Madonna's 'Conversion' | 'Fahrenheit' Heat | Getting Sirius With Soul

Reinvented: Madonna's 'Hebrew' Not Her Act

Madonna's "Reinvention Tour" winds up its run tonight at Madison Square Garden before heading out to the hinterland.

Fans in New York and other cities have been scratching their heads, though, trying to figure out what the Hebrew letters that flash on a video screen during part of Madonna's show mean.

Those of us with the slightest education in this area were quickly jotting down what we could from the screen last night, hoping to discover that Mrs. Ritchie had really done her homework.

Hogwash. She may want us to call her "Esther" now, but Madonna still has quite a ways to go before she can throw her own Purim Carnival.

Thanks to our friends Seth and Gigi, who'd been in the mosh pit dancing up a sweat, we finally broke the code.

The Hebrew letters don't spell out Hebrew words, my friends. They spell out English words, which is quite bizarre.

Seth showed us his special bracelet that allowed him into the mosh pit. On it were three Hebrew letters that looked like they spelled out a Hebrew word. Then we realized the letters sounded out to read: "Love."

Yeccch. What are we doing, Madonna, talking in code?

The rest of the Hebrew involved in the show also seemed to be gibberish, at best. But Madonna invoked Kabbalah and her superficial interest in Judaism several other times during the evening, besides wearing a T-shirt that read "Kabbalists Do It Better."

She also flashed a huge advertisement for Philip Berg's Kabbalah charity and ended the show with a huge six-pointed star that resembled the Israeli flag.

None of that jibed with her other major religious presentation, that of Jesus on the cross and the stigmata, but hey: Mixed messages are exactly what Madonna is all about.

We did pay $300 for our tickets, which were not on the floor, although on a quick visit there I ran into Rosie O'Donnell's partner/wife Kelli Carpenter with "Taboo" star Euan Morton, who played Boy George.

That was the extent of the celebrity turnout. In the $300 section you could buy a glass of Champagne for $7.50. At the after-concert event, there was a cash bar. Madonna didn't get to be rich by accident.

My dear departed Aunt Bea once said, "You know the sound money makes when it leaves my hand? It shrieks." She also used to quote her mother: "Rockefeller is not my partner." Madonna must have met her.

Before she screeched John Lennon's "Imagine," Madonna said: "I didn't write this song, but I wish I did."

And that's the problem with Madonna's show in 2004. The good songs are ones she didn't write at all, or maybe just contributed to 20 years ago. They were written for Madonna to sing in a low register, and they have a cushy arrangement customized for her.

Those would be "Crazy for You," "Like A Prayer," "Material Girl," "Into the Groove," "Express Yourself" and "Vogue." They are also songs with classic hooks and recognizable melodies — the highlights of the show.

Unfortunately, there's a whole catalogue of post-1990 electronic junk songs or droning ballads that Madonna did write with lesser personages. Most of them are forgettable or worse, just background noise to Madonna's elaborate sets, costumes and dance numbers.

All of these songs are revealing in that they show the shrill end of Madonna's limited range, leaving her to gimmicks like playing a couple of chords on the guitar.

Madonna wears a guitar the way models and starlets squint through fake glasses to appear intellectual. It's kind of sexy, but you know it ain't real.

You might call this the "ADD" tour instead of the Reinvention Tour. Madonna comes from the "More is More" school of throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. It's almost a parlor game to see how many different genres show up.

Besides all the Kabbalah nonsense there's large bits from Cirque du Soleil, "Lord of the Dance," Shirley MacLaine in black tights doing "Steam Heat," bagpipers, skateboarders, Marie Antoinette, breakdancers sporting Rembrandt-esque ruffled collars, camouflage outfits, lots of berets and a conveyor belt runway along the front edge of the stage that could have some meta-meaning about celebrity as a product but probably was just there for physical reasons.

And then there is Madonna herself. She puts out as much astonishing energy as Bruce Springsteen, but you get the feeling afterward that she provides empty calories. Springsteen is much more nutritious.

Madonna is in amazing good shape, with roped veins on her arms, and toned muscles galore. She doesn't move as quickly as she used to, but she's a lot faster than any other 46-year-old.

She is also singing, for better or worse, live and without any evident lip-synching. On that score, and just for her drive alone, she still outdoes every one of the girls who are half her age. And for that she gets a standing ovation.

'Fahrenheit' Smash Hit in NYC

Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" broke all records yesterday in its premiere showing. Lincoln Plaza Cinemas manager Mohammed Alam told me last night that the film grossed a stunning $31,569 and all sixteen performances were sold out.

"From the beginning of the day until the end," Alam said, "I have never seen anything like it." Four shows for today are already sold out, and Alam expects a repeat performance.

Meantime, another bigger record was set downtown at the Village Cineplex 7, the only other theatre in the country playing "F9/11" before its national opening on Friday. The box office gross there was $48,000.

"It's a record," managing director Scott Rosenmann told me. "People have been crying and applauding at the end of shows. Some say they don't want to live in America anymore."

Rosenmann was keeping the theatre open all night last night, and even had tickets sold for the 2:30 a.m. show.

Getting Sirius With Soul

Set your Sirius Satellite Radio — or check in at www.siriusradio.com — for the concert of a lifetime this Sunday from 9 to 11 p.m.

That's when Sirius's Soul Revue channel 53 will broadcast a two-hour special with "Soul Man" Sam Moore and Memphis R&B legend Carla Thomas. The Stax recording artists perform their first-ever duet together with Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood." You will also hear yours truly interviewed by Sirius's soul expert Ken Webb.

All of this is to celebrate Black Music Month, by the way. And if you didn't know it already, former USA Films prez Scott Greenstein is now running the entertainment side at Sirius, so we can expect big things. Sirius was just added to EchoStar, putting it in six million homes. Not bad!