Madonna is currently taking a well-deserved holiday with her boyfriend Brahim and her 4 children in Nice, the last tour stop of the European tour leg.
Before she kicks off the North American tour in Philadelphia this coming tuesday, let's have a look at the past 3 months.
From Tel Aviv to Nice, the tour drew full venues, disarming the stories of bad ticket sales. After a month of touring, it already became clear that this tour would break Madonna's own record in terms of top grossing tour. Guitarist Monte Pittman made it a habit to tweet a picture of the audience from the stage, which was a great way to see the filled-up stadiums, night after night.
As with every project Madonna does, there were good and bad reviews. After all, most critics already have their opinion formed on Madonna after 30 years. But all in all, most reports were ranging from positive to ravingly enthousiastic. The negative reports were mostly due to some elements of controversy, which of course have become an important ingredient of Madonna's shows. More than the previous tours, this tour had collected quite some controversy. Let's have a look.
Madonna's career has known quite some religious controversy, especially with the Like A Prayer video and the Live To Tell performance at the Confessions Tour. Though the opening act of the MDNA Tour had a religious theme, with Madonna to appear praying behind a veil, it was not this that sparked controversy this time around.
It was rather the use of fire arms in the first segment of the show that drew some questions. At the opening show in Tel Aviv, Madonna called for peace in the Middle East. Some questioned this message, coming right after the display of the violence of Revolver and Gang Bang.
In July, a shooter shot 12 people in a movie theatre in Denver, Colorado. It was the worst US mass shooting since 2009. When Madonna performed in Edinburgh two days later, the police asked her to avoid the violent scenes in her show, which she refused.
Female nudity: it's so ubiquitous in this world and yet still draws the most shocking faces. Even when it concerns Madonna, who has bared quite some flesh over the years. In Istanbul, she stripped to her bra, then pulled it down for a second to show off her boob. As the crowd cheered, she pulled a "Meh, I don't care"-look. But the media would go in an ageist frenzy, questioning whether a 53-year old was still aloud to show off those body parts. Many editorials were written in favour of Madonna's act, saying it was a non-vent because it was Madonna after all and that she still looked great enough to do it.
Madonna only repeated the boob-scene once, during her show in Paris. In Rome, right after Istanbul, she instead pulled down her pants to show off her butt in a lovely string. She then decided to use that in her routine for the coming shows.
And then there was of course Express Yourself. When Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' was released and many criticised her for too much ressemblance to Express Yourself, Madonna originally didn't react to it. Then she said in an interview that the song sounded "familiar" but "reductive". With her typical sense of humour and irony, she incorporated a verse of Born This Way into her Express Yourself performance, clearly proving the striking resemblance. To add some tongue-in-cheek, she added a few lines of She's Not Me as well. Lady Gaga would later react indirectly during one of her shows, complaining about 'getting bullied' and 'not wanting to be your queen but your friend'.
From the beginning, there were complaints of Madonna arriving late on stage. But true fans understand that the show only starts when it's dark. Especially the opening act, with it's brilliant imagery, is best seen under a dark sky.
But that didn't matter for the residentials around London's Hyde Park, who demanded a strict 10.30pm curfue. With the show usually starting around 10pm, that meant starting lots earlier. But only days before the MDNA show, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen were cut short, so they were serious about the curfue. So the opening acts of Martin Solveig and LMFAO started in the late afternoon, and Madonna came on stage at 8.30, with the sun still shining bright.
Of all the controversy there could be in a Madonna show, this one could best be avoided. And in all fairness, most of the blame here lies with the greediness of concert organiser Live Nation.
When the tour started, many fans were disappointed with the Golden Triangle. Sometimes, only 70 fans were chosen to be in the Triangle, which would then get filled up with celebrities, VIPs and friends of the management.
Fans with Golden Circle tickets, who queued up from early morning, found themselves disappointingly at 10th row because a system of Early Access was introduced. Not the die hard fans who queued for hours got to be in front row, but the ones who coughed up enough cash.
And then there was the famous Paris Olympia show. What should have been a special show to thank the fans, became a disappointing experience for many attending. Although billed as a regular MDNA show (ticket prices started at 89 EUR), instead a promo show of only 45 minutes was given. Yes, the setting was intimate and yes, 2 new songs were performed. But many fans attending felt ripped off to get such a short show for the money they paid. Unfortunately, the controversy was later brushed off as "not coming from real fans", although those attending were in fact all die hard fans.
Probably the biggest controversy came from Madonna's political statements.
The interlude video of Nobody Knows Me included an image of Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme-right party Front National in France, with a swastika on her forehead. After the opening show in Tel Aviv, the party warned Madonna's team that legal action would be taken if the video was shown at the show in Stade de France. And it was, the video wasn't changed. The party filed a lawsuit and treatened for "further consequences" if the video was shown again during the other French show in Nice. Strangely enough, this time the threat was taken seriously, because the video was changed for the Nice show, replacing the swastika with a question mark. Madonna addressed the matter once, during the Olympia show, saying: "I know I made a certain Marine Le Pen angry. It was not my intention, I just want to talk about tolerance."
