Confessions Tour press - Europe

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Madonna's Cross to Bear

Source: The St Petersburg Times - Moscow - 12 Sep. 2006

I went to Madonna's concert last Tuesday night. I have never been a huge fan, but I recently read a study that showed that people really only like the music they heard while they were in college. Once they are out of their mid-20s, they start losing the ability to appreciate new music, and then by the age of 40 they are pretty much stuck on a couple of albums. This is the understanding on which virtually all U.S. FM radio stations base their programming. I was a freshman in college in the United States when Madonna became a star, so I am stuck with her. It was a great concert. It was so poorly organized as to embarrass, I think, even the spectators. Seven thousand police and military succeeded in squeezing the viewers into tight spaces but could not keep nearly the entire dance floor from smoking. The stadium was half-empty, presumably because of the change of venue, confused publicity and the efforts of scalpers. And on the way out, for reasons none of the conscripts or officers present could explain to me, people had to squeeze through a narrow corridor formed by police, some of them on horseback.

But most big public events in this country provide a showcase for the stupidity and pointlessness of the police force. What I find more important is the amount of effort the Russian Orthodox Church put into trying to keep people from attending the concert. They campaigned in the media, with one church spokesman calling Madonna "a 50-year-old whore." They demonstrated. They threatened.

Twenty-three religious protesters were arrested on the day of the concert. As my friends and I made our way to the stadium, through police cordons that stretched for kilometers, some of them were still handing out leaflets. An elderly woman approached us and explained that "a ritual would be performed" that would do irreparable damage to us. She handed me a laser-printed page with a litany of objections to Western culture in general and Madonna in particular. It pointed to Madonna's "desire to mock the Savior's suffering on the cross."

Thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church, most of the public was aware that one of the songs in the concert would be performed with the singer suspended on a giant luminescent cross. What I — and, I assume, most casual observers — did not know was what the song would be and what the point would be. The song was Live To Tell, her 1986 hit, and the point was not subtle. Flashing behind her (and the cross) on a giant video screen were the faces of children and some statistics: the number of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa and the fact that without help they will all die before the age of 2. And then there was a long quote from "The Sheep and the Goats" story from the New Testament.

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink" — I think the words are familiar to most of us, even those of us who are not Christians, right through the "as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." The point of this passage is that Christianity is measured not by faith alone but by good deeds. It was not a point that Madonna made subtly, or in good taste, but it is the sort of thing that ought to disarm any protest, simply because at the end of the song she makes an appeal for donations to help the children.

In the Russian Orthodox Church's view, that was a satanic ritual. Which serves to prove, yet again, that the Russian Orthodox Church is as dogmatic as is a 40-year-old when it comes to new music. It is as crude as its spokesman's "whore" remarks. And most of all, it is mean.

Madonna saddles and rocks Moscow

Source: Kommersant - Moscow - 12 Sep 2006

Performing Get Together in MoscowAmerican pop diva Madonna has given her first show in Russia at Moscow's Luzhniki Arena. Madonna came to Moscow with Confessions Tour, promoting the new album, Confessions On A Dance Floor. Kommersant correspondent Irina Kulik and other 50,000 Madonna fans went to the gig.

Madonna's concert is a real landmark event for Moscow even though major pop stars of all stripes have included a venue in Russia's capital in their schedules. But Madonna is a unique personality. She still embodies pop culture, real conceptual pop art. She is the only one on this intrinsically conformist pop stage who still dares to be provocative while once raging rocker debauchees are now turning into law-abiding and politically correct citizens. She does not fight with philistine morals. She simply ignores them. It makes it more menacing than any political program speeches. No wonder that the pop diva and her fans received a greater number of anathemas than the main rock anti-Christ Marilyn Manson. A small group of Russian Orthodox believers even took to the streets to protest the gig near the venue, only to find themselves behind the bars along with ordinary drunkards.

Some songs from Madonna's latest album feature citations from ABBA. Madonna was the first who got the permission from the Swedish band to use their songs. The screaming pink leggings is probably the last item of clothing that Madonna can try on and not look ridiculous as would any other middle-aged lady who suddenly threw on the things she used to wear as a teenager. In fact, disco was the last thing that reigned in the world before Madonna appeared. Yet, despite the love of pink, the Material Girl still cherishes no girly sentiment. All this jolly dance-floor fun sounds almost heart-rendering, like a kind of a party during a plague.

The world is going to nowhere but we have some time for a party. The British Paul Oakenfold gave the Moscow fans a real disco party. He included dance-floor hits of the last twenty years into his set, with an emphasis on the Russian influence - Zemfira, PPK and even Tekhnologiya whose Nazhmi na Knopku (Press the Button) finished his part.

Performing Future Lovers in MoscowThe start of the show looked more like a race track than a disco party. Horses galloping on the screen at the background, Madonna emerged from a crystal glitter-ball like a horse-woman with a whip. She used the whip to hurry her dancers as if it was a never-ending training - for herself and others. Those confessions (a word from the name of the tour) are not some sentimental and confidential words but bold revelations. Just look at those x-rays of the artist's fractures - they were showed during Like A Virgin. This time, they were combined with shots of broken and bandaged feet of horses. Regardless of all her professional injuries, the amazing old horse still looked the most relievable part of the astounding machinery of her show.

