Critics Rage At Madonna Imagery

Madonna performs with backup dancers during her concert at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Sunday, May 21, 2006. The concert marked the kick-off of the North American leg of her Confessions tour.
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Less than 12 hours after Madonna crucified herself on a mirrored cross, the Catholic League expressed its discontent with the concert stunt.

The controversial diva wore a crown of thorns and sang while hanging from a cross during Sunday night's opener of her "Confessions" world tour at The Forum in Inglewood.

"Knock off the Christ-bashing," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement Monday. "It's just pathetic."

Though Donohue said that Madonna "has been spicing up her act with misappropriated Christian imagery for a long time," he thought that her faith in Kabbalah might inspire new respect for religion.

"I guess you really can't teach an old pop star new tricks," he said of the singer who will be on tour through Sept. 4. "Poor Madonna keeps trying to shock. But all she succeeds in doing is coming across as a boring bigot."

A message left with Madonna's spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

Madonna is known for her theatrical, action-packed shows, and Sunday night's sold-out opener of her "Confessions" world tour was no exception.

More than a dozen dancers — who had as many costume changes as the Material Girl herself — provided ample eye candy. The enormous T-shaped Forum stage featured moving platforms that carried her four-piece band and three backup singers.

A jungle-gym contraption lowered from the ceiling became a play place for Cirque du Soleil-style gymnasts, while multiple massive video screens flashed images of war, world leaders, nature and, of course, Madonna.

The production was so tightly choreographed, it left little room for spontaneity. Even when Madonna flipped the crowd the bird, it felt scripted, not subversive.

With so much flash and dazzle, it was like watching a made-for-TV performance.

Wearing jodhpurs and a top hat and carrying a jeweled riding crop, the singer emerged from a giant disco ball covered with $2 million worth of Swarovski crystals. (Maybe that's why the tickets cost up to $350.)

Male dancers were the horses, wearing leather straps on their heads and bits in their mouths. Madonna mounted one and tugged on his reins as she sang the opening song, "Future Lovers," from last year's "Confessions on a Dance Floor."

She dedicated much of the show to the album, playing nine of its 12 tracks. Selections from her other nine records were sprinkled in between.

For "Like a Virgin," Madonna climbed onto a kinky version of a carousel horse. It looked like a cross between a saddle and a motorcycle seat, black with silver studs. It raised and lowered and moved in a circle while Madonna gyrated atop it.

"The show has just begun," she declared before disappearing for one of the night's half-dozen costume changes. Moving video screens obscured the stage and old-school breakdancing kept fans' eyes busy.