When in Kiev, Ukrain she opposed the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
In Moscow, she spoke up about the punk band Pussy Riot, who were arrested for singing a 'punk prayer' against president Putin and the orthodox church. Madonna changed her tattoo to 'Pussy Riot' and put on a balaclava, the trademark symbol worn by the members of Pussy Riot. During her speech, she asked for the release of the band, saying she comes from a country where they believe in freedom of speech. Reaction to her statement followed soon, by enraged politicians and members of the orthodox church. The latter even went as far as burning Madonna posters in the street. One politician tweeted some insults at Madonna's address. Madonna would repeat her Pussy Riot statement during later shows as well.
But Madonna wasn't ready with Russia's censorship yet. Two days later she performed in St. Petersburg and denounced the recently approved law which bans all "homosexual propaganda". That basically means, people aren't even allowed to talk about homosexuality. Months before the tour started, Madonna had already warned that she wuld speak up "against this atrocity", to which Russian authorities reacted with threats w-should she do that. Before the show, everyone attending received a pink wristband and during her speech, Madonna asked the crowd to raise their arms, showing the wristbands in support against this law. After the show, anti-gay militants filed a lawsuit of $10 million against Madonna.
So the MDNA Tour surely didn't go unnoticed. Wonder what Madonna has in store for the US and Canada.
The MDNA Tour drew to a close in the Mediterranean city of Nice. During her speech, Madonna called for everyone to become 'Freedom Fighters'.
"The real deal is freedom and not just for Pussy Riot. [...] Every human being on this planet deserves to be treated equally, like Martin Luther Jr. said. [...] We have to be freedom fighters."
She spread her arms to show the tattoo 'Free Pussy Riot'. Later in the show, she sported the balaclava again.
She also seemed to be reaching out to some of her enemies. The Nobody Knows Me interlude video was modified, with the face of Marine Le Pen sporting a question mark instead of a swastika. When she started Masterpiece, she dedicated the song to "Mister Elton John". She added "You know what, I forgive him. Gotta start somewhere."
In the days after the show, she was spotted vacationing in Nice with her 4 children and boyfriend Brahim. According to press reports, Brahim's mother and nephews have been invited too.
The tour will continue in North America next week, with a first show in Philadelphia on August 28th.
The MDNA Tour might've moved on from Russia, that doesn't mean Madonna stops fighting her cause. During her show in Zurich, she reacted with disgust to the conviction of the 3 jailed Pussy Riot members. She sported a new tattoo, this time on the inside of her arms, which read "Free Pussy Riot".
Last night, Madonna performed in the Norwegian capital Oslo, where fans were asked to bring along white papercut hearts. They sang Happy Birthday for her before her speech:
During Like A Virgin, something went wrong with Madonna's corset. As dancer Marvin pulled it tighter, the corset burst open. When Madonna looked down and noticed, she responded with an innocent "Oops...". The crowd laughed and cheered, as Madonna looked at Marvin and laughed the incident away.
While political and religious orthodox authorities were still going mad over Madonna's support for Pussy Riot in Moscow, Madonna already caused more controversy in St. Petersburg. As promised months ago, she spoke up against the infamous anti-gay propaganda law. Before the show, pink wristbands were distributed among concert goers. Defying deputy Milonov's threats, Madonna gave a strong speech about tolerance towards the gay community. During Like A Prayer, a rainbow flag was held up by the dancers.
We want to fight for the right to be free! To be who we are! It's a very strange time in the world. I'm travelling around the world and I feel it in the air. People are becoming more and more afraid of people who are different. People are becoming more and more intolerant. It's a very scary time. But we can make a difference. We can change this, we have the power! And we don't have to do it with violence, we just have to do it with love.
Yes i like that T-shirt (in front row), let me read it out loud: "At the centre of non-violence stands the principle of love." And who said that? Martin Luther King. And he fought for the rights of African and African-American people, he fought for the right to be treated equal, to be treated with tolerance, love and human dignity. He fought and he died for this principle.
Now I'm here to say that the gay community and gay people, here and all around the world, have the same rights. The same rights to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with love! Are you with me? If you're with me, I want to see your pink wristbands! Are you with me? Are you motherfuckin' with me?
And this is for people who are quoting the Bible and who are using God as their defense mechanism: Jezus preached this, Mohammed preached this, Buddha preached this, Mozes preached this, it's in every holy book: Love thy neighbour as thy self! You can not use religion to treat other people badly. You can not use your faith to treat other people badly. We all deserve love. Let's go out into the world and spread this message of love and live our life without fear! Amen. ANd live our life with love.
