Pop diva Madonna kicked off the live-music portion of this year's MTV Video Music Awards with one of her typically provocative performances, singing two songs from Ray of Light, her latest album.
Several segments later, the notorious Courtney Love and her post-grunge pop band Hole took the stage for a glittery run through the title track from their just-released LP, Celebrity Skin.
The dueling pop divas' two performances couldn't have been more different, with a dressed-down and tattooed Madonna slinking and humping her way through her material as dancers bounced and break-danced along, and Love, bedecked in black leather and heavily styled makeup, offering up a fiery version of "Celebrity Skin."
The awards event, held this year at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and hosted by actor Ben Stiller, honors artists, directors and producers involved in the making of music videos. The annual ceremony has also featured classic performances from some of pop music's biggest stars. This year's event was scheduled to include performances by punk-rappers the Beastie Boys and hip-hop artist Master P, as well as by Hole and Madonna.
Hitting the stage in traditional Indian garb and face paint, Madonna presented a subdued version of the hymn-like song "Shanti/Ashtangi," surrounded by East Asian dancers. Her performance at the 15th annual awards ceremony, which began at 8 p.m. EDT, followed the presentation of an award to rapper/actor Will Smith.
But the spare composition, featuring Indian percussion and tablas, melded into a more uptempo dance tune as the Material Girl switched gears.
Affirming her career-long fascination with mixing the sacred and profane, Madonna dropped the spiritual Indian motif and burst into a raucous disco-styled version of the title track from Ray of Light.
Stripping down to black dress pants and a nearly sheer white tank top, Madonna was joined on the song by retro-rocker Lenny Kravitz on guitar, as well as by an additional guitarist, a keyboardist and a drummer.
Bumping and grinding with the bell-bottom-clad, newly shorn Kravitz, Madonna shook her raven hair and was surrounded by a writhing crew of dancers. The stage turned into a glittery, strobing celebration, with the fast-forward video for the song speeding by in the background.
The disco-thon was followed, several segments later, by a raucous performance from Hole, who played the title track from their just-released album, Celebrity Skin, amidst a rain of sparkling confetti.
Lead singer Courtney Love, dressed in black leather pants and a revealing black top, her hair a mess of blond curls, attacked the glammy pop tune, ending the performance with a droning snippet of lyrics from the R.E.M. song "Pretty Persuasion."
Love then made an dedication, saying what sounded like "Thank you, Stockholm," and left the stage, laying her guitar down on her way out.