The total weight of all the things she took to Moscow is 200 tons, which can be put side by side with a military ship. The glitter-ball studded with Swarovski crystals alone weights a ton. The glitter-ball, however, wanes compared to another element of the show - the paste-studded crucifix that Madonna climbs during one of her songs.

With every song the audience realized that if it was a dance party, it was at least special one. No floodlights, but pictures of suffering children, rivers of blood and women wearing yashmaks instead. During Forbidden Love, trunks of the dancers bore either the David's star, the crescent with a five-pointed star or the Lebanese cedar. The video featured symbols of world religion made of blood drops. Even the sticky Sorry sounded as Madonna's apology before the suffering world.

She sang Live To Tell on the cross with crystals. That paste-studded disco crucifix, which caused so much controversy in Russia, looks not a religious symbol but a pop art object. It is some kind of an enormously enlarged jewelry like those many ladies and gentlemen of various degrees piety wear. You would rather call Madonna crucified on that giant bijou a victim of fashion than a martyr for faith. Only if appeals to help AIDS-positive and www-addresses of foundations in charge did not appear on the screen during this glamorous crucifixion.

Even after easing the tension, she did not go on to dance songs. She preferred rock ones, appearing in a leather jacket with a huge guitar atilt for I Love New York. At one point, the diva decided to talk to the audience as any artist on tour does. However, starting with the usual 'I love you Moscow', she went on to say that you guys have been living in democracy for 15 years here, but do you often think about peace in the world? After that she sang 'Give Peace A Chance' with all her band.

Then, she stepped from rock heaven into disco hell. The stage changed into a dance floor again for Music Inferno. Madonna appeared on the glittering stage in a white three-piece while dancers on roller-skaters were whirling around her, nearly knocking her off her feet. Yet, the inferno proved to be a parody, just like La Isla Bonita which was turned into a kitsch Latin disco with heavenly branchy palm while suddenly cropped in that hell on the backdrop screen. It was then when Madonna sang one of her most provocative songs, Erotica. She closed the gig with Hung Up with ABBA's sample in it, showing the audience a mantle with crystal-embroidered Dancing Queen on the back. Others might recall another hit of ABBA – "See that girl, watch the scene, dig in the Dancing Queen".

She played her yesterday's gig amazingly, while on the previous day she attended the opening of an exhibition of her pictures shot by Steven Klein, American photographer. This flash trip from the airport to the gallery shows not only energy of a socialite. It seems that Madonna needs to look in her own reflection in art before a show. This is what makes her main instrument - not only music. Confessions Tour proves it once again.

Against the odds, Madonna rocks Moscow

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur - Moscow - 12 Sep 2006

Performing Future Lovers in Moscow She was to be crushed with her fans by a stadium roof, eternally damned by the church or forced to cancel by petty incompetence and greedy intrigue. But against all the odds, Madonna performed in Moscow Tuesday night to a roar of acclaim.

Whether fired up by irritation at the problems, or coolly tapping a quarter of a century of performing excellence, the 48-year-old pop diva delivered a blistering show for some 50,000 people in the Russian capital's Luzhniki Stadium. With the song Future Lovers she embarked on the set of her controversial Confessions tour.

In the preceeding weeks, the biggest music event of Moscow's year began to resemble a grotesque soap opera with an ever changing cast, as a succession of figures proclaimed that they were the real organizers.

Promoters and police clashed over the venue, supposedly owing to security considerations, and after the gig was pushed back a day, furious fans were given less than a week to swap their tickets for the concert planned by the university for new ones at the stadium.

A Moscow architect whose buildings suffered two horrific collapses said powerful reverberations from the music could literally raise - and bring down - the stadium roof.

Extra security was arranged and Russian Orthodox Church believers tore up Madonna's picture at small rallies round town, angered mainly at the song Live To Tell, where the singer undergoes a mock crucifixion in a crown of thorns.

Performing Future Lovers in Moscow And all the time, her fans tried to forget the debacle of the scheduled Eric Clapton gig by Red Square a month earlier, cancelled at the last moment amid conflicting rumours about the reason.

Meanwhile, the scalpers had a field day marking up thousands of mysteriously channelled tickets that were officially priced at 1,500 rubles (56 US dollars) to 25,000. Days before the event, VIP seats were reportedly selling for more than 95,000 rubles in a country where the average monthly salary is around 10,000 roubles.

Somewhere in the melee voices could be heard calling for what most people wanted: a show that lived up to her reputation as a performer and Moscow's as a city that successfully hosted concerts by other top acts like the Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams and Joe Cocker.

"Maybe Madonna's fans will get to see not some bellicose champion of depravity and other heresies, not an instigator of petty political squabbles, but a singer whose show simply deserves respect," the Novaya Gazeta newspaper wondered on the eve of the concert.

It didn't look possible, with showbusiness insiders lashing out at a constantly deteriorating chain of weak command in the concert's organization. Some blamed the singer's US representatives, Live Nation, for trying to maximize profits by hiring Russian ground operators who were out of their depth from the start.

But, as they say, it was all right on the night. Moscow had its Holiday, while other sundry forces and calamities were left to strike another day.

Czech fans hail Madonna at her ever first Czech concert

Source: Prague Daily Monitor - Prague - 6 Sep. 2006

The overcrowded Sazka arena in Prague, a multipurpose hall for 17,000 viewers, has hailed U.S. pop music megastar Madonna who gives her ever first concert in the Czech Republic today, an event that had been widely awaited as exceptional long in advance.