Yesterday, Madonna attended the opening of the Hard Candy fitness centre in Moscow. When asked for her opinion on the court case against the members of Pussy Riot, she said:
"Obviously I believe in freedom of speech and I'm against censorship, so I hope that the judge is lenient with them and that they are freed soon."
Her statement caused controversy within the Russian Orthodox church, who called for a boycott of the concert. Threats were even so severe that the US embassy issued a warning to all concert goers.
Fortunately, nothing serious happened during the MDNA show. Even though Madonna made another statement about the case: when revealing her back at the end of Human Nature, the usual 'No Fear' was replaced by 'Pussy Riot'. She also wore the trademark balaclava worn by punk band Pussy Riot.
In her speech she also adressed the matter:
"I know there are many side to every story, and I mean no disrespect to the church or the government, but I think that these three girls - Masha, Katya, Nadya - I think that they have done something courageous. I pray for their freedom."
Watch her entire speech:
Pussy Riot reacted to Madonna on Twitter: "DEAR MADONNA! We love you and you just might be changing Russia's history right now. Thank you and a thousand prayers in return!"
Concert organisers have agreed to a proposal by city officials to show a short film about the uprising in the stadium before the show, in an attempt to appease the protesters.
MDNA moves to Eastern Europe with a first stop in Vienna. Fans were let into the stadium during soundcheck again. She performed Express Yourself and Give Me All Your Luvin', and when she rehearsed Love Spent she teased the crowd saying it would probably get into the setlist in the future.
During her speech before Masterpiece, she referred to the show at Olympia, again claiming the negative reactions were "not from fans" and she asked the Austrian crowd not to let the negative reports "spoil their fun".
Only a week ago, Madonna announced her intimate gig at the Olympia. The small venue in the centre of Paris is known for having had French and international icons like Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker, Jacques Brel and many more on stage. Madonna herself performed a promo gig in 2008 to promote her Hard Candy album.
So naturally the tickets for this show (89EUR for a standing ticket, 166 or 276 for a seat) sold in a matter of minutes. Fans started queueing as early as Monday, resulting in several tents on the sidewalk of the Boulevard de Capucines. By Thursday noon, the waiting line went around the corner of the block.
For a nice change, the organisation was superb. A numbering system that actually worked, taking away a lot of stress. Still, the hours of waiting in the beating sun wasn't easy. But the anticipation was high!
Doors only opened around 9pm. And once inside the wait wasn't over. Packed between sweaty bodies, we eagerly waited another two hours. The interior of the theatre is superb, harking back to the days of the Moulin Rouge, with lots of red velvet. In the top seats, there was also James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan with his wife. Guy Oseary, after having made his photographing tour, also sat down in the front row of the 'gradin'.
Then at 10.45, lights finally went out. We didn't know what to expect, we only knew the show would be different from the average MDNA show. There were smaller but similar screens installed. The stage had a normal, straight catwalk going into the audience, at only a meter away from us. No Golden Circle or Triangle this time, everyone here was close to the stage.
The show opened with the video that preceeds Turn Up The Radio, as a nice warmup with lots of Madonna hits. The screens opened to show Madonna with her guitar. Very smart move to start with her latest single, because it immediately had the whole crowd jumping and dancing.
From there, the order of the MDNA setlist was followed: Open Your Heart was lovely (though without Rocco). Her speech was ecceptionally long this time. She first spoke about being honoured to perform at this venue, where Edith Piaf and so many great artists have performed ("I step, no I grovel in their footsteps"). She then continued about the high level of tolerance of France, the country where so many artists were welcomed. This was her bridge to her usual tolerance speech.
"If we don't learn from history we will just repeat it. So the next time you want to point the finger at somebody and blame them for the problems in your life take that finger and point it back at you."
She also thanked her die hard fans, who queued for so many hours for this concert: "I want you to know how much I appreciate it. I don't take your love for granted." It was that line that would sound bittersweet by the end of the evening.
Vogue was the highlight, much like it is in the MDNA show. Having Madonna and her fantastic dancers, all in their gorgeous outfits, pass by on the catwalk at such close distance is truely unique. It was followed by the sensual Candy Shop and Human Nature. There was the striptease, where she lowered her pants (her string was replaced by shorts).
But then came the surprise part. No Like A Virgin this time. The opening part of Die Another Day sonded through the speakers. While the screens showed movie scenes of Alain Delon, Madonna sat on a black chair, legs spread, with a gun in her hand, singing the lyrics of Beautiful Killer over the melody of Die Another Day. The mash-up worked perfectly and the crowd went insane. The female dancers joined Madonna and some of the Revolver choreography was performed.
At the end of the song, dancer Marvin Gofin entered the stage and Madonna turned around and shot him. As a kind of revenge for his abuse during the normal Like A Virgin performance, Madonna ties a bleeding Marvin on the chair to the tones of Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'aime Moi Non Plus. Madonna did exceptionally well with the high vocals, originally sung by Jane Berkin. Marvin's deep voice was perfect for Gainsbourg's part.
