LOS ANGELES From geisha to señora to cowgirl, Madonna wore many disguises during her Drowned World tour. When she brought the outing to a close over the weekend, however, she stepped out from behind her many personas to address the crowd as Madonna, American mom.
The pop superstar led a prayer encouraging President Bush to practice restraint in responding to last week's attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.
"Violence begets violence," Madonna told the Staples Center crowd of nearly 20,000 fans Friday night, "and I don't know about you, but I want to live a long and happy life. I want my kids to live a long and happy life.
"What happened was horrible, but I'd like to think of it as a wake-up call. There's terrorism every day all over the world," she continued before reeling off a long list of countries she said regularly experience terrorism.
Coming more than halfway through her highly stylized and structured performance, it was the first and only time Madonna addressed the crowd directly, which made the moment all the more poignant.
"Last night, we had a minute of prayer for everybody who died on Tuesday,'' said the singer, who had traded her Scottish kilt for a skirt made from an American flag for her first costume of the evening. "Tonight I'd like to say a prayer for peace." The crowd obliged her request for a moment of silence, but fans soon began chanting "U-S-A" as many waved American flags frantically.
Relenting, Madonna said, "OK, USA. But start looking at the whole world. I said it last night and I'll say it again: If you want to change the world, change yourself."
The singer pledged that proceeds from her final shows would go to relief funds for victims of the attacks and their families. Saturday's show was originally scheduled to be held Tuesday but was nixed due to the attacks, as were other major entertainment events around the country (see "Destiny's Child, Janet Jackson, Pantera, Others Cancel, Postpone Concerts").
"It's hard to have a good time," Madonna told the crowd. "We're not doing this show because we want to forget. We're doing this because we want people to remember how precious life is."
Certain songs seemed to take on added meaning, such as "Gone," a mournful number that came shortly after Madonna's speech, and "Holiday," itself a call for world peace.
"I think it was good for everybody here to get away from the TV and all of our crying and icky, sick feelings and come out and celebrate our freedom," said 21-year-old showgoer Ari Ferrito, who wore a T-shirt reading, "Love your neighbor." "Madonna's such a symbol of freedom. She reminded us that we're lucky."
The Staples Center asked fans to arrive an hour early due to stepped-up security measures. Security workers swiped attendees with metal-detecting wands as they entered the building and most fans carrying bags though not all were asked to open them and show their contents.
Before Madonna took the stage, showgoers held a sort of impromptu dance party on the Staples Center's balconies, but the festive mood was arrested suddenly when a commercial airplane flew directly overhead. Concertgoers halted and grew silent, casting their gazes skyward pensively.
The airliner was out of sight for several moments before the tension was replaced by the sounds of celebration.
Madonna's post-tour plans include shooting "Swept Away" with her husband, director Guy Ritchie, this fall. She also plans to release a greatest-hits compilation in November, according to a source close to the project.