Performing Future Lovers in PragueThe singer, clad in black, let herself down in a giant ball right on a platform amid the excited fans, opening the concert with Future Lovers, a hit from her last year's album Confessions On A Dance Floor.

Like at her previous concerts abroad, she was wearing a big cross on her chest and a headdress shaped as a crown of thorns. In Prague, too, she sang tied to a large cross.

This style has displeased the church circles all over the world, including Czech Christians.

Madonna's Prague concert is a two-hour impressive show including more than twenty songs, mostly ones from her latest album, Confessions On A Dance Floor.

She is accompanied by some twenty musicians and dancers. She changes her costumes several times during the evening.

The audience today includes many well-known persons, such as former Czech President Vaclav Havel and his wife.

In reaction to the great interest of Czech fans, Madonna will give another concert in Prague on Thursday.

Danish critics not impressed

Source: The Copenhagen Post - Horsens - 24 Aug. 2006

Pop icon Madonna brought her European tour to Denmark Thursday night, wowing 85,000 fans who converged on the town of Horsens in Jutland. It was the country's largest concert ever.

Performing Get Together in Horsens The Material Girl has been on the pop scene for 23 years, but last night's concert was her first visit to Denmark and the only Scandinavian stop on her current Confessions tour.

Despite starting the show behind schedule, Madonna took the stage by storm, emerging from a giant disco ball to the sounds of well known tunes, asking the crowd if they were 'ready to ride with her'.

When the ride finally stopped two hours later, fans said it was worth waiting hours in line to see.

Reviewers, however, were less ebullient in their praise for the 48-year-old, whose 350 million albums sold make her the most successful female singer ever. They had high praise for the show's opening and closing, but said it lost its energy in the middle, where she slipped into a robotic and boring act.

'It was almost reliving when Madonna tripped and dropped her microphone during the concert, because that was the only reminder to the audience about the event actually containing real people and not just being an open-air music video,' blasted Berlingske Tidende's reviewer, who did admit that the show, which included Madonna on a cross, was 'impressive' and 'spectacular'.

Critics also panned the venue. Never the best vocalist, Madonna and her road crew where hampered by the open air facility. 'Like A Virgin was ruined by bad sound problems,' another reviewer complained.

The size of the venue also came under attack. 'Maybe some 10,000 of the 85,000 people who were there could see Madonna. The majority of the audience couldn't even see the screens that were put up.'

Horsens has made a name for itself by attracting some of rock music's best known names. Despite the so-so reviews of the music, yesterday's concert topped them all financially.
'We've got 85,000 guests in our city and we expect businesses to take in an extra DKK 30 million today,' said Horsens executive director Henning Nørbæk. 'Last year we had 23,000 guests for R.E.M, and we took in DKK 5.2 million.'

Yesterday's record may not get the chance to stand very long. Another 85,000 people are expected in Horsens next Sunday when the Rolling Stones arrive.

Record crowd rides along with Madonna

Source: - Horsens - 24 Aug. 2006

Performing Get Together in HorsensMadonna makes her first concert in Denmark a memorable one for fans and officials alike in the city of Horsens

Pop icon Madonna brought her European tour to Denmark Thursday night, wowing 85,000 fans who converged on the town of Horsens in Jutland. It was the country's largest concert ever.

The Material Girl has been on the pop scene for 23 years, but last night's concert was her first visit to Denmark and the only Scandinavian stop on her current Confessions tour.

Despite starting the show behind schedule, Madonna took the stage by storm, emerging from a giant disco ball to the sounds of well known tunes, asking the crowd if they were 'ready to ride with her'.

When the ride finally stopped two hours later, fans said it was worth waiting hours in line to see.

Reviewers, however, were less ebullient in their praise for the 48-year-old, whose 350 million albums sold make her the most successful female singer ever. They had high praise for the shows opening and closing, but said it lost its energy in the middle.

Horsens has made a name for itself by attracting some of rock music's best known names. Despite the so-so reviews of the music, yesterday's concert topped them all financially.

'We've got 85,000 guests in our city and we expect businesses to take in an extra DKK 30 million (EUR 4 million) today,' said Horsens executive director Henning Nørbæk. 'Last year we had 23,000 guests for R.E.M, and we took in DKK 5.2 million (EUR 700,000).'

Madonna gets political

Source: The Age - Rome - 6 Aug. 2006

Madonna staged a mock-crucifixion in the Italian capital Rome, then turned her attention to the trouble in the Middle East, ignoring a storm of protest and accusations of blasphemy from the Roman Catholic Church.

The singer performed the song Forbidden Love between two dancers, with the Star of David and the crescent moon, a symbol of Islam, painted on their bodies in a clear message to the escalating conflict.

Then, in a sold-out stadium not far from Vatican City, the lapsed-Catholic diva wore a fake crown of thorns as she was raised on a glittery cross.

Performing Forbidden Love in Rome The Vatican had accused her of blasphemy and provocation for even considering staging the sham crucifixion on its doorstep, anger Madonna further inflamed prior to the show by inviting Pope Benedict to come and watch.