Two new songs, one tribute to French actor Alain Delon and one classic from a famous French singer, had both the French fans and the die hard fans eating out of Madonna's hand. But then she disappeared behind the screens, which read "Je T'aime".
The lights went on and crew members immediately started clearing the stage. It was obvious an encore wasn't to be expected. No matter how wonderful the show had been so far, the crowd was very displeased that it had ended after a mere 45 minutes, which included a 10-minute speech! That's not what you expect when you pay 89, 166 or 276 Euro for a ticket.
The rest of the story is well-known: people started throwing empty bottles on stage, shouting "Remboursez!" (= "Money back") and "Saloppe" (= "Bitch"). As the venue got cleared, the shouting continued in the hallway and outside on the street. The enthousiastic atmosphereduring the show had completely turned into a grim riot.
What should be mentioned is that the crowd consisted mostly of die hard fans, many of whom had queued up from early morning, some had even camped for several days. The kind of fans that have stuck by Madonna for many years, who had seen many shows of this and previous tours. The kind of fans that will usually defend her against all kind of criticism.
Many people who had watched the live streaming of the show, didn't understand the commotion. What did those fans expect? Weren't they glad to be a part of such a unique and intimate show?
As one of those die hard fans who was lucky enough to get a ticket, I can say: yes, it was a great and unique experience seeing Madonna so up & close in an intimate venue. Yes, it was fantastic to see two new performances, which weren't part of the regular MDNA show.
But being a die hard fan also means you're allowed to have your own opinion and still should be allowed to say when something went wrong. And for the Olympia show things did go wrong. Everybody knew the show would be different and probably shorter, but nothing concrete was announced about this. So many expected a show of at least an hour. Had Madonna performed another half hour, everyone would have gone home super-satisfied. Or had she come back for 1 or 2 encores and then left the stage with a simple "Thank you, goodnight", that would have worked too. Or if she really only wanted to perform 8 songs, she could've made it a free promo show. Given the tour grosses so far, that wouldn't have made a difference for Madonna or Live Nation. Previous promo shows, such as the ones at G.A.Y. in 2005 or Olympia in 2008, had been even shorter but completely free for the fans.
So was the name-calling and bottle-throwing an over-reaction? Probably. But did the fans have a reason to be discontent? Actually yes. Especially after Madonna's lengthy speech about appreciating her fans, this left a bad taste in the mouths of many attendees.
A better communication by Live Nation would have been a good idea. Better management decisions an even better idea. The Olympia show could have been a special moment within a successful tour. Instead it became a bittersweet memory.
Madonna ended her 3-date UK tour in Edinburgh tonight. And just like in London, she had to keep an eye on the clock, because there was a strict 11pm curfue. In Hyde Parc, that caused her to start early, but tonight it meant she had to cut some songs out completely! Unfortunately, the victims were highlights Like A Virgin and I'm Addicted.
During rehearsals, it seemed Madonna already feared she wouldn't make it before curfue. She let all people in to watch and rehearsed almost half the show. She joked that she rehearsed so many songs, so people could see them after all in case she gets cut short. She asked the crowd not to get mad if she did get cut short.
Apparently the curfue was to get people home in time with public transportation. To which Madonna replied "Can't you all just walk home?"
For some reason, during the actual show there appeared no slackline dancers during the Nobody Knows Me interlude.
During her speech before Masterpiece, she spoke about getting married in Scotland and expressed hope that this visit would produce "something more lasting".
On her second British tour stop, Madonna encountered some technical problems. At the beginning of Gang Bang, the motel décor did not come out. She shouted "What happened to my fucking motel?!"
She then had to improvise, singing the song while sitting on the stairs.
In several countries, Madonna has been criticized for arriving on stage so late. Die-hard fans understand it better: the MDNA show requires it to be dark so the Queen waits till 10pm to start her spectacle.
But in London she got a very clear warning. Hyde Parc is near a residential area with a strict curfue at 10.30pm. That authorities are serious about this was proven the weekend before Madge's show, when a performance of Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney was cut short after breaking the curfue with just 10 minutes.
So a strict schedule was laid out, and followed! Martin Solveig started his DJ set already at 5.30, followed by LMFAO at 7.00. The latter only featured half of the duo but still managed to get the crowd moving.
Josh and I had made some cardboards with Madonna bobble heads (thanks to Rafael from MadonnaOnline) which were very popular with other fans. The cameras seemed to love them too, because during Solveig's set they kept zooming in on them. Guy Oseary found them in one of his pictures too.
For the occasion the grass of the parc had been covered by wood chips. The weather was surprisingly good, with a clear sky and even some sunshine.
The bells that opened for the Act of Contrition rang when the sky was still bright and blue at 8.40. Though the gorgeous church window imagery on the screens were now less visible, it was a nice change to see Madonna perform under a bright sky. The wind opened up the curtain in her opening scene so you could see her praying.
