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Sticky & Sweet Tour diary - Europe 2009

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Tel Aviv - 1-2 Sep. 2009

Performing Beat Goes On in Tel AvivThey say that a good thing never lasts and then it has to fall... Though Madonna denies that in Give It 2 Me, unfortunately the Sticky & Sweet Tour now comes to an end. Even if on September 2nd, Madonna entered the stage on her throne for the 85th time, Candy Shop was just as sassy as always, and her twisted "Everything!" in the chorus still sounded as funny as the first time she did it.

Performing Candy Shop in Tel AvivOn the first show, Madonna had a goofy moment during Beat Goes On when she wiped the floor with a towel. The rest of the show had a top notch performance, with Madonna mentioning the absence of Israeli shows in the past 16 years, plus talking about hoping for peace and called Israel the "energy capital of the world". The real surprise was Madonna bringing out her daughter Lourdes during Give It 2 Me who was jumping with her. But that was just a teaser for the final show!

Unfortunately rumours about Celebration being performed or Justin Timberlake joining Madonna did not turn out true, but Madonna surprised fans and let her children get even more spotlight: Rocco sat at the DJ booth during Music, Lourdes played the piano in Devil Wouldn't Recognize You and joined the dancers during Miles Away!

During Spanish Lesson, when the dancers took off their robes, for the surprise of Madonna and fans alike, they all wore hotpant with the guys even appearing shirtless. Madonna thanked them for showing her their asses and asked the crowd to sing along Miles Away with the naked people. She even forgot some of the words and said she could not concentrate, referring to the ring of dancers around her.

Madonna gave a short but emotional speech before You Must Love Me, she called Israeli people her favourites and thanked everyone who contributed to the show and remembered the amazing time she had with this tour. She said "I never want this moment to end" and by the end of the ballad, she got teary-eyed. Naturally the show had a high-energy finale with Ray Of Light & Give It 2 Me, had the whole Hayarkon Park jumping and singing along (with Lola joining again!), Madonna holdinng an Israeli flag, honouring the end of her longest tour ever! In the Live Nation press release, words of Arthur Fogel mark the end of an era and a new beginning:

"With Sticky & Sweet Madonna has proven yet again that there is virtually no limit to what she can accomplish both creatively and commercially."

Belgrade, Bucharest & Sofia - 24, 26 & 29 Aug. 2009

Performing Candy Shop in Belgrade The last 3 shows on the European continent were all in brand new countries for Madonna. Naturally she got a lot of attention in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria with her fantastic show, showed top form and pleased legions of fans.

Sticky & Sweet in Bucharest's Parc IzvorUnfortunately not everything went perfect, since it already made rounds in the worldwide press that Madonna spoke up against Gypsy-discrimination at the Bucharest show which divided the audience and a considerable amount of attenders did not share Madonna's enthusiasm.

Since then both Madonna and her Gypsy band reaffirmed their point of view and condemned the people booing her. Madonna herself used her now signature "I'm not sorry" song Human Nature to address this in Bulgaria, changing the word "sex" to "Gypsies" and inserting some additional venom into the song.

In Sofia, someone outside the stadium posted offensive transparents about Madonna's adoption and he immediately got banned from attending the concert. Thankfully this incident did not escalate, neither Madonna repeated her Gypsy speech in Bulgaria, so the sold out crowd of the Levski Stadium did not get affected and got a top-notch performance.

The Michael Jackson tribute during Holiday also felt more special for both the fans and the performers, as MJ would have turned 51 on August 29th (for more on the Bucharest show, check out SPIN's review).

Contrary to previous reports, Madonna did not stay in Vienna during the Eastern European leg, she divided her time between Budapest and Bucharest, even got spotted relaxing a bit with her dancers in the hotel pool in Romania. After the Sofia show Madonna immediately flew to Israel, where the tour is sadly coming to an end. The last 2 shows in Tel Aviv are immensely hyped up and there are several rumours circulating. At the very least, Madonna will definitely give her all to honor the tour finale double-date in a place that's very special for her.

Last, but not least, according to several reports across the online Madonna community, it seems Madonna's manager Guy Oseary has been giving out some hints to fans at the front rows about Madonna's future projects: not surprisingly, she's aiming to release a new album in the fall of 2010 (which fits her usual 2 and a half year gap between records) and then of course she would tour to promote it, might be at the end of 2010 already, or early 2011, not clear as of yet. Of course these plans are tentative, but keep in mind her current show is built around the concept of not wasting time... ;-)

Budapest - 22 Aug. 2009

First of all, I'm writing this entry on the first anniversary of the Sticky & Sweet Tour, so before I go into detail, I'd like to thank Madonna and everyone else who worked on this show, which might be her best live effort ever, in the name of every single fan who has a great experience with this tour.

Performing Candy Shop in BudapestLast night, Madonna hit Dani's home country Hungary for the first time ever. It was my 3rd Sticky & Sweet show and it seems I manage to pick the shows where the delay becomes legendary. Of course I expected Madonna to be late as always, but it was very disappointing that she started at 10.05 pm, which was one of her most late kick offs in the past month.

Not to mention that laying down the stage protection in front of everyone was very unprofessional and DJ Enferno could do little to ease the tension, even a big booing took place not long before the actual start. In the end the stage protection would not have been necessary if the show started in time. Anyway, at least Celebration got a great response in Paul's set, with the funky quartet of AntBoogie, Hypnosis, Charles and Jaron winding up the audience. The venue itself was not as great as I imagined, but I think it was still better than the old stadium.

The show started off as usual, the opening one-two punch was the same as everywhere else with the expected Budapest/Hungary greets in the second song. After all the waiting, at this point I expected the show would not have any surprises for someone who knows the concert by heart. Little did I know things were about to change.