The self-styled "Queen of Pop" went on to pepper her two-and-a-half hour show on Sunday with more controversial imagery, at one point showing photographs of the pope after those of former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

"Did you know two miracles have taken place in Rome?," the star, dressed in skin-skimming black, later joked with the crowd. "Italy won the World Cup and the rain stopped before my show."

The 70,000 fans, crammed into the Olympic Stadium, shrugged off the scandal, by dancing, singing and jumping as she performed songs from her latest album Confessions On A Dance Floor and classics such as Like A Virgin.

Yet, the cheering lulled when she was raised on the cross and some fans from predominantly Roman Catholic Italy confessed their disappointment.

"The crucifixion was unnecessary and provocative. Because this is Rome, I wish she'd cut it out. But it's Madonna, she's an icon, and that balances out her need to provoke," said 39-year old Roman, Tonia Valerio.

It is not the first time Madonna, whose father is a Catholic Italian American, has caused religious anger for her controversial religious and sexual imagery.

Catholic leaders condemned as blasphemous her 1989 video for hit song Like A Prayer, featuring burning crosses, statues crying blood and Madonna seducing a black Jesus.

In 2004, a Vatican group warned that her latest religious belief Kabbalah, a mystical form of Judaism, was a potential threat to the Roman Catholic faithful.

And she looks likely to face another storm when the tour reaches Moscow in September, where the Russian Orthodox Church has advised its followers to boycott the show because of the crucifixion stunt, agency Interfax reported.

Fans confess pure adoration

Source: CNN - Rome - 6 Aug. 2006

Religious leaders may have snubbed Madonna as a publicity-seeking blasphemer, but there was pure adoration from Italian fans when the pop star staged a mock crucifixion at her concert in Rome.

The crowd of 70,000 cheered wildly and many snapped pictures with cell phone cameras when the diva rose from the stage crucified on a mirrored cross and wearing a crown of thorns.

Performing Forbidden Love in Rome "She does it to play, not to offend," said Benedetta Mori, a 31-year-old fan wearing a T-shirt with an image of Madonna on the cross. "If they allowed her to stage the show here they must also play by her rules."

The planned stunt, part of the singer's worldwide Confessions Tour, had drawn fire from religious leaders, who condemned it as an act of hostility toward the Roman Catholic Church. Some had wanted her to give up the mock crucifixion during her show at the capital's Olympic Stadium, some 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Vatican.

Madonna's representatives have insisted the performance on the cross is not disrespectful toward the church.

Besides Madonna's rendition of Live To Tell while on the cross, religious symbols abounded throughout the two-hour show.

Two dancers with a star of David and a Muslim crescent painted on their torsos embraced and held hands during their routine. A figure wearing a robe and turban did a solo on the shofar, a ram's horn traditionally blown during the Jewish high holidays, then joined Madonna to perform Isaac -- a song about Yitzhak Luria, a 16th century Jewish mystic and Kabbalah scholar.

"Two miracles have happened," Madonna told the crowd. "Italy won the World Cup and it stopped raining before my show."

Keeping in touch with her material side, Madonna also got the crowd moving with her more traditional gyrating dancing and disco-flavored numbers.

"Ciao Roma! Are you ready to ride with me?" said the equestrian-styled Madonna as she opened a concert that included recent hits Hung Up and Music as well as classics Like A Virgin and La Isla Bonita.

Madge gets on her high horse

Source: The Independent - London - 1 Aug. 2006

"Ladies and gentlemen," she says, coyer than a carp, "thank you for coming to my little show..." Little? Everything about Madonna's 2006 tour is big. Not as record-breakingly big as the advance hype would like you to believe (a mere eight nights at Wembley, next to Busted's 11), but pretty damn huge all the same.

Performing Future Lovers in London The biggest thing about it, of course, is the ticket price. The pheasant-shooting, fur-flaunting, rambler-suing Queen of Pop is already notorious for taking... well, for the sake of politeness let's say "liberties" with the admission charge, but she's surpassed herself this time. Where I'm sitting, it's £160 a seat, and even the poor souls watching from the distant corners of the arena have coughed up £80. "Supply and demand, pure and simple," the free marketers would say, but demand, in this case, has been cattle-prodded by chatter - probably mendacious, probably planted - that this may be Madonna's last-ever tour.

And of course, it's worked. Wembley is packed to the rafters with rich straights, rich gays, and rich tourists, and is buzzing with excitement for an hour beforehand. I don't mention "the rafters" figuratively, by the way: a pair of pigeons have snuck in to watch the show. I want to warn them "Look out, she might be armed!" but they'd never hear me above the shrieking.

And is it worth it? Well, when a giant mirrorball descends from the ceiling like a spaceship, lands on a podium in the middle of the posh seats, splits open like a chocolate orange, Madonna steps out in a top hat, begins womanhandling some bondaged-up minions with a riding crop, and segues Future Lovers into Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" (the song it shamelessly plagiarises), you'd have to be terminally unimpressable, or a liar, not to concede that it's a pretty damn superfly opening. Then there are suspended walkways, a bucking bronco on a rotating pole, gymnastic apparatus, and acrobatic dancers in horses' manes and Gaultier costumes.