During the second segment, it became darker and it started raining a bit. While crew members continously tried to keep the catwalk dry, Madonna asked the crowd to "say your prayers to ward off the rain". It seemed to work because after a few songs, it dried up again.
During the rap of I Don't Give A, Madonna fucked up a few words. Was she nervous because the subject of the song, ex-husband Guy Ritchie was in the crowd tonight? At the end of the song she slipped and fell down right before laying down on the tower that brought her up underneath the red cross.
Other celebrities attending included Kylie Minogue (who tweeted some pictures), William Orbit, George Michael, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stella McCartney, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Valentino.
After the show, Madonna held an after party at her Mayfair mansion, whichcaused some noise complaints from bored neighbours.
Paris. The one city where I've seen every single Madonna tour of the past decade. And not without reason. Not only is it close for me, it is also the place where international fans gather, always resulting in a fantastic atmosphere. Even if that means queueing in a horribly organized manner.
Arriving at Stade de France, there were not even fences foreseen. Naturally, the queue quickly got disorderly. Entering the venue was slow due to the extra security check. Possibly because they were filming the show that night, as was written everywhere. In the end, there didn't seem to be enough cameras for a DVD recording, so the filming might possibly be used for something else.
We had less space in the Golden Circle but still a good spot. And it's always more fun with good company; next to us we got to know French fans Valérie, Thierry and Xavier and together we had a great time before and during the show.
Martin Solveig did an extra effort to please the crowd in his home country. He also had a surprise for us: he introduced to the stage nobody else than Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, who happened to be in Paris. Will.i.am performed his latest single and the very appropriate hit I Gotta Feeling (Tonight is gonna be a good night).
Again, Madonna hit the stage around 10pm, just as the night fell over the Stade de France. "Bonjour Paris France! Vous êtes prêt? On va tout niquer?" she shouted to 80.000 ecstatic fans.
She made the audience shout "Sagarra Jo" again, explaining the meaning of the song afterwards. As she spoke up against prejudices and discrimination, she referred to the French national holiday, le Jour du Bastille:
"You know what it's like to fight for freedom. But don't just fight for your own freedom. Fight for the freedom of others. Regardless their sexual orientation, their religion, their gender,..."
As she stripped down during Like A Virgin, she made the crowd go wild to show off her breast again, for the first time since Istanbul. Right after, she dropped her pants too, as she did in the other cities.
This time, as she was laying on the ground, she laid down her mic and sang lying next to it.
Having seen 1 show indoors and 2 outdoors, it has become clear that the MDNA Tour must be seen in an outdoor venue. All our frustrations from Amsterdam have been taken away in Brussels and Paris. Still a shame you can't get to front row without paying more money, but at least the Golden Circle is larger, allowing to get a good spot.
Highlights for me are: the opening of Girl Gone Wild, the beautiful rendition of Like A Virgin, Vogue that as always impresses with choreography and costumes, the powerful I'm Addicted and Like A Prayer that serves as the perfect closer (before the encore Celebration) in a religious theme to come full circle.
The MDNA Tour stop in Brussels is only Madonna's second visit to Belgium (not counting the time she supposedly spent living with Patrick Hernandez there, back in the late 70s).
Her first visit, when her Sticky & Sweet Tour played the outdoor festival site of Werchter, didn't exactly impress Belgian critics. Maybe that's why the King Boudewijn stadium didn't sell out this time around. Seats in the lowest category received a free upgrade to only have empty sections on the side of the football stadium.
After our disappointment with the queueing in Amsterdam, we decided to go only in the afternoon this time. Together with my tour buddies Kris, Peggy, Josh, Nicolai and Wladi we arrived at the venue around 4pm and were allowed into the Golden Circle an hour later. We found aourselves at a reasonably good spot in front of the end of the catwalk.
Much to our surprise, Madonna came on stage in her tracksuit for a soundcheck, in front of all the fans. Since she had only done tat in front of Triangle fans in Amsterdam, we hadn't expected this so it was a great surprise. She performed I'm Addicted, I'm A Sinner, Turn Up The Radio and Celebration. She also talked to the audience, asking them not to smoke because it effects her voice. When the crowd reacted all enthousiastic to her soundcheck performances she grinned "That's very good. But tonight I expect you to be a 1000 times louder still. Then I'll be satisfied!"
Solveig did another warm-up of the audience between 8.15 and 9.15pm. The lights went out at 10.10pm. There was a drizzle of rain throughout the entire show, which became heavier towards the end, but that didn't diminish the atmosphere. The rain glinstering in the spotlights made it seem like snowflakes added to the show.
Her speech after Open Your Heart wasn't about the usual 'smashing apples'. Instead she asked if we had said our prayers, "how else do you want the rain to go away?"