Human Nature started off with Madonna asking "Are you ready Budapest?" twice and I could not believe my ears. How did the "That's right motherfuckers, I have no regrets" song became an open plea to the crowd to forgive Madonna's late entrance? All of a sudden I was no longer hearing the song I used to call the weakest link of the show, the song I held grudges against for being pushed so vehemently by Madonna was gone and I was seeing Madonna putting that extra something in it that was missing. How ironic that this song works the best when Madonna is sorry! While I still maintain that thematically this is the most out of place number of the show, I can no longer think it's the least interesting part. The different vocoder melody in the second verse helps as well.

Performing Candy Shop in Budapest Vogue stayed the same as always, and while it was very disappointing that not even this megahit could get the people around me into it, I was glad to see the ladies getting the spotlight once again in that fantastic intro.

Into The Groove got one of the worst response of the night, which genuinely shocked me, almost nobody was into it and the person who got the microphone to do the singalong while she jumps rope sang nothing, which Madonna even commented after. Yet, she tried to outdo herself in this song as well when she asked Budapest to give her support twice, and then was funny to see Sofia and Paul worshipping Madonna's muscles.

Madonna addressed the non-singing guy in the intro of Holiday and once again addressed our city and I began to see a pattern. I was a lot more into Holiday this time around and finally the crowd woke up when Kento emerged as Michael Jackson. The rest of Holiday got a bigger reaction than any other song before it, which started to become promising.

Dress You Up was my first clear highlight of the show, it sounds amazing live, the samples of Sex Pistols and The Knacks are brilliantly interpolated here. This song had yet another shout out for Budapest which started to become surreal. Not even halfway through the show and Madonna already mentioned my city more than the foreign ones I attended to.

Unfortunately Madonna did not dedicate She's Not Me to the beautiful Hungarian girls (she must have not had the time to check them out) but retained the "This one's for the ladies! Ladies, have I got stories to tell? We need to talk!" speech. As always, a brilliant number but Madonna spiced it up at the end, when she pointed at Emilie's 'Boy Toy' belt and kept telling the audience that no way it's her. The lesbian kiss was there again, which got another great response.

Music was quite uneventful, yet again another huge hit that did not get the expected response, it was one of my lowpoints and clearly the worst rendition of Music I've ever seen. The finale-esque thing at the end is overdone, it does give the feel that they want the crowd to leave midway through the show.

Performing Devil Wouldn't Recognize You in Budapest Fortunately that's not the case and pretty soon I got to hear my favourite Hard Candy song once again, the haunting Devil Wouldn't Recognize You. clearly a number I know by heart bit-by-bit, yet the weather managed to alter it a bit: during Madonna's amazing descent from the piano, her hair covered her face because of the wind and that greatly added to this iconic moment that I cannot have enough. Since the piano blocked my view when she went to the main stage, I looked at the screens and during the last "I do" bit, it seemed Madonna lost her balance for a split second and made a quick step forward.

The song that's so often defended by me Spanish Lesson did not blow me away like on the 2 previous shows and I have to openly admit that it got the worst response of the night, Madonna could have been touching herself on the main stage during the song and only I would have noticed. When the dancers follow their teacher and take their robes off was a cool moment. She introduced this song with a "Let's get this party started right?" which did not surprise me, but she also added a "Are you ready for your Spanish lesson?" just before "Habla Español?", another attempt of her to wake people up.

The crowd finally started to improve during Miles Away, the clapping went down very well and Madonna gave a big grin. Her speech was brief, she only asked if we were having a good time and dedicated this song just to us. Clearly one of the better received songs of the night, makes me wonder if all the tour feedback is actually a legitimate reason for the song to be included on the upcoming greatest hits.

Another overplayed number for me came, La Isla Bonita, which now was "only" as great as anywhere else, the crowd kept appreciating and eventually they were won over by Doli Doli, which I naturally expected. The gorgeous Sofia hit the spotlight and once again she becomes my most appreciated dancer, while Madonna was having shots and making silly looks next to Paul. Before the next song, Madonna whispered something in his ear when he handled her the guitar. I'll leave it up to our visitors to decide whether it was just Madonna passing a message to the stage management, or was about something after the show. ;-)

You Must Love Me was the first song when I felt home in the crowd, only later on I realized it was the "Hungary song" since it's from the movie she filmed here more than a decade ago. Even though Madonna did not give a speech, fans held up signs saying "Hungary loves you" which she liked and even gave a small giggle when the fans kept making her blush. This song proved that Madonna is a great multitasker, not only she paid attention at her beautiful vocals, receiving the love of the audience, but also gave attention to the rain that started just when she sat down for this performance. Was very funny to see Madonna looking at the skies after lines like "this isn't where we intended to be". She held the guitar above her head at the end but the crowd cared nothing about the rain and wanted to prove that we do love her.

4 Minutes was another crowd pleaser, the bass is still a killer and the bad live vocals of 2008 were no longer there.

However, it's Like A Prayer when the crowd was elevated into something else. It was finally a song everyone kept singing, the mash-up with "Feels Like Home" pleased the vast majority of the crowd, the outro with Madonna getting engulfed by the flames was another pleasing moment!

Performing Like A Prayer in BudapestBy the second half of the show, I managed to get slightly closer to the end of catwalk by evading a couple of taller people so I could witness the brilliant Frozen in all its glory. The rain started to get a bit more serious at this point and the lyrics seemed to be too confusing for people, but the Calvin Harris sample broke yet another response record on this show.

It was clearly another highlight for me, I'm genuinely in love with the Open Your Heart snippet, which is funny because I never actually realized I loved this song that much! And I think I finally have my interpretation of this song. While the previous number is about breaking the boundaries between different religion, this song seems to be about bringing men and women together: Madonna dances and strengthens the boys and girls separately and the combination of two songs with similar theme suggests it's about the different genders wanting the same but expressing themselves differently. Of course Madonna succeeds and she makes the people come together.

The culmination of the evening and the absolute hightlight of this unique show came with the penultimate song, Ray Of Light. I've seen this song live four times already and I loved each previous rendition to bits, so it would have needed a miracle to make this version the best. And guess what, that miracle did happen. First Madonna did the "Rain, rain, go away!" bit and then asked Budapest to give their all and jump for her. And everyone did their best, even though people were obviously very exhausted at this point, including myself.

