll change for Madonna’s next tour. Otherwise, I have few complaints about Confessions, and that goes for the DVD presentation as well. Okay, here’s one gripe: for reasons unknown, director Jonas Ackerlund makes Donna and Nicki even less prominent in the show! During the concert, they chatted a bit with Madonna during the James Brown-style “I’m too tired to go on” intro to “Lucky Star”. This was a personal highlight for me, as Madonna improvised something different – and usually funny – every night. Oddly, the DVD totally omits any dialogue from this part of the show. Why? I have no clue, and it bugs me.

Overall, however, I think Confessions provides a reasonably good depiction of the concert. The visual presentation gets a little busy at times, mainly because I don’t like the way it runs video screen material over stage shots. I know that it’s tough to accurately capture a Madonna show since it uses so many different media, but this solution proves mildly unsatisfactory.

Some may object to the editing style, as Confessions goes with a very quick cutting pace. However, I think it fits the material just fine, as Madonna runs a fast concert. Yeah, it’s a bit more hyper than I’d like, but it fits the music so it doesn’t become a distraction ala the various Paul McCartney DVDs. The editing fails only when it doesn’t match the artist or the material. I’d prefer longer shots, but the cuts don’t seriously distract.

This leaves Confessions as a pretty good view of Madonna’s 2006 tour. It’s not her best stage show or the strongest concert DVD I’ve witnessed, but it’s above average in both regards. It certainly shows how great Madonna remains as a live performer.

Personal footnote: as I mentioned, I saw this concert 15 times. Due to its construction, not many variations occurred. Occasionally, some goofs popped up, and those were amusing to see. My favorite? When a major a large prop got stuck at the start of “Jump” during the first Miami concert (I think – they’re hard to keep straight after a while). As you can see on the DVD, a ramp with various gymnastics bars lowers to the stage and buff dancers hurdle on these.

Not in Miami. In a very Spinal Tap moment, the ramp stopped about 10 feet above the stage and didn’t make it all the way down until about halfway through the tune. This left the dancers puzzled and stuck without anything to do. I don’t know what the others in the crowd thought, but I laughed my butt off when I watched this massive goof. Someone must’ve gotten fired that night!

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Madonna: The Confessions Tour appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. After the ugly visual of Drowned World, I hoped for greater clarity here, and I got it.

Sharpness mostly seemed solid. Occasionally, wide shots came across as a little soft and ill defined. However, those examples appeared infrequently and did little to distract from the rest of the presentation, which usually looked concise and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws looked absent, and I saw no issues related to artifacting, noise, or other distractions.

Most of the color variation came from lighting, but the garb worn by Madonna and others added pizzazz to the proceedings. Purples and oranges were the most common tones, though others popped up as well. The hues looked well developed and accurate. Even the thickest lighting remained distinctive and rich. Blacks were deep and dense, while low-light shots came across as clear and appropriately visible. Confessions wasn’t the most attractive concert DVD I’ve seen, but it nonetheless seemed quite positive.

To my surprise, Confessions lacked a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Instead, its only multichannel audio came from a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. That will likely alienate the smattering of folks with no DTS capability, but those numbers are pretty low these days. (A stereo PCM mix also popped up here.)

As one expects from a concert presentation, the soundfield remained focused on the front, where they showed strong stereo imaging. Madonna’s vocals appeared firmly set in the middle. The instruments were accurately located and they demonstrated nice breadth and delineation. I could distinguish the various instruments with ease, as they were placed in a natural and clear manner. They also blended together smoothly to create a forward soundstage that consistently created a real and involving setting.

As for the surrounds, they mostly featured crowd noise, though they seemed to involve the music to a higher degree than normal. The instruments seemed quite expansive throughout the track, and that meant the surrounds gave us a little more than usual. This worked well and never felt gimmicky; the music showed a natural sense of place. I was also glad the mix omitted the standard “arena echo”. Yeah, if you see Madonna in a cavernous spot, you’ll get that reverb, but I don’t need it on a DVD to feel like I’m at the show.

Audio quality sounded solid with one exception: bass response. To my disappointment, Confessions came light on low-end. My subwoofer only registered for the fire effects in “Live to Tell”, a boom at the start of “Erotica” and another at the end of “Hung Up”. Though the show’s dance floor material would benefit from some nice bottom, the sub added nothing to the tunes. We still got some bass from the main speakers, but I thought the track lacked the deep impact it should have boasted. (The PCM mix was warmer, at least.)

Otherwise, I thought the track sounded good. Madonna’s vocals worked fine, as they replicated the desired impressions well. The rest of the track also showed good clarity and a dynamic tone. The instruments remained crisp and vivid during the concert. Treble was too prominent due to that lack of low-end, but the material never became shrill or edgy. With better bass, this would’ve been an “A”-level mix, but as is, I gave it a “B-“.

When we check out the supplements, the big attraction comes from a bonus CD. This platter offers audio for much of the Confessions concert. It gives us 13 of the show’s 21 tracks; it omits “Get Together”, “Live to Tell”, “Forbidden Love”, “Like It Or Not”, “Ray of Light”, “Drowned World/Substitute for Love”, “Paradise (Not For Me)”, and “La Isla Bonita”. The omissions frustrate for a couple of reasons. For one, fans would really like an audio version of the whole show – would it have killed the studio to make this a two-CD set?

In addition, why bother to include the link songs “Confessions” and “Sorry (Remix)”? Neither is a proper live performance, so they wouldn’t be missed. That space could have been used for more interesting tracks.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to have a CD version of these tracks. The edited nature of the disc makes it less satisfying than it should be, and I’ll admit I’ll probably never listen to it again; I have a standalone CD burner, so I’ll just make myself a two-CD version of the whole concert. For those without that capability, though, the abridged CD here is better than nothing.

Three Behind the Scenes Segments fill a total of 15 minutes, 24 seconds. We get “Je Suis L’Art” (12:10), “They’re Naughty Children” (1:35), and “Rollerskating” (1:39). “Suis” provides rehearsal shots along with comments from tour director Jamie King, choreographer Anthony Talauega, parkour Sebastien Foucan and dancer Steve Nestar. “Children” looks at the show’s dancers, while “Rollerskating” examines the rehearsals for the “Music Inferno” part of the show.

The last two are too short to offer much of use, so don’t expect to get a lot from them. On the other hand, “Suis” is quite good. I really like the shots from the rehearsals, and we find a nice perspective on the production. I’d love to see a longer, more comprehensive program of this sort.

Finally, we get a Photo Gallery. Offered as a running montage, the compilation fills one minute and 46 seconds with 15 stills from the concert. It’s a decent collection but not anything memorable.

After almost a quarter of a century, Madonna shows no signs of flagging. The Confessions Tour shows her at the top of her game with yet another excellent live performance. The DVD presents very good picture with strong audio marred by weak low-end response. As for extras, we get a few minor behind the scenes tidbits plus a CD that features most of the concert. This is a must have for Madonna fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7096 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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