"Able to face fear or danger without flinching ... resolute ... invulnerable ... valiant ... venturesome."
That is a portion of the dictionary definition of the word "fearless."
I don't know Madonna well enough (believe it or not) to assess that she is actually without fear as a woman or a human being. In fact she has admitted to being just as, if not more, insecure than the average person. Fame and constant scrutiny do that to a person. She is far softer and more vulnerable than her public persona suggests. I know that, for sure.
But whatever she is with her children, her man, her issues, she remains without a doubt one of the most fearless and true-to-herself artists in the world.
Madonna kicked off the American leg of her MDNA tour in Philadelphia last week. She was full of patriotism, praised America's freedom of speech, demanded the release of the imprisoned Russian performance artists Pussy Riot and denounced homophobia, as she has been doing for the last quarter century. (Long before Lady Gaga was telling her "little monsters" that they were "Born That Way," Madonna was exhorting her fans to "express themselves" and was in the forefront of the AIDS crisis.)
MDNA is what has become the standard mix for a Madonna show - mind-blowing brilliance, dazzling sets, incredible dancing. And then there's the stuff she does because she wants to! She is intent on taking her audience on a journey. Sometimes they are not ready for it. They want to groove on the old 1980s/'90s jams, presented just as Madonna did in her famous videos. (Tough luck.) Madonna would wither and die if she had to repeat herself. She is not messing with her fans, she's making sure they've grown up. Yeah, and that is despite the campy majorette outfit she wears at one point. She's not pretending time hasn't passed. She's a woman still young, still full of fun. (And wait till you see her marching band, elevated above the crowd!)
In MDNA Madonna gives her fans classics such as "Open Your Heart," "Vogue," "Express Yourself," "Human Nature" and "Like a Virgin." But, as in the case of "Like a Virgin," she has totally transformed the chirpy ode to being "shiny and new," into something almost unbearably dark. Is it pain? Is it pleasure? Is she suffering? Is she in ecstasy? Don't ask me, and don't ask Madonna. She hates to explain herself. She is far happier when the audience either makes up its own mind, or never does. Madonna considers herself a work in progress, and she gives her audience the same respect. If you don't get it, don't worry. It's life. Who can explain life?
This latest concert relies heavily on material from her latest album, "MDNA." And though the CD hasn't sold as spectacularly as her past hits, the hot (as in almost passing out from the heat), hysterical audience went mad for newer songs like her opening "Girl Gone Wild," "Revolver" and "Gang Bang." This is the much criticized "violent" section of the show, but many people thought it was less scary and more a pastiche on the cult of violence, not to mention getting some tumultuous feelings off her chest about her ex, Guy Ritchie. She performs a set piece in a tawdry hotel room, swigging whiskey and being attacked by ninja-type assassins dressed in black. It's witty. It's nasty. It's Madonna.
The stage is full of movement, the sets gasp-inducing, the onscreen videos and visuals mesmerizing, including a gorgeous new black-and-white version of "Erotica" and the controversial "Nobody Knows," with its images of violence, political revolution around the world and a tear-inducing tribute to gay teenagers who have killed themselves.
There is only one queen, and that's Madonna, still.