But that was not all of it. Madonna took the microphone from the stand and gave it to a fan in the front row so the crowd sang the complete third verse instead of Madonna. You'd think this only happens in Latin America. On top of that, Madonna stole a silly looking golden hat from a fan and performed the final part of the song before throwing it away. If that was not enough, then we got Madonna pointing at herself during the last two lines, finally confirming my theory about this song being the perfect embodiment of Madonna's career and persona. Before doing the guitar breakdown that segues into the grand finale, she even let a scream out.

This performance proved how wrong all the fans are who think Ray Of Light is a tired song on tours by now and nobody wants to hear it. Face it, this is her "Purple Rain" and it's the song that can make a tame crowd go insane, not her 80s hits. May Madonna never stop performing Ray Of Light!

Unfortunately the powers of nature started to get impatient and the first minute of closer Give It 2 Me had people putting their raincoats on as now we were genuinely getting soaked. Madonna did not let her show to be ruined and used the same outfit as always and gave her all until the very last second. After Ray Of Light this was not that impressive, but still, everyone kept jumping and singing alone, even the microphone handout moments worked very well. At her quick departure, she did thank Budapest, which is also not something present in every show!

According to media reports, Madonna did spend the night in Hungary after all. I thank her for giving such a special show in my own country and I will never forget this experience!

Munich - 18 Aug. 2009

Performing Candy Shop in MunichMadonna's lone German show in 2009 was another one of those "long time no see" moments as the last time Madonna visited Munich was 19 years ago. Once again, Madonna hit the gorgeous Olympic Stadium and did not disappoint. Attendance was far from full capacity and the audience kind of resembled the Scandinavian crowds, but Madonna was not bothered by any of that and showed off a great mood.

While the girls changed her shoes in the intro of Holiday, she cheekily asked "Which song was that you were singing?" to the girl who was supposed to sing the chorus of Into The Groove while Madonna jumped rope, but she got the lyrics wrong.

The venom of She's Not Me seems to be absent in 2009 as each show sees that song dedicated to the beautiful girls of each country Madonna visits. Before the upbeat Spanish Lesson, Madonna talked a bit of German, said "Danke schön" ("Thank you!") and "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" ("Do you speak German?").

There were some problems with the circular screen and seems Valeree had to stand in for Nilaya in some numbers. The German crowd brought a surprise for Madonna just before You Must Love Me, where they used a hundred balloons and sang Happy Birthday for her. Madonna appreciated it, saying "Thank you, Germany, thank you. But now it's my turn to sing." then launched the vulnerable Evita song. At the end of the show, Madonna grabbed a French flag for herself and she happily showed it off, to much delight of the French fans attending.

As the Ljubljana show is cancelled, next stop will be Budapest! Madonna will stay in Vienna during the whole Eastern European leg and she will fly to each stage directly from there, and right after the show she will be en route to Austria. Expect a more detailed review from the Hungary show over the weekend as Dani from the Mad-Eyes team is attending!

Warsaw - 13 & 15 Aug. 2009

Rehearsing Into The Groove in Prague The tour finally reaches Eastern Europe! Even though it's Madonna's second visit to the Czech Republic. Unlike on the Confessions Tour, where she hit the Sazka Arena for 2 dates, this time around she performed in the Chodov Natural Amphitheatre, which is quite possibly the least impressive venue of the tour. Basically it's just an open air grass field some hundred metres away from a residental area.

Sticky & Sweet in Prague's Chodov Natural AmphitheatreUnfortunately the organization also became one of the all time worst, as security could not do anything with people rushing and pushing down everyone and everything, including the barrier itself, eventually making the golden circle overpacked with holders of cheaper tickets.

The show went well, Madonna said she liked Prague and decided to give them another Gypsy song after Doli Doli, which did not get an universally positive response and some fans started to become impatient. Madonna continued her show with a "Shall I go on?" and after that both the crowd and the artist had a great time, with Madonna once again jumping down from the catwalk during the Give It 2 Me singalong. (for Prague press pictures, click here)

On the other hand, Poland got to see Madonna for the first time ever. The show at Bemowo Airport of Warsaw was attended by twice as much people as in Prague, and what a special show it was (even though religious conservativists were doing everything not to make it happen)!

Of course it was the birthday show of the tour, and the Polish fans prepared for the evening with thousands of white heart shaped papers, which were held up just before You Must Love Me. The crowd gave Madonna 3 rounds of 'Happy Birthday' and sang a traditional Polish song that went "may you live a hundred years", as a sweet way to congratulate Madonna for her 51st birthday. Madonna was astonished by the gesture and said every time she does a show and sees us smile it changes her life. "I love my job. This is the best birthday present ever." and "I feel your love!" when the whole crowd kept chanting "We love you!" at the end of the ballad performance.

Gothenburg & Copenhagen - 8, 9 & 11 Aug. 2009

The last 2 countries visited in the Scandinavian part of the tour schedule were Sweden & Denmark, and these countries had a Madonna tour for a second time now.

Performing Human Nature in Gothenburg (1st show)In Sweden, Madonna performed the third double date of the tour in Gothenburg. Unlike 19 years ago, when she opened the European leg of the Blond Ambition Tour in this city at the Eriksberg Harbour in daylight, this time around Scandinavia's biggest stadium, the famous Ullevi hosted her. As opposed to the previous Nordic shows, Madonna started the Sweden shows closer to 10 pm. Seems Madonna is trying to outdo herself as she keeps making her grand entrace with a smile that looks to be bigger than on the previous show!

Madonna this time dedicated She's Not Me to the Swedish ladies and after the line "And make up for the things you lack" she made a joke with 'boy toy' dancer Emilie as she said "which is a butt" while pointing at her.

