Madonna strips for action in her return to concert fray

Times Staff Writer

INDIO, Calif. -- The T-shirt said it all: “Madonna in the dance tent!”

And dance she did at the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival on Sunday night -- but not before stripping down (behind a screen), losing a glittering purple jacket and velvet pants in favor of a blue violet leotard, knee-high boots and a purple boa. The outfit highlighted the 47-year-old’s well-muscled physique.

Then she karate-kicked, writhed and pelvic-thrusted her way through three songs from her latest album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” and three older hits.

Madonna was barely through her second song when she addressed what was on almost every festival-goer’s mind.

“This is my first festival,” she said to wild applause from the capacity crowd of several thousand.

Madonna paused a moment, then joked: “Now who’s going to share their drugs with me?”

Far and away the most commercial artist in the festival’s seven-year history, pop music’s Material Girl arrived with six dancers in tow and more than a share of controversy. Some critics and alternative music fans complained that her inclusion among the festival’s alterna-rock stars and underground electronica and rap acts signaled a shift toward a more mainstream Coachella.

Perhaps in response to that perception, Madonna played Coachella as a “dance act.”

Asked if she belonged there, Roger Vambrazano of Los Angeles, 24, said: “Look around. This is the most crowded any tent has been all day. I had no expectations coming in, but she blew me away.”

During her closing number, her first hit single, “Everybody,” Madonna appeared visibly out of breath.

“She looks tired,” someone in the crowd was heard to say.

Although she performed individual songs at MTV Europe’s Video Music Awards and with the Gorillaz at the Grammys in February, Madonna’s 40-minute Coachella appearance marked the first time the singer has done an extended set in two years. On May 21, 23 and 24, she’ll be at the Forum in Inglewood.