During a lull in proceedings, a picture of a small girl's face appears, with a voiceover saying, "I was gasping for air, trying to release my father's fingers from my throat". Suddenly, Madonna rises out of the floor, crucified on a mirrored cross, and starts singing Live To Tell. It occurs to me that, had I walked in late and had this had been the first thing I'd seen, I'd most likely have wet myself laughing, so stereotypically "look-at-me-being- shocking" and Madonna-esque, is the gesture. Over her head, there's a film about Aids orphans in Africa. Is she making a bold statement about Vatican policy on contraception here? Is the juxtaposition of crucifixion and child mortality aimed at Papa Ratzi? We'll never know, because she doesn't have the balls to spell it out. "The world is full of people who talk the talk..." she says later, "but how many of us really walk the walk?" Well, quite.

And herein lies the problem with this show, and Madonna's career in general: it's filled with crass, fatuous, mindless symbolism but precious little meaning. Tonight we see Jewish and Arab "blood cells" intermingling with yin and yang signs, we see the daft Kabbalah band round her wrist, we see dancers goose-stepping and Nazi-saluting through Ray Of Light, we see a montage of Hitler, Nixon, Mao, Bush, Bin Laden and Blair (the prime minister is actually cheered, which tells you plenty about the kind of people who'll stump up £160 to watch Madonna). At the end of the sequence, the words "Is anyone listening?" appear on the screen. A more pertinent question would be, "Listening to what?" If you're feeling charitable, you can call it Pop Art. If you're not, you can call it repeatedly reaching for High Culture and falling woefully short.

Performing Future Lovers in London Admittedly, there's still much to enjoy. For a start, it helps that Madonna's album Confessions On A Dancefloor is a late career best. This is largely the work of her musical director Stuart Price, aka Jacques Lu Cont of Les Rythmes Digitales, who coordinates proceedings from the shadows, looking like the man from the Milk Tray ad.

The show is broken into four acts: "Equestrian" (complete with self-referential MRI scans and x-rays from her own tumble from the saddle) is the first; "Bedouin" (complete with a chap from Yemen blowing through an antelope horn) is the second. The third is entitled "Never Mind the Bollocks", although her attempts at being punky are embarrassing: falling to her knees with her guitar, looking less like Iggy, and more like Charlie Dimmock forking the herbaceous border. Her attempts at being sexy - a hard habit to break - are worse. When she takes her top off, or shoves her hand inside her pants, I involuntarily think of the gran who gets her toes sucked in Little Britain. For the "Disco" finale she struts about in a white Saturday Night Fever suit as "Disco Inferno" morphs into Music, and dons a "Dancing Queen" cape as Lucky Star morphs into the Abba - sampling Hung Up (see what she did there?). But not before she's had a sit down, and tried to apply the common touch.

"I never thought I'd say this about London," she says, before saying something she always says about London, "but it's good to be home. I miss the city, I miss the country, I miss my home, I miss my horse, I even miss the Congestion Charge... just kidding, I'll never miss the Congestion Charge!"

In heaven's name, do us a favour. With the proceeds from tonight's show alone, Madonna could afford to park a thousand-strong fleet of Bentleys in London's congestion zone from now until Doomsday.

That's enough horseplay

Source: Guardian Unlimited - London - 1 Aug. 2006

Madonna's latest extravaganza is long on diamonds, crucifixes and mirrorballs. Shame the needless politicking gets in the way of the music.

Thank you for coming to our little show,' offers Madonna, primly. The irony is as heavy as the giant, diamond-encrusted mirrorball she emerges from at the start of this show, the first of nine British performances of her Confessions world tour. Dressed head to foot in a Jean-Paul Gaultier-concocted dominatrix-cum-stable boss outfit, a horse's tail sprouts from Madonna's top hat in the first of four themed parts This is 'Equestrian'. Next up is 'Bedouin', followed by (ouch) 'Never Mind the Bollocks', in which Madonna plays a lot of guitar. Finally, it's 'Disco', with rollerskaters and leotards rampant.

Performing Get Together in London The mirrorball unfolds into a flower. Madonna's menagerie of dancers sports everything from riding tack to burqas. On four screens above the main stage, arty film footage sees Madonna stroking a horse erotically with a riding crop, mimicking a filly in the throes of - what? Pain? Pleasure? - and then rolling over and smoking a postcoital cigarillo. And it's very hot. The recent £35m refit of Wembley Arena didn't foresee a need for air-conditioning. The star usually bans it. It's bad for her voice. But tonight, she says, she asked for it and there wasn't any.

Little show? This is sheer sensory overload, designed to leave punters feeling they are getting a great deal of bang for their buck. Or £160 for a ticket in the stalls, to be exact, the kind of prices that explain the presence of Russian-accented men in business suits. At the end, golden souvenir balloons fall only on the expensive seats. Perhaps Madonna could've knocked off £20 here and there; only had $1m's worth of diamonds on the disco ball, say, instead of $2m, so that mere mortals would not have had to sell their left kidneys to see her.

But these are such miserly quibbles. Madonna's Confessions show is nothing if not a celebration of good, old-fashioned wow factor. Her musical director, former electro mischief-maker Stuart Price, is centre-stage manning keyboards and laptop, corralling samples and a live band. The sound is flawless, given the propensity of arenas for sludge and echo. Much has been made of the relationship between Price and Mrs Ritchie in the gossip columns. Tonight, their only interaction occurs when Price hands Madonna some water; they don't so much as glance at each other during Forbidden Love.

