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MADONNA DOES MADONNA, AGAIN

You can call her old.

You can call her a tramp (or a more profane version of one).

But don't call her over.

"And one more thing," the queen of pop said Monday night in Toronto. "You don't have to call me Esther."

The one and only Madonna, who in the middle of her sold-out "Re-Invention Tour," which kicked off a three-show run Sunday night in the Air Canada Centre that concludes tonight, was referring, of course, to the Biblical name she's adopted since taking to that mystical sect of religion known as Kabbalah.

Since adopting the ancient philosophy as the guiding light in her home and professional lives (around the time she had her first child, daughter Lourdes, 7), Madonna -- Madge, M, Esther, whatever suits your fancy -- has implemented a holy grail of so-called "re-inventions."

She no longer drinks normal water, she downs Rabbi-annointed Kabbalah water (at $2.65 a liter). She also doesn't perform on Friday nights anymore -- you know, the sabbath.

But there's no re-invention more startling, more illustrious, than the one that has been her career. Since Day One, more than 20 years ago, everything within success' reach has been imbued with alteration, satirization and, in true Madonna fashion, stylization.

When she first entered the scene with 1982's "Everybody," she was playing herself: A rough, fishnet-wearing New York dancer with no where to go but up. Over the years, she transformed herself into a cross-bearing virgin (not that anyone believed her), a sexually overt feminist (those dark "Sex" book years), a Japanese geisha, and most recently, happily wedded mother of two.

Every step of the way, her music and its visual representations have transformed from one packaged product to the next, helping to keep her afloat in a vastly changing pop music industry.

But its her '80s hits that keep fans happy, and it looks like she's been paying attention. All of the megahits from her first decade are including in her current show -- "Vogue," "Express Yourself," "Into the Groove," "Papa Don't Preach," even "Material Girl." And so is much of her latest release, 2003's "American Life," an album not nearly as incoherent and disconnected as critics wanted it to be.

But new material is not the same as old material recycled. Relatively little of her career-spanning set list is altered in any way, which makes the re-invention premise a little silly. There are no more new arrangements in "The Re-Invention Tour" than there were on her previous tours.

"Deeper and Deeper," a disco dance hit from 1992's "Erotica," and 1985's "Into the Groove," get the biggest shakeups. The former is transformed into a silky jazz-land swing number, while the latter gets a workout on the bagpipes.

A perennial tour favorite, "Holiday" is now a tribal drum dance, "Material Girl" is loaded with heavy electric guitar, and "Express Yourself," packaged alongside "American Life" in a military-themed segment, is a gun-toting march.

Some work, some don't. Do we really need to sit through a rehashed studio version of "Frozen," which already got a thrilling interpretation on her last tour, 2001's "Drowned World Tour"? Nope.

There's a "but" coming, can you tell?

But . . . Madonna's "Re-Invention" is still the best performance of any rock, pop, metal or other hybrid artist that's out there. As much as she thinks her career and music need retooling, it isn't the Madonna of yesterday -- or even today -- that need revisiting.

We know her history; we know it well.

It's the Madonna of tomorrow that she should be concerned with, that we should all be panting for. It's time to start inventing the wheel again, like we know she can.

I have faith in her. We know she does.

e-mail: bsiegel@buffnews.com

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