Before You Must Love Me, she talked about being happy to be back in Sweden since it has a special place in her heart, and pointed out how often she works with Swedes. She said Swedish people were creative and very sexual people, who liked to party. The crowd tried to show appreciation for these compliments at the end of the song, when Madonna sang "you must love...", they all shouted "me", which made Madonna to make another joke, as she finished the number singing "you must love... me... or you!".

Also, Madonna made a mistake in her guitar playing and after the first chorus she said "even when I play the wrong chords!

The show on Sunday, the 9th had Madonna in great mood once again, even though before the concert it was raining heavily in Gothenburg, but fortunately not during the show. After the Frozen performance, Madonna asked the Swedes "Are you frozen?" and "Are you hot?", the latter got an affirmative response so Madonna nodded and stuck her tongue out! (for Gothenburg press pictures, click here)

Performing Human Nature in CopenhagenThe Denmark show also took place in a big stadium, Parken, that accomodated around 45,000 spectators for the concert on Tuesday. The main event of this show was Madonna felicitating her son Rocco, who turned 9 on August 11th. Right before You Must Love Me, the Gypsy band gave music and and the devoted fans gladly sang Happy Birthday to Rocco, who was also watching his mother performing.

The show contained a problem with Madonna's microphone during Human Nature, exactly in the same moment with the fittingly venomous lyrics, about wanting to silence her. After the gorgeous Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, Madonna said "Thank you, or should I say gracias?" and as the introduction to the next song, she then asked Denmark if they spoke Spanish and joked "I would be fairly impressed if you did!". In Ray Of Light she wanted the fans to jump as always, but the ever so conservative Nordic crowd did not obey fully, so Madonna made remarks on this as well. (for Copenhagen press pictures, click here)

Unfortunately neither the Swedish, nor the Danish media was particulary impressed with Madonna and she got mixed reviews, recalling her show in Horsens 3 years ago that did not blow critics away either...

Now, Madonna's Northern European tour comes to an end as she leaves Denmark. Next stop: Eastern Europe, who is most eager to prove her they definitely do it better! ;-)

Tallinn & Helsinki - 4 & 6 Aug. 2009

Sticky & Sweet in HelsinkiAlthough today is quite an unfortunate day for the tour with the news of the cancellation of the Slovenian show, we should not forget about positive events. Madonna has just had two fantastic shows, with a massive amount of spectators. Naturally, both shows started in daylight but fortunately neither Madonna, nor the fans experienced bad weather.

Performing Beat Goes On in TallinnOn Tuesday, she performed on the beautiful Song Festival Ground of Tallinn, Estonia, where she impressed 75,000 people with her act. The show went without any technical problems and was notable for Madonna arriving onstage with a huge "wow" on her face, and giving Sofia a funny look when she attempted to take her jacked off during the opening number, this time around, without any delay. Unfortunately for Estonia, Madonna did not stay much in the country as she arrived from St. Petersburg hours before the show, and not long after her grand finale, she was already en route to the next city (check out our Tallinn press photos gallery here).

Thursday saw an even bigger audience in the West Harbour of Finland's capital Helsinki, which was the northest stop of the tour. A staggering amount of 85,000 people went to see Madonna's first ever show in Suomi, which is already being called as the biggest pop concert ever of Scandinavia. Both the fans and press were very enthusiastic, Madonna clearly won the hearts of Finnish fans.

She was very talkative during the show, dedicated She's Not Me to the pretty ladies of Finland, and after Game Over, she promised she'd be back! Reportedly the crowd was better than on previous Northern shows and Like A Prayer got the biggest response.

Since this was Madonna's biggest tour audience in this decade, together with the Horsens show 3 years ago, unfortunately many fans were forced to witness the whole show on the big screens. But it is so difficult to bring such a show, filled with details to a huge crowd... However, Madonna will never be able to perform at the Jätkäsaari again, as it's going to be turned into a residental area (for pictures, click here).

Now, Madonna is getting ready for the 3rd double date of her tour, still in Scandinavia, in Gothernburg, Sweden, where she's occupying the famous Ullevi Stadium over the weekend.

St Petersburg - 2 Aug. 2009

Performing Miles Away in Saint PetersburgMadonna's second visit to Russia had one of the most interesting venues in her entire career. She performed at the Palace Square of Saint Petersburg, which is situated in front of the monumental Winter Palace, that was the setting of several events of worldwide significance, including the Bloody Sunday of 1905 and the October Revolution of 1917, served as the residence of the ruler Tsars and is the home of world-famous Hermitage Museum, founded by Catherine the Great. The gorgeous spectacle unfortunately got spoiled by heavy rain during the opening act, but the crowd still managed to give it up for the new single Celebration and Jesus' appearance in Paul Oakenfold's set.

Reherasing Into The Groove in Saint PetersburgAccording to fan reports, Madonna was in a very good mood throughout the show (fortunately the rain did not come back so it was yet another daylight show for our M, as she started just before 9:30 pm). In the opening number Candy Shop, it took a lot longer than usual for Sofia to take Madonna's coat off as it got tied to her wrist, so they missed out half of the choreography in the second chorus! The crowd was greeted in Beat Goes On, as usual.

She dedicated the acoustic song Miles Away to Russia and since it was the birthday of Arkady the violinist, Madonna felicitated him onstage, after the Arkady Gips trio played an encore song after the usual Doli Doli! Madonna showed her appreciation to Russia and said she was happy to perform at a historical place.

At the very end of the show, Madonna waved goodbye with "Thank you Russia, see you next time", which is surely a delight for Russian fans. Contrary to media speculation, Madonna did not swear onstage, neither did she incorporate communist messages into her show.

After Russia, Madonna prepares for the most difficult week of the tour as she's going to do 4 shows on the first week of August!

Oslo - 28 & 30 July 2009

Performing Beat Goes On in Oslo (1st show)Madonna's double-date debut in Norway was definitely special and it came with several peculiar aspects. First of all, the venue Valle Hovin in Oslo is basically an ice-skating ring in the middle of residental area, so Madonna had to finish her act by 11.15 pm. Which means after seven times with Madonna being fashionably late on this tour, the lady had to do her grand entrance before 9.30 pm this time around.