Madonna's riding gear might make the 47-year-old resemble a ringmaster, but she's more like a circus impresario. She can source the world's finest dancers, such as the four men made seemingly of chewing gum who fling themselves suicidally at scaffolding during the excellent Jump (one of many songs from Madonna's recent Confessions On A Dance Floor album greeted with the sort of cheers usually reserved for old hits).

Performing Get Together in London She can bring a pop audience a robed and turbaned singer, Yitzhak Sinwani, who will sing Isaac in Aramaic and sound a shofar, an enormous horn torn from some Brobdingnagian ram. She commissions a crucifix built out of mirrored mosaic bathroom tiles and hangs herself on it for Live To Tell. Madonna still retains the copyright on winding up the Catholic church; a familiar, favourite pose that's perhaps a touch at odds now with her present reverence for another Judaic spin-off sect, the Kabbalah.

The greatest show on earth? Perhaps not quite. There are moments of exquisiteness tonight, and bits where your buttocks clench involuntarily. Madonna's heavy-handed use of visuals is usually to blame for the latter.

Projected on the screens are X-rays of the bones she broke when her horse threw her a year ago, followed by footage of riding accidents. It's all meant to poke fun at her Madgesty, show her sense of humour as well as her bones of clay. But the footage riffs ghoulishly on the suffering of the horses. The riders almost certainly went to casualty and survived; the horses probably got shot. You are reminded, suddenly, of the woman's cruel streak. She once voiced her admiration for the romance of the bullfight; she's taken up with the British shooting set with gusto. It's what makes the dominatrix poses so convincing.

There's more discomfort. A little later, there are tales of physical abuse acted out by dancers and a count of African children left orphaned and dead from Aids. There is no question that the children, in particular, deserve our sympathy and our money, that our attention should be brought to them at a pop concert. U2's Zoo TV tour of 1992-93, which juxtaposed the pornographic media coverage of the first Gulf War with entertainment, is an obvious touchpoint.

But these abrupt reality checks come a little too unexpectedly in Madonna's gala world disco party. Having your conscience pricked while being pulled on to a dance floor is a physical contortion not even Madonna's dancers would perform with ease.

There are runways, satellite stages, various things to climb, dancers fired from trapdoors: the Confessions stage set is wonderfully 3D. By contrast, Madonna's political points appear a little one-dimensional. A remix of Sorry features a montage of natural disasters, war, child suffering and politicians - Bush, boo! Blair, hiss! - juxtaposed with a video of Madonna in her disco finery repeating: 'I can't take it any more.' The message? Bad things are bad. Politicians are making them worse. These are easy, woolly points to score.

But there is something compelling in this fuzzy logic that defies your sneer. This montage casts Madonna as more than just a 'Dancing Queen' - the title on the light-up cape she dons at the 'Disco' end of the show. Omnipresent even when offstage, physically perfect even approaching her fifties, she seems more like some goddess figure presiding over a Studio 54 pantheon, voicing a very honest, very female outrage at the follies of mankind.

Her core message remains physical rather than political. Confessions On A Dancefloor marked a return to the club music that made her a star. The finest moments in her set are all about physical movement. Let It Will Be is an unexpectedly hard-hitting pleasure, in which Madonna the dancer - the forerunner to Madonna the pop star - takes over. The visuals, meanwhile, are pixelated and saturated, suggesting a hedonism beyond reason. Madonna looks as though she is about to take off. The whole thing ends with Hung Up, the monster Abba-sampling hit that heralded her recent return to form, and a barely lit, half-speed dance sequence that reflects the song's lyrics ('Time goes by, so slowly'). It provides a well-deserved breather for the dancers.

Madonna doesn't actually play Into The Groove tonight (although she does do oldies like Like A Virgin, Lucky Star and a very camp La Isla Bonita). But in that 1985 hit lies the wisdom of the Madonna. 'Only when I'm dancing can I feel this free,' it goes.

It's Madonna's constant return over the years to the transcendental, orgiastic, supplicating possibilities of dance that give her her authority and power. So while Into The Groove may be absent tonight, Ray Of Light (her 1998 collaboration with William Orbit), Music (2000's Mirwais Ahmadzai-produced ode) and Hung Up are all present, testament to Madonna's faith in bodies in motion.

Her sky-high ticket prices may rekindle memories of Madonna the material girl. But those materials could just as easily be sinew and muscle and flying hair as crystals and hard cash.

Madonna's stock has never been higher

Source: Times Online - Cardiff - 30 July 2006

As one venerable pop institution wound to a close on BBC Two, another arrived in Cardiff to show us that her stock (or, for that matter, her bikini line) has never been higher.

To borrow from Gloria Gaynor, Madonna is back from outer space. That, at any rate, was how it seemed as she descended on to the Millennium stadium in a rocket ship-cum-glitterball. "Come with me," she suggested from a huge screen, while - on two others - wild horses galloped aimlessly waiting for someone to tame them. Suddenly, the singer was revealed in her full riding regalia.

Performing Jump in Cardiff Anyone near the front of the stage, who paid £150 for their tickets, might have noticed that those were $2 million of Swarovski diamonds embedded in that glitterball - while the ever-changing stage which paid host to Madonna's first UK show in more than two years took 350 people five days to assemble. As a woozy symphony of synths ushered in the Future Lovers - the opening song from the "Equestrian" suite of this four-part spectacle - Madonna straightened her hard hat and prodded at her dancers with a whip.

