(This package includes a DVD featuring the documentary chronicling the artist during her re-invention world tour plus bonus features including never-before-seen footage, and more.)
On her appropriately named Re-Invention Tour, Madonna emerged as an unlikely spiritual sage with an electronic choir and a host of followers that any evangelist would find enviable. I'm Going to Tell You a Secret, the CD/DVD package that documents the tour, provides a close look at the music icon who manages to marry her Material Girl image with some ethereal world spirituality.
It creates an interesting dynamic, one that unfolds in detail on the DVD documentary. There's no question that she is in a deep spiritual quest; at the same time, she struggles with an obvious, admitted ego and worldly attractions. What emerges is the image of a woman who is looking for the answers while at the same time wanting to dispense wisdom, and it makes her more human than most people would imagine her to be. With the documentary clocking in at more than two hours, be prepared to learn more about Madonna than you might expect.
Combining behind-the-scenes footage with live stage performances creates a fairly well rounded idea of life on the road. The documentary begins with the dancers' auditions and follows them through the entire tour. By the time they literally reach the end of the road, all of them have been profoundly affected in one way or another.
The CD serves as a sort of soundtrack from the documentary. The Re-Invention Tour, as the name implies, wasn't about new music; it was about discovering her old songs in a new way. The first indication of a more serious Material Girl comes in the concert's opening, when she gives a startling, attention-grabbing version of "The Beast Within," from 1990's Justify My Love. Taken from the book of Revelation, this spoken word rendition replaces the hip-hop feel of its original and provides a startling opening for both her concert and her album. It leaves a feeling of anticipation and tension in the air before it explodes into an amazing rendition of "Vogue."
Her performance of "American Life" gives Madonna ample opportunity to send a message with her music. The song begins with the sounds of helicopters circling overhead, and the DVD version shows dancers in military garb filling the stage. It's an effective piece of imagery, both for the ears and the eyes. She then delivers the song as one of the album's centerpieces, questioning the value of the American Dream and the world around her.
Madonna rarely ventures too far back into her catalog of songs, sticking instead to more recent tracks, although she nearly brings the house down when she finally offers up "Like a Prayer" about halfway through the album. Perhaps the most surprising track is her reverent rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," which is completely unexpected but fits in perfectly with her socially conscious approach to this concert. She gives the audience a reminder of their responsibility to make the world a better place before launching into the electronic-tinged ballad.
The bagpipe-and-bass intro of the next song is the most unusual arrangement on the entire album. The listener isn't sure where the music is headed until about three minutes into the bagpipe music, when the percussion section hi-jacks the melody and retools it into an exuberant hip-hop flavored rendition of "Into the Groove." It's an unexpected melding of sounds that has plenty of extras to please the fans.
Critics have argued that there's nothing new with this CD, but that's not a fair assessment. True to form, Madonna has proven that everything -- including her music -- can be born again.