While this would not be that much of a surprise, we're talking about Scandinavia, where the sun sets late in the evening, so unlike any of her previous shows in recent years, she performed most of her show in daylight! Seeing the 40,000 large crowd in all its glory must have suprised Madonna when she rolled in on her throne, making a funny expression, the last time she experienced that must have been nineteen years ago at the opening show of the European Blond Ambition Tour in Gothenburg.

The rest of the concert showed Madonna in a great mood, even though the majority of the audience was reportedly very conservative, Madonna must have noticed that after ten shows with fantastic audience. Because of the residental area, there were some people standing on top of the buildings nearby, but that did not bother Madonna and she gave her all. She's Not Me saw her wearing a straw hat, so the number harkened back to Let It Will Be even more now.

Performing Human Nature in Oslo (2nd show)Unfortunately the second show brought Madonna and her fans less favourable circumstances. The whole show was performed in really heavy rain and cold, which is again another "throwback" to Blond Ambition, as Madonna famously performed her first Japanese shows in rain.

Madonna proved to be worthy enough for the Nordic attitude as she managed to perform the whole concert in its entirety, with only a little bit of complaining. Just before Ray Of Light, she said it might be the final song of the evening, but that may have been said just to wind up the audience, as in the end Madonna did close the show with Give It 2 Me.

Naturally, the costumes had to be altered and while normally Madonna performs Human Nature & Vogue in a very light ensemble, this time she was forced to cut down the glamour and wear a large coat and tracksuit pants to keep herself warm, with an assistant holding an umbrella for her during the guitar song. Even the high-energy version of the aptly titled Frozen had Madonna dancing in that coat!

The heavy rain not only affected her dance moves, but also caused problems with the screens and the light. Madonna covered herself with her own acoustic guitar at the end of You Must Love Me. But in the end, Madonna claimed victory as "I can take it, I conquered the rain!" and commanded fans to dance because "I'm risking my life!"

We congratulate Madonna, the crew and all the fans in Oslo for their dedication on getting through this altogether!

Barcelona, Madrid & Zaragoza - 21, 23 & 25 July 2009

Paul Oakenfold & Jesus Luz in Barcelona Bartie: Arriving at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona was something nostalgic. Just next to the stadium, I saw the Palau San Jordi, where I saw my very first Madonna show 8 years ago. Back then, I spent nearly 30 hours waiting in queue with Emma and several other fans I befriended.

For Sticky & Sweet, it's a wonderful reunion with Emma, who hasn't done any show since. Together with my Brazilian friends Josh and Uriel, I only arrive in the afternoon this time. I didn't feel like having the traditional queueing stress and figure my golden circle ticket will suffice for a good view. Some stress after all when turns out that some Ticketmaster tickets have not arrived at the box office yet. We only receive them at 6.15pm, just before the doors open. Even inside, Josh almost doesn't make it inside the Golden Circle, but in the end we find ourselves all together on a good spot in front of the catwalk.

Around 8.30pm, as the heat of the day is becoming more bearable, Paul Oakenfold warms up the audience with his now familiar DJ set. Hypnosis - bare chest and wearing a big afro wig - comse on stage to entertain us, then Paul joins and then... Jesus Luz comes shaking with them too! Fans go crazy and cameras are flashing. Guy Oseary is in the pit taking pictures of fans and of Oakenfold & co. An hour later the DJ set wraps up. Some crew members cover the stage with plastic because some raindrops are coming down. But fortunately it dries up before it gets serious. It's past 10pm when the plastic comes off and moments later the lights go out. Me and my friends prepare for our final Sticky & Sweet experience.

With a big smile, our queen sits on her throne. Looks like she's in a good mood. "Hello Barcelona!" Madonna cheers as she gets to Beat Goes On. I praise myself lucky to have yet again a great view - especially since I'm taller than most Spanish fans around me. A great view on Madonna, and her gorgeous dancers. Especially Vogue is pure eye candy, with Jason, Paul, Norman & Hypnosis showing off their masculin physics. However, Madonna always ensures she remains the center of attention.

"Alright Barcelona , that's the way to do it!" she shouts, as the crowd sings along for Into The Groove. As in most cities, the Holiday performance with the MJ tribute is largely appreciated by the Spanish audience. Once again, she convinces me that all her 2009 changes are for the better! During Music she screws up some lyrics, but laughs it away by replacing the usual "Please don't stop!" by "Especially if I can't remember the words!".

Performing Like A Prayer in Barcelona Of course, Spanish Lesson is something special at the first of three Spanish shows: "Oh my God, finally I can say it! Habla Espagnol?!". Although she is in a good mood and is clearly having fun, she sometimes seems a bit tired. The tragedy of the past week seems to have had its effects on her. Before Miles Away she asks the crowd to help her remember the words because "I've got a lot on my mind".

Another reference in her speech before You Must Love Me, which goes along the following lines: "It's always great to be back in Barcelona! Great people, great atmosphere. But we've lived several days of tragedy, between Michael Jackson and what happened in Marseille. It makes you think about life. We should be happy to be alive. And not wait till it's too late to appreciate it."

When she asks fans to take off their shirts for La Isla Bonita, some are thrown on stage. She picks up one of them, dances around with it before throwing it back in the crowd. As she sits down for Doli Doli, another shirt hits her face, to which some react in shock but Madonna laughs it away.

Although my highlights remain the haunting Devil and the fierce Like A Prayer, the new Frozen does a major effort to win that title. So great to see how she can still totally re-invent that song! And with the fantastic Calvin Harris song that I love! While I want to jump along but my back is killing me, I watch how Madonna easily sets the heavy dancing rhytm for her dancers. For the final two dance songs, we all take our last energy to dance and jump along. After a steaming two hours, she disappears with a "Thank you, goodnight, buenas noches!"