It helped that this fantasy on a kinky show-jumping theme was played out over a rising torrent of arpeggios which mutated into a version of Donna Summer's I Feel Love. The resulting non-gender-specific screams of fans in pink cowboy hats suggested that there were no gays left in the villages of Wales tonight. Hereafter, the theatre of rugby and football dreams, became the unlikely setting for the campest pop celebration imaginable.

Confessions On A Dance Floor - the album which heralded her return to the New York disco roots - received a thorough airing.

If it was brave of her to dispense Like A Virgin near the beginning, it was potentially foolhardy of this 48 year-old mother-of-two to sing it while pole dancing on a moving bronco over footage of horse-riding accidents. She sounded more assured than ever. Live To Tell was no less bold, but less successful. When that gleaming, tiled crucifix finally emerged with Madonna on it, the dramatic effect was akin to someone pretending to hang themselves in a particularly well-appointed shower.

A movingly restrained performance was concluded by a series of on-screen facts about the Aids crisis in Africa. One might argue that there's a time and a place - and that place might not be a stone's throw from a glitterball studded with diamonds.

Madonna had a response ready for her detractors. "The world is full of people who talk the talk. If only they walked the walk," she said as the catwalk lit up like a landing strip for Like It Or Not. If, as John Lydon once put it, anger is an energy, a blistering sequence of performances could have turned the national grid into a giant pinball machine.

She modified the lyrics of I Love New York to take in something unprintable about President Bush and bastardised a Stooges riff with finger-shredding intensity. When she tore into Ray Of Light the response was almost enough to raise the stadium's retractable roof.

Having proved her capacity to rock, she re-emerged to underscore what she does best of all. Following the equine dominatrix, the blood-red blouson and the leather-boy's look, she euphorically sang an inspired mash-up of her 2000 hit Music and The Trammps' Disco Inferno in a white flared trouser suit.

In the thrilling finale, the percolating synths of that Abba sample served notice of Hung Up. But those of us who remembered the leotard from that video were already whooping. Balloons rained down upon Cardiff - and she was gone. It felt like we were just getting to know each other.

Madonna kicks off Europe tour

Source: ITV - Cardiff - 30 July 2006

Madonna has already caused a stir at the opening night of the European leg of her world tour in Cardiff, Wales.

The singer rode in on a saddle and a crucifix before going on to entertain a crowd of 59,000 with an erotically-charged performance.

It was the first time her Confessions tour had been seen outside America and in a stadium.

She said: "It's also our first show in Europe. I'm sick of people sitting down in concerts. It's really boring.

"Oh my goodness there is so many people. This is very exciting for me."

At one point, she showed them a dramatic middle finger as if to prove she could do no wrong in the eyes of her fans.

The superstar said she was glad to be in Wales for the first time and to see so many international flags in the crowd.

"Right now we are living in a world where there's too much hate and too much fighting," she said.

The stadium was shown films of African Aids orphans and quotations from the Bible.

The show ended with a giant video screen asking: "Have you Confessed?"

The 70,000 seater venue has hosted rock acts such as U2, but Madonna has pulled the biggest crowd so far.

Ready to ride with me?

Source: The Guardian - Cardiff - 30 July 2006

Jenny Hughes' last Madonna gig was in 1993, when the singer brought her Girlie Show tour to Wembley Stadium. Unable to get a ticket she listened from the balcony of her flat. Thirteen years later and now living in Newport, she was finally about to see Madonna as well as hear her. "She keeps going, always reinventing herself," she said.

Hughes was one of relatively few fans at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium old enough to remember Madonna before her image makeovers began. Most of the girls at this first UK tour date were of an age that considers pink cowboy hats a good idea.

Performing Live To Tell in Cardiff A fortnight away from her 48th birthday, Madonna still causes enough commotion to warrant the closure of streets near the venue. Hours before show time, thousands of cowboy hats were swarming the city centre getting hyped-up for the Confessions tour, the name a reference to the Confessions On A Dance Floor album that saw her get her pop mojo back.

The tickets went weeks ago, despite costing between £80 and £150, proving that neither age nor a propensity for Miss Jean Brodie tweeds has diminished her saleability.

To counter internet chatroom grumbles about ticket prices, she has released a factsheet listing what goes into the show, which in the way of all major pop tours today is one part singing to three parts special effects. It reveals what it takes to make Madonna Madonna, from the 4,000 Swarovski crystals embedded in her belt to the 350 people needed to build the stage.

The result justifies the price tag. It's such a blockbusting show that there's probably no need to see Madonna ever again, so well does Confessions do its job. It is obvious why those 350 roadies are needed - the production is enormous with a glitter ball that turns into a flower, a huge crucifix, 22 frenzied dancers and, at the centre of it all, one small, blonde woman.

There's a moment at the beginning of the evening - the show is divided into Equestrian, Bedouin, Never Mind the Bollocks and Disco segments - that sums her up. She dismounts the back of the male dancer she has been "riding", removes her jockey's hat and stands motionless, letting 59,000 pairs of eyes take her in. "Are you ready to ride with me?" she asks. She is imperiously removed from the madness around her, the dancers, lasers and explosions could be happening to someone else. The word iconic has been devalued in the last few years but she is the real thing.

When your daily grind involves challenging old-school morality, the Catholic church and gossip magazines that print unflattering pictures of your 47-year-old hands, your sense of humour is bound to suffer.