For Like A Virgin a dancer brought her an umbrella. As he hesitated to leave the stage, she nodded to him that she was gonna be fine. After a while she gave up the umbrella and sang in the rain.
Reviews of the show in the Belgian press were much better than 3 years ago.
Where fans had to queue in the hot sun on Saturday, there were heavy rains on Sunday. Maybe that's why everyone was allowed inside for the soundcheck this time around. Madonna was in a good mood, because she let fans do singalongs with songs like Deeper And Deeper and Physical Attraction. She then started Give It 2 Me herself, with the dancers spontaneously dancing the Sticky choreography.
There was a special moment during her speech that night which even lead to a marriage proposal!
At first, Madonna talked about the importance of not taking things for granted.
"I've been doing this for almost 3 decades... THREE decades. And I do not take my success for granted. I do not take the support of my fans for granted. I don't take your love and your well wishes for granted. So I want to say thank you."
As the crowd cheered her on, she continued about love.
Cause when you strip away everything, the way people look, it's all shit right? It's all about relationships, it's all about love, right? Now I heard a rumour. Somebody in the audience tonight is gonna ask somebody to marry them, is that true? Or is that a lie?
One girl in front row raised her hand and Madonna went up to her with her mic, asking "You? For real? You don't look very surprised. But he looks surprised. Are you gonna start crying, dude?"
As the crowd went wild, she proposed the girl to hand her her microphone ("But don't slobber all over it") and to propose in front of the entire venue. The girl asked "Will you marry me" and the guy shouted "Yeah sure!!" resulting in a loud applause.
Madonna made sure he kept his promise "Don you love her? Very much? For the rest of your fucking life? Alright, kiss with tongues... OK OK get a room!"
She also added some advice: "Here's one piece of advice: never go to bed angry. Oh and another piece of advice: learn to say 'I fucked up'"
She then dedicated Masterpiece to the loving couple.
Madge seemed to be in a romantic mood herself too. Before the weekend, she rented an entire cinema in the Dutch capital so she and loverboy Brahim could have a romantic night at the movies together. According to the Dutch press they watched The Untouchables.
During the past weekend, the time was finally near. After more than a month of waiting and hearing other fans' MDNA stories, I could finally go and see the show myself. Despite running this website and this tour diary, I had managed to stay away from video and audio material and thereby keeping some surprises.
After an extensive breakfast at our Amsterdam hotel, I headed with my tour buddies Krissy and Peggy to the Ziggo Dome around noon. Despite weather reports forecasting heavy rains, the sun was overwhelmingly present, brightening up our mood. Queueing in Amsterdam is always a bit more relaxed thanks to the good security, much in contrast with Paris or Rome. It was great to see Madonna friends in the queue, including Rob, Dorrith & Marlous.
But the mood was about to be killed once we entered the rather small venue. While queueing early had always paid off on previous tours with front row places, those times are now over. Because Live Nation has decided that front row is only for those who pay the big bucks. Golden Circle or not, it's only the Early Access people who get to front row. Or a way to shell out another 150EUR extra. A big slap in the face of true fans.
So while we saw a handful of lucky iPad and ICON winners entering the Golden Triangle, together with DOZENS of VIP guests (friends of the Live Nation perhaps?), and the Early Access people covering the first 10 rows around the catwalk, we found ourselves with a horrible place and bad view. A few decades of loyal fandom, of which one decade running a dedicated fansite, paying 120EUR for a ticket and queueing for 13 hours now only gets you to 10th row. Congratulations Live Nation, way to treat your fans!
Martin Solveig did a very good job in trying to make us forget our exhaustion and disappointment by playing a fantastic DJ set between 8.15 and 9.15, including remixes of Hung Up, Music and Beautiful Killer, as well as some Guetta hits and his own songs. At 10pm the lights went out for the MDNA opening, which seemed a fair starting hour.
Madonna's tour openings are famous and the MDNA opening didn't disappoint. The religious theme is present more than ever, but in a tense and haunting way. Even if Girl Gone Wild wasn't a radio hit, it was a great choice for the opening. Transgression is only a few letters different from Agression, and yes, the first segment is ultra-violent. I'm not easily shocked but I can imagine it causing controversy in the Middle East and the US. The average tour visitor, especially those unfamiliar with the latest album, will not recognize much from this segment, with Papa Don't Preach cut very short and Hung Up in a different version. Personally, I did like that version though, way better than the Sticky mess. What the dancers during the Best Friend interlude did with their arms was at the same time amazing and creepy.
