Dear Madonna:

We miss you here in the Twin Cities. We really do.

Do you realize you haven't performed here since 1987? Fans think you're mad at Minnesota. Last time, you booked the Metrodome, but slow ticket sales -- only about 12,000, if you don't mind my saying so -- forced you to downsize to the St. Paul Civic Center. That was so long ago that both cities now have newer arenas.

Curious about your latest incarnation, I went to Boston this month with great expectations for your Sweet and Sticky Tour.

The stats seemed staggering: 3,500 wardrobe pieces, 36 clothing designers, 250 people in the touring entourage, 100 pairs of kneepads, 12 trampolines, 18 dancers, 69 guitars and one pair of Swarovski crystal-encrusted earphones. The reviews were inviting: "An unqualified success," screamed Variety, while London's Independent called the show "mind-blowingly well-executed, intelligent and witty." The set list sounded appealing: a dozen of your biggest hits plus nine songs from the latest disc, "Hard Candy."

After all that anticipation, the Sweet and Sticky show was, to be honest, disappointing. After spending two hours watching you at the TD Banknorth Garden, I find that you are about the beat, your beautiful body and pushing people's buttons. You've made a glorious career of keeping us dancing, but rarely exposing or explaining your personality.

What do we know about you? You're ambitious and provocative -- plain and simple. Don't we want more from our divas? I didn't really expect you to comment about your plans to divorce Guy Ritchie, but tell us what makes you tick. Tell us what's in your heart and soul.

No mention of A-Rod or another new man or even your kids, just some creative recastings of oldies -- "Borderline" framed by metallic guitars, "Get Into the Groove" presented as an old-school hip-hop street party -- and spectacular visuals, from the videos of computer-animated peppermints during "Candy Shop" to the colorful Latin costumes for "La Isla Bonita." But your performance seemed so mechanical; more aerobic than erotic, as the New York Times put it.

Your body looks -- omigod -- incredible, but I don't need to tell you that. You're better toned than your dancers who are half your age. Even if you've had a little nip and tuck, you look fabulous at 50. Although what's up with that wig with bangs you wear near the end of the show? Are you trying to channel Daryl Hannah in "Splash"?

Your fans know that a Madonna concert is going to be one production number after another, an evening of high-budget performance art. But why was your voice so often buried in the bass-heavy mix? And where's the spontaneity? There were two moments: You introduced music director Kevin Antunes, who is from Boston and gave a shout-out to his mom in the audience. Then you told him: "Blow your mother a kiss." Your tone came off as bossy, but you recovered nicely by accommodating Mama Antunes' request for "Express Yourself," which wasn't in the set list. Who cares if you forgot some lyrics? That was so cool, so real, so undivalike.

You without a net -- a welcome novelty after all these years of carefully calculated, elaborately choreographed, strike-a-pose Madonna. Your music seems to liberate everyone but you. The moments I liked best came during "Give It to Me," when you danced without 10 other hoofers surrounding you, and during the ethnic folk segment, with a Romanian trio and Latin numbers, because they were filled with emotion.

It was too little too late. The lack of heart and soul was underscored after the concert as I walked through the Garden concourse decorated with posters of Kevin Garnett. I flashed back to his Timberwolves days and how he played his heart out every night, for the entire game. Like you, he turned his back on Minnesota, but he took his boundless spirit elsewhere and translated it into a championship for the Boston Celtics.

Try it: More heart, less artifice. You will still keep us dancing, but you'll nourish our souls, as well. And then bring that show to the Twin Cities, please. You'll undoubtedly sell out the arena after all these years. Promise.

Sincerely,

Jon Bream

popmusic@startribune.com

612-673-1719