That is the show's weak link. Madonna struts, Madonna preaches but she doesn't laugh; perhaps she sees little to laugh about. The world is going to hell in a handcart is the message she sends in set pieces such as her "crucifixion", complete with crown of thorns, during Live To Tell.

The bleakness is hammered home by a video montage accompanying I Love New York: there is Tony Blair, a bare-breasted African woman and suddenly a scream of: "You can go to Texas and suck Bush's dick!" That comes from Madonna, who has changed into a leather jacket and is uneasily hacking away at an electric guitar.

So there is not much levity, unless Like A Virgin qualifies. It involves Madonna singing her classic hit (and oldest song in the show) in front of footage of horses falling over, a "jokey" reminder of her riding accident last year.

No matter, though. She has moments of girlish enthusiasm ("I've never been to Wales before") that remind us she is human and her job is to command awed respect. And she does that better than any other entertainer in her league.

Sarah Morgan, 41, of Pontypridd, summed up the general adulation: "I have always wanted to see Madonna, and if she hadn't come to Cardiff I would have gone to Paris or anywhere. She is unbelievable, and what she does with her body at that age is unbelievable."

One suggestion, Madonna. If you must play guitar during the Never Mind the Bollocks punk segment, try not to look as though the instrument is a colicky baby who will scream at any moment.

Confessions from a Madonna show

Source: BBC - Cardiff - 30 July 2006

The show began with Madonna emerging from a glitter ball

The Queen of Pop has arrived in Europe with her Confessions tour, thanking not God but something far more carnal (this is Madonna - use your imagination) as she did so for being in a place where "people in the audience dance".

They certainly did. Even before Her Madgesty appeared, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium pitch was a mass of moving bodies packed like sardines, eagerly awaiting the first glimpse of their regent.

Performing Live To Tell in Cardiff They were dressed for the occasion too. Within 10 minutes I'd seen more clearly straight men in pink cowboy hats than I had expected to in a lifetime.
The heavily disco-themed extravaganza, based on her Confessions On A Dance Floor album, opened appropriately enough with a huge glitter ball descending from the ceiling.

It opened to reveal Madonna in black raunchy riding-style gear, topped off with a black hat with a mane trailing from it.

As she began to move around the stage, skipping and occasionally cantering, I could see her clearly as the Madonna of 20 years ago, in her early Material Girl and Like A Virgin videos and performances.

Once the hat was off and her face was in close-up on the video screens, it was definitely a more mature version of the world's most famous pop star on stage, but you would never have known it from her energy levels.

She can sing, dance, gyrate, stretch and jump with the best of them, and proved it repeatedly throughout the set.

The audience were treated to disco anthem I Feel Love to start - very appropriate to the sentiment Madonna must have been receiving from the appreciative crowd before her.
The first of her defining hits came next with Like A Virgin receiving a roar of approval from the crowd, including a bunch of girls standing next to me who just possibly were not born when the song was released.

Despite that, they clearly saw Madonna as an icon and an inspiration. Every time she demonstrated her flexibility, sexuality or ability to keep up with her fit, fast dancers, they cried, "amazing", "look at that", "she's fantastic", clearly in awe of what the 47-year-old performer could make her well-toned body do.

Madonna's tour director said before the show began that it was not a concert but closer to a theatrical performance, and he was spot on.

Sets moved seamlessly - at one time delivering Madonna suspended on a giant wire cross from where she sang the ballad Live To Tell - costume changes were quick and flawless. Nobody put a foot wrong the whole night.

There were serious messages being delivered without a trace of subtlety to the audience - videos told us of 12 million children orphaned in Africa because of Aids, with websites flashed up for the concerned to log on to.

During the song Forbidden Love, which used two male dancers to demonstrate the love that (used to) dare not speak its name, up flashed icons of differing religions crossing one another. Yes, we get the message - nasty religion keeps star-crossed lovers apart.

Indeed, my one complaint would have been this - the singer herself seemed a bit too serious. Not until the last quarter of the show did Madonna look like somebody enjoying herself.

She wasn't much of a smiler, and considering this is a tour about disco, surely one of the most light-hearted, frivolous and fun forms of music, she could have lightened up a little.

The audience did get to see her in different guises. Madonna the rock chick, anybody? That, I have to say, was a new one on me.

She appeared in a leather jacket with a very high feathered collar, straight out of the 70s' glam rock scene, and reminding me rather incongruously of Suzi Quattro.

It worked for her rendition of the song I Love New York, but I wasn't so sure about using it for Ray Of Light, which is such a dance track it seemed odd to watch her strumming a guitar for it.
But more power to her for doing it. Perhaps this is an indicator of the future, because even she will one day have to give up her high-energy dance-based shows if she carries on touring into her 60s, say - won't she...?

She certainly didn't give it up before the end of the night. Wearing a cloak with the legend "Dancing Queen" on it, she belted out Lucky Star, which segued seamlessly into her Number 1 hit Hung Up, finishing with a multitude of golden balloons falling over the exuberant crowds at the front.

And then she was gone. No encore, to the sorrow of the girls next to me, just a message asking, "Have You Confessed?" as the lights came up on the 59,000 people in the audience.

Well, I will. I confess I was impressed. No sign that Queen Madonna will be abdicating from her throne just yet.

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