While Transgression was visually stunning, it didn't make the crowd dance. That changed for the Prophecy segment. You can say what you want about the Express Yourself/Born This Way mash-up, it certainly took away the doubt, if anyone still had about Gaga's song being virtually similar. Only Madonna fans will recognize M's typical tongue-in-cheek irony. The GMAYL performance was an grotesk attack on the senses: dancers and majorettes everywhere on stage and the catwalk, the drummers in the air, the heavy beat... Turn Up The Radio was a highlight, with everyone finally jumping and dacing like crazy. Open Your Heart didn't really live up to its expectations that I had for its first live performance in 22 years, except for the ultra-sweet moment where she shouted "Where's my boy" and Rocco came running from between the group of dancers. As the crowd cheered on, he ran over the catwalk with his mum putting her arm around his shoulder. Which 12-year old can tell such a story?
After Sagarro Jo, she made the crowd shout "Sagarro Jo" several times, before explaining the meaning of the song: it means "smashing apples", as a metaphore for "smashing prejudices".
"There are so many prejudices against people who are different. But thank god for people who are different! For people who are gay! For people who are black, who are handicapt,... Next time someone discriminates you for being different, just shout "Sagarra Jo"!"
At one point she also intereacted with the crowd because they didn't dance enough. To make matters worse she added "Only people in the Triangle seem to dance! Are they my special fans?" which caused lots of booing in the venue. It's not cause you give an elite group of fans more space to dance, that they are better fans than those who queued for hours and ended up with just enough space to breath.
Masterpiece was beautiful, with the screens showing imagery of the movie W.E. I had loved to hear Justify My Love live for once, but the interlude video was stunning. In fact, all tour videos were of great quality. Vogue continued its tradition of fantastic and fashionable performances. Set to the Superbowl mix, dancers portrayed the masculin/feminine theme of the segment, with male dancers dressed in feminine dresses, in contrast with their masculin muscular torsos. Gaultier also did a great job on the updated corset.
Though Candy Shop kind of fit in after Vogue, it still remains an odd choice in the setlist, taking up space that could've gone to a song from the Ray Of Light or Music album. Same goes for Human Nature: its message is typically Madonna but we heard it only 3 years ago. Another story for Like A Virgin: A nice come-back after 6 years, this time in a very slowed-down and emotional version. Not everyone will love it but I liked it.
The past few tours have all had an interlude video with a more political video, and MDNA isn't any different. Nobody Knows Me shows Madonna's face, disassembled with newspaper cuts about her and parts of other faces, ranging from politicians, heroes, dictators and celebrities. Nobody knows me and my pain: at the end the video shows pictures of teenagers who couldn't take the pain any longer of feeling different and took their own lives.
Madonna came back as a 21th century Joan of Arc, trancing with her dancers in a cool choreography on I'm Addicted. She rested behind her guitar for I'm A Sinner, as her dancers jumped on the stage towers portraying a riding train. Adding Like A Prayer to the setlist is a definite way to introduce another highlight in the show. While the dancers (including Rocco) dressed in gowns covered the main stage, Madonna went down on her knees at the end of the catwalk. The whole crowd clapped and danced and sang along. It would in fact have made the perfect closer. But the dance finale was for Celebration, with Madonna leading her large dance troup all over the stage.
With MDNA, Madonna delivers another masterpiece. Too bad not all the die hard fans can enjoy it to the fullest.
Though there was again criticism for the late start, this time almost 2 hours behind schedule.
Among the people in the Golden Circle was also actrice Jodie Foster.
But something exciting happened before the show this time. During soundcheck rehearsals, Madonna decided to play fan-favourite Love Spent to an excited group of Early Access fans. Could that mean the sond is considered for a setlist change? We'll have to wait & see.
After a show in the Portuguese city of Coimbra, Madonna is leaving the Mediterranean and coming up north to Berlin, where she treated German fans to two shows. Like Barcelona, it's an indoors venue, so the MDNA-printed curtain is there again before the show.
Before Express Yourself, she counts 'ein, zwei, drei, vier!' but that's as much German as the fans are getting. She asked the Kalakan Trio what Sagarra Jo means ("smashing apples") and then talked about smashing prejudices.
While performing Like A Virgin, Madonna got caught up in the emotions of the song, dropped to her knees and let her tears flow. When she carried on with her moving performance, the crowd cheered her on.
German fans who missed her in Berlin, get another chance when she visits Cologne next week.
When it was reported that fans started queueing in front of Palau San Jordi, the MDNA venue in Barcelona, days before the first show, it reminded me of the time 11 years ago when I, myself waited for over 30 hours to see the very first show of the Drowned World Tour in that exact same venue. Unfortunately, I wasn't there this time, but many fans and friends kept me up-to-date.
In the afternoon, the promo team passed by with the iPad. Fans who hold their hand to the touch screen and it turns green, get to go into the Golden Triangle pit. It all went pretty chaotic but in the end each of the 3 queues received about 20 wristbands.
The gates opened at 7:30 pm and the Palau San Jordi was full.
There were some Spanish celebrities in the Golden Triangle, such as model Jon Kortajarena from the Girl Gone Wild video. Even though he was amongst the fans in the triangle, he refused to take pictures with fans or give autographs.