All excited, and a bit sad because our last tour stop has ended, we walk back to Emma's car. But we hear some familiar sounds coming from the stadium. It's the new single, Celebration playing! We run back, to find out that Madonna's video crew is still filming fans for the Celebration video. That explains why Madonna thanked "the fans that danced in her video before and AFTER the show." We watch how the lucky ones who got selected show their yellow wristband to get inside the make-up tent and then head off to dance in front of the blue screen. Hopefully we'll soon get to see the result of that!

Madonna continued her tour in Spain with two more dates, it's the only country in the 2009 tour schedule where Madonna visits 3 cities. Even though the Spanish dates reportedly could not sell every single ticket (but she performed a total of 5 shows within 10 months!), judging by fan reports Madonna was not the least bothered by that and she clearly gave her all in both Madrid and Zaragoza, showing a great mood and very dedicated to impress her audience.

In Zaragoza, she used a lot of Spanish words, but forgot her own lyrics during Spanish Lesson and Ray Of Light, with even making fans to sing some parts instead of her during the guitar song. Of course Zaragoza will be most remembered for being the first venue where Paul Oakenfold played the new single Celebration in the pre-show. He spun a remix of the song twice, and will keep on this tradition at the upcoming shows!

Madonna and her entourage are now getting ready for a big climate change, as they are moving to Scandinavian territories after the Spanish heat. Madonna's first ever extensive visit to Northern and Eastern Europe is coming up, hopefully she's gonna be welcomed with a bang!

Milan & Udine - 14 & 16 July 2009

Madonna, Jesus, Dolce & Gabbana in Milan Not since 1990 it happened that Madonna performed 2 different Italian cities on the same tour. In Milan, Madonna gave a fantastic show, aided by an energetic crowd. She kept saying "Ciao Italia!" and during the You Must Love Me speech, she referred to her Italian roots.

Unfortunately the Udine show bathed in the shadow of the tragedy at Marseille, which happened just a few hours before Madonna hit the stage. While she kept her good mood for most of the show, and even made the crowd chant the famous "Italians do it better!" phrase, she could not hold back her tears during the acoustic Evita ballad and gave the following speech, paying tribute to the victims:

"Before I continue the show I want to take a moment to acknowledge and pay tribute to two people who lost their lives today. I don't know if you've heard.Two men building my show in Marseille where we're going next, the crane fell and we don't know why. I hate to be associated with suffering. I want to pay tribute to their families. Let's take a moment to appreciate our family, loved ones, friends around us."

She also dedicated Ray Of Light to these unfortunate people ("Let's give it up for the Charlie's!").

By now, it's clear that there aren't much differences between this year's shows: the Michael Jackson tribute and the shirt taking off during La Isla Bonita are integrate parts of the show, and the request section is nowhere to be found. The only part where Madonna lets in some spontaneity is the intro of You Must Love Me.

Since the next tour stop in France got canceled, the tour will be resuming with three back-to-back dates in Spain next week, and then the tour will move to Northern Europe.

In less tour-related news, Madonna actually used the Italian stops of the tour to think about her upcoming projects. After the Milan show, she attended a party by Dolce & Gabbana along with Jesus Luz, where she and her entourage were filmed for an upcoming new video, Celebration, from the upcoming greatest hits album. Her official site also recruited fans with Madonna memorablia to attend the filming in Milan on Saturday. Seems Madonna is treating us with a straight up party video!

Werchter - 11 July 2009

For the first time in her career, Madonna performs in Belgium, home country of Mad-Eyes webmaster Bartie. Some 65.000 fans came down to the festival ground of Werchter, known for its annual rock festival, which took place last weekend. It's situated pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so when walking through the fields to get there, it's a whole other concert experience than when going to Bercy or Wembley.

The whole gang was presented for this home country concert: the Mad-Eyes team Bartie & Dani, Stijn, Krissy & Peggy. And naturally lots of Belgian fans & friends were there too. Because of the cloudy and sometimes rainy weather, we decided not to queue early and we ended up arriving only at 7pm. We were pretty shocked to find ourselves in a great spot right in front of the catwalk in a fantastically small golden circle.

At 8pm Paul Oakenfold got the crowd dancing to his beats, but when the rain came down, umbrellas came up and the atmosphere slowed down. But as a miracle, the sky cleared up right before the start of Sticky & Sweet. Madonna waited till it was dark enough to start, which was only at 10.15pm. Although critics would moan about that 45 minute delay,we would soon forget about it. Because we were about to get one of the best shows we had ever seen.

Performing Candy Shop in WerchterIt was immediately clear that Madonna was in a great mood. She was smiling to the fans a lot and was clearly having a good time. The weather staying dry must've helped her mood: "I'm so happy the rain stopped!" she shouted before Miles Away.

Small mistake when she addressed us in French before Human Nature: "Je ne regrette rien!" (= I have no regrets). Someone should have told her that Werchter is in the Dutch speaking part of the country, and that she was performing on the Flemish holiday. The crowd didn't make much of a deal about it though.

Especially where we were standing, people were having fun and dancing. Even though there were many VIP's in the golden circle that were really not fans. The royal prince Laurent and several ministers were among them. Also the Flemish pop star Natalia, whose recent tour is inspired a lot by Madonna, was spotted there. Madonna appreciated the great response: "Thank you Belgium, you've been a great crowd!" she said during Ray Of Light.

This was my 5th Sticky & Sweet show, but the first to see the 2009 changes. And we all agreed that all changes were for the better. It was good to hear Holiday after its 5 year absence. I could hear the Everybody sample, but wasn't sure what sample was supposed to come from the new Celebration. The MJ tribute got a enormous respons from the audience. The rock version of Dress You Up, spiced up with the tones of 'My Sharona', worked remarkably better than last year's Borderline.

But of course, the highlight of all changes was Frozen, especially because it was the 'forbidden fruit'. Belgian fans and press had been guessing for weeks whether Madonna would play this song, that can't be sold, played or performed on Belgian territory since a judge ruled in 2005 that it plagiarised a song by composer Salvatore Aquaviva. The fact that Madonna changed her setlist to include Frozen on the tour leg that includes Belgium, can be called at least remarkable. Remarkable but not surprising: Madonna wants to show who is in control. If that means paying a fine, then so be it. And that's how we all like her, isn't it?

The dance version was fierce, a great new re-invention after the two previous tour performances of the song. Several verses were done instrumentally, with Madonna only singing the humming parts. First the female dancers supported her, then the guys did their part. All screens were used to show parts of the original music video.

The performance was a great addition to the legendary Like A Prayer performance, which was still the highlight of the show. Other masterpieces were the energetic Into The Groove, the impeccable Devil Wouldn't Recognize You and the beautifully vulnerable You Must Love Me. Let's hope Madonna has enjoyed the Belgian crowd as much as we enjoyed her show, so we can see her again on one of the next tours!

Dani's review: It was only my second time seeing this tour, but it almost felt like I was seeing a brand new tour! Even though last year I had already thought it was one of her best, the Belgium show convinced me that she's at the top of her game now, when it comes to performing live!

I didn't think the new Candy Shop backdrop was necessary, it kind of felt out of place after the Sweet Machine intro, but Madonna's brand new hot looks and her amazing mood quickly made me forget that (though her new costume is barely noticeable). I couldn't believe my eyes when she was smiling during Human Nature and asked the fans to sing along. Last year she quickly run through it, but this time around, even my least favourite moment of the show all of a sudden became alive and exciting!

Interestingly, the Belgian crowd got spoiled too early, as before Madonna hit the stage, the crew had to bring out the Rolls Royce from Beat Goes On to test if it still worked on the soaked stage. Fortunately it did, so during the actual show, this number once again went down with a bang, being one of her best songs in this decade.

Performing Human Nature in WerchterSince I was quite close to the front, this time around, I could pay attention on more details, instead of just focusing on Madonna. During the intro of Vogue (where she was definitely holding back a smile to stay in character in spite of constant cheering), the four female dancers appeared with holding lorgnettes, obviously adding to the 1920s Art Deco feel of the first segment. The dancing of this number is still the best, even though all the 4 boys and 4 girls give their all, Madonna manages to stand out and remain the true pinnacle of the number.

The second segment was where things started to change up. While Die Another Day remained just a quick break to catch my breath, Into The Groove still sounds as fresh as it did last year. Madonna once again presented DJ Enferno to the crowd and lived out her ultimate fantasy, she only asked us to make some noise once, and after the double dutch, she made no remarks. Her costume was the same as last year, except a skirt instead of the hotpants, which was fitting for the massive dancing in this segment.

The song ended with the same singalong, and to much of my surprise, she once again fell onstage and Emilie & Jenny still changed her shoes while there was a heart beat on the screens. I feel that this part should have been more drastically altered, as the flow into the first new performance of the night, Holiday was not that smooth. The choreography did not disappoint (although I do prefer the puppet-dancing of Heartbeat), this new reinvention was nothing special, supposedly she was singing over the music of Celebration but it wasn't distinctive enough. It was an all-male number as all the guys except Norman featured in the song.

Of course Kento was the highlight of the now-famous MJ tribute, which I do believe saved the performance and made it a lot more exciting. When the famous sample from 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'' kicked off, the crowd made its best response so far. She then continued the song with a heavy vocoder treatment, most likely to save her voice. The Everybody sample was a nice addition, but left me wondering whether it would have been a better decision if she sang that song completely instead, even though it was the first time I heard Holiday live!

The biggest surprise of the evening came right after, when Madonna picked up her creamy-colored electric guitar and launched the long-awaited fan favourite Dress You Up. I was never a big fan of this song, but this version was jaw-dropping, the way how 'My Sharona' was incorporated quickly made it one of my most loved rock reinventions! The crowd ate it up, Madonna herself sounded a lot better than during Borderline last year, and she was genuinely having fun, quickly making my theory collapse about her not loving the songs she did not write. ;-)

The rest of the Old School part stayed similar to last year, except that Madonna altered her intro line for She's Not Me and during Music she said "Please stop!", referring to the rain. In SNM, she gave a big French-kiss to Emilie, which is obviously an homage to the 2003 VMA, and then she proceeded to Music with the veil on, a tongue-in-cheek reference to her divorce? Since Kento had a spotlight in Holiday, he was replaced by Yaman in Music, in which Madonna uses 12 dancers.

To the surprise of many, Madonna did not film a new video for the Rain interlude, which I do think works perfectly live, the images on the circular and the main screen are gorgeous. Devil Wouldn't Recognize You is now clearly the Mad-Eyes team favourite, both of us were amazed by such haunting theatrics. It's almost becoming my new Live To Tell!

A lot less agreement was present for Spanish Lesson, but it now is kind of a highlight for me, the beat is irresistible and the Flamenco outro blew my mind (Wonder why no "Habla Español?" anymore?). The tried-and-true Gypsy outfit was the same, except Madonna sported some cool gloves now. She asked us to sing and clap for Miles Away, where she expressed her relief about the rain being gone. It was a great crowd-moment, and you damn know this is her strongest tour segment ever where a big singalong like this is my least favourite!

La Isla Bonita seems to be the "get naked" part as she once again asked everyone to take shirts off, and at the end of the song she was focusing on one guy and making him give her his shirt. This song brought the nonexistant roof down, I loved the Gypsy-wagon setting and that in this number, the female dancers could shine (especially the lovely Valeree), along with the backing singers, who were moved to the middle of the stage, making Kiley visible for the first time. Madonna then sat next to Paul and shared shots with him during 'Doli Doli' but couldn't contain herself and mimed the words and enjoyed herself (interesting that during this part, the crowd was all sweaty but Madonna took on a furry vest).

But this part is mostly remembered for the gorgeous Sofia doing a roma-gypsy choreography in a cool traditional dress. Unfortunately she did not make any speech for the Evita ballad You Must Love Me, but we gave her a lot of cheers and we almost didn't allow her to finish the song. At the end when the screen hid Madonna and the band, she was all smiley, another testament to her fantastic mood and her enthusiasm of performing live.

Performing Beat Goes On in WerchterThe final segment had several changes as well: first of, Get Stupid was more focused on the Iranian situation now, and I was sure I saw new footage of Madonna in this video, along with a new endline, about the planet. 4 Minutes remained the same for the disappointment of many (new trousers but same shoulder pads), but I think the heavy bass alone makes this number a great one. Honestly, she could even perform Pretender or Jimmy Jimmy if she uses that bass!

Like A Prayer got the biggest reaction of the night, it's the fan favourite dance mash-up that I really love, only Madonna can do an energetic all-dance performance with so many messages mixed in it, right? Nicki's solo got a nice response as well!

Frozen kept the momentum and was also presented as a fantastic dance version, sampling UK #1 hit 'I'm Not Alone' by Calvin Harris. The dancing was a bit similar with more involvement by the girls, and Madonna surprised fans when she only sang the 4 verses of the single, before only doing the humming of the chorus, which did not actually stop us to sing the missing lines for her.

At the end, she sang the ad libs of the 1987 hit Open Your Heart, another long-awaited fan favourite that was a nice surprise, but hopefully does not mean that it's not going to be brought back for the next tour. With this new performance, the balance of Madonna doing one song from each era I've been obsessing over was gone, but I have to admit it was for the better, as Frozen was a lot nicer to hear than Hung Up...

Madonna told Belgium that she was giving another chance to us to prove ourselves, that we should jump during Ray Of Light, which worked better than ever, leaving it for the penultimate song makes wonders, I wouldn't be surprised if on one of the upcoming tours, she'd do it as the very last song. The crowd ate it up, and everyone jumped up and down! Now this is a song that should definitely be a Madonna tour staple from now on!

The grand finale was interchangeable with last year's, the same bouncy Give It 2 Me, with everyone wearing white gloves to honour MJ. I felt like she could have spiced up this version a bit, or sang some lyrics of another song. Not that Werchter cared about all that, since they were really into this song, and Madonna got everyone singing and jumping. After her exit, she kept the MJ tribute theme as 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough' was playing while we left the field, being rich with a memory of a fantastic show.

Paris - 9 July 2009

Madonna has brought her show back to the European mainland and performed in Paris, with London the only city that she visited both in 2008 and 2009. This summer however, she chose the arena of Bercy instead of the Stade de France. In the afternoon, some fans were allowed in early while Madonna was still soundchecking.

During Ray Of Light in the actual show (which started only at 10pm), she told them to jump higher, because "they had seen the matinee show". The Jackson tribute was there again, so it seems to be an integral part of the show now. However, the silly glasses she wore in Manchester for 4 Minutes were gone now. Before You Must Love Me, she addressed the crowd with "Vive la France!".

Manchester - 7 July 2009

Performing Human Nature in Manchester Nearly five years after her last visit in Manchester, Madonna hit the MEN arena as the last UK stop of the 2009 leg. Apparently quite a lot has changed since last time around, when Madonna was still a British housewife: once again, Madonna asked all the front row men to take their shirts off for La Isla Bonita. The males were so dedicated that nearly 20 shirts got thrown onstage, which made Madonna all silly as she forgot the words of one of her most performed songs.

The MJ tribute naturally stayed for this show, Madonna also remembered his memorial: "Today is the funeral of Michael Jackson, thank you for the gift of music. Lets appreciate the people around us: family, friends, yourself. And don't throw your shirts at me, just take them off! Goodness knows I've been taking mine off for you for long enough!" She also dedicated You Must Love Me and Ray Of Light to the belated King of Pop.

On this show, Madonna debuted the red spectacles of Louis Vuitton during the 4 Minutes performance. Previously, it was reported in the media that Madonna would use those shades on tour.

London - 5 July 2009

On the second show, Madonna proved that she doesn't have the luxury of time as she though it was still July 4th (on the other hand, she was not as late tonight as yesterday)! She made front row guys take off their shirts for La Isla Bonita and kept wishing happy July 4th, but later on she admitted that someone told her it's the 5th but brushed it off with "Do I give a fuck?"!

Reportedly the second show had a weaker audience, but Madonna was in a much better mood and still managed to pick the best people for the Give It 2 Me singalong. The Michael Jackson tribute was done the same way with still no request section in sight.

The next show will take place on the same day as MJ's memorial, so at this point, we still don't know if every single show is going to have the MJ tribute or not.

Pop princess Lady Gaga and longtime Madonna collaborator Jonas Akerlund were spotted in the audience. Akerlund got a remark from Madonna when he sat down, in the form of "Stand up you Swedes, I've made you enough money"!

London - 4 July 2009

Performing Candy Shop in O2, London After a 6-month long break, the Sticky & Sweet Tour finally hits the road again! Madonna decided to open the 2009 leg in a city that a year ago was still called as her hometown. Tonight, in London's O2, fans had the chance to witness a revamped show.

Though most of the show remained the same, it was still filled with nice surprises. Madonna had her grand entrance in a new Givenchy coat, but more importantly her new hairdo without the black roots made her look younger than she did last year! Underneath the coat she wore a different bra that accentuated her assets. Candy Shop was performed with Green Pink Caviar playing in the background.

Then everything remained the same, until Into The Groove, where Madonna sported a red miniskirt. Instead of Heartbeat, her first ever hit Holiday followed, where Madonna repeated the word "celebrate" a lot of times, which might be a hint for her new song.

The song was a new reinvention with a vocoder in the end, but the end of the performance turned into a Michael Jackson tribute, as one of the dancers dressed in MJ's famous Motown 25th anniversary outfit, and danced to the beats of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Billie Jean", the audience went crazy when he did the famous moonwalk dance. At the end, Madonna asked the crowd to celebrate the late King of Pop and went into a rock version of Dress You Up that had the same backdrop images as Borderline.

Get Stupid got small alterations as it showed the Irani president and the "Where's my vote?" campaign instead of George Bush