Madonna was only 40 minutes late.
She was very happy and communicative and spoke Spanish phrases several times.
"My fans, muchas, muchas gracias for supporting me for almost three decades. I am nothing without you".
In Like A Virgin, she showed a little bit of her beautiful bottom.
The main Spanish newspaper gave her very good reviews on the day after. El Periodico made a full page chart comparing her with Lady Gaga. But Madonna won by a landslide.
On the second day, everything was a lot calmer and better organized. The temperature was close to 40 degrees with not a single cloud in the sky but the fans were very enthusiastic all day and sang along with Madonna during the sound check which in both days occurred before the gates were opened.
The golden triangle draft happened an hour before the gates opened and this time in a very organized manner. The fans were told to remain seated as the production team gave one by one a chance to play. However, only 10 wrists bands were given for the entire queue and those ran out before it reached 30 people. This caused a lot of disappointment and complaining from the fans.
Gates opened again at 7:30pm. Madonna started 45 minutes late.
She seemed even more enthusiastic than the day before and made the crowd react even more.
At the end of Human Nature, she threw a piece of costume she had removed to her wardrobe master but a quick fan managed to catch it. Madonna said: “I'm gonna need that back”.
Italy and Madonna, it's a true love story. Except for the UK, it's the only country to get 3 shows in 3 different cities. She spent more than a week there and visited lots of places. Yesterday she visited the famous Palace of the Uffizi in Florence. And Saturday, she surprised fans when she arrived to the stadium by bike, accompanied by her bodyguards.
Saturday's show included another freedom speech:
"The last song that we just did was called Sagarra Jo. As far as I can tell it's a song about smashing apples. But really, there's a double meaning to it, a deeper meaning. It's about breaking down prejudices, and fighting for your rights, fighting for freedom. That's what we're all here on this earth to do: to fight for our own personal freedom, but also to liberate one another and to fight for other people, but in a peaceful way."
Before launching into Masterpiece ("another love song"), she then thanked her Italian fans again for their love and support. As the fans yelled "NOOOOO!" when she talked about this being her last show in Italy, she quickly added "I'll be back!".
She's currently still in Florence, shooting the video for Turn Up The Radio in the historic city centre and near the Arno river. Latest reports say that Tom Munro is dirrecting but Jonas Akerlund would also be involved in the project.
Later this week it's onto Barcelona, where she'll play the Palau San Jordi, the same venue where she kicked off her Drowned World Tour 11 years ago.
For her second Italian tour stop, Madonna filled the Stadio San Siro in Milan last night. Among the guests were also some Italian celebs, such as Donatella Versace, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
During Human Nature, she again let her trousers slip a bit down. Her nipples stayed nicely covered.
For the first time this tour, Madonna took the time to introduce her band and her dancers. She also gave a little speech, thanking her Italian fans for their support.
My fans in Italy have been supporting me for 3 decades, which is pretty phenomenal. I always feel so loved when i come to this country. I guess it's kinda true that Italians do it better. [Loud cheers] I'm half French so I have to acknowledge other countries too. [...] It's true that music makes the people come together. In these crazy times that we live in, everybody's predicting terrible things for 2012 but I want to make a prediction of love and unity, okay?
Madonna didn't stay in Milan. She flew in from Rome on Thursday morning and immediately left for Florence after the show.
Yesterday, the MDNA Tour gathered 42.000 excited fans in the Olympic Stadium of Rome, Italy. The first ones in the queue had been waiting for more than two days to get the perfect spot in front of the stage. And they got lucky, because again Madonna allowed the doors to be opened before soundcheck.
Watch this video where crazy Italian fans sing along to I Don't Give A:
Hopefully the soundcheck stilled their hunger a bit, because the real show started again almost an hour late.
During her interview with La Repubblica, Madonna promised a surprise for the Vatican. Only days after her Turkish nipplegate, one wonders what that could be. But M wasn't about to repeat herself, so instead she pulled her pants down a bit to show off her perky ass. Mind you, the crowd got to see her black string, covered by fishnet stockings. Probably more classy than the breast-baring scene.
"When I come to Rome I never know what will happen, but I know that I like to live dangerously." Madonna teased the crowd.
Madonna arrived in the Italian capital earlier this week, where she did some sightseeing with Brahim and some dancers and members of her crew. Together with Brahim, she even made a incognito Vespa ride.
She also invited some of the Italian press to her hotel for a press junket. She was interviewed by La Repubblica, as well as Dee-Jay TV and RDS Radio.
La Repubblica already posted a small preview of the interview where Madonna speaks about the concept of the tour:
"I see my show as a journey, a journey of anyone's soul. In order to get to the light, you have to go through darkness. It's a bit like Dante's Inferno. You start out in the darkness and at the end of the show there's light and celebration and joy."
Tonight, Madonna will perform at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, the first of three Italian tour dates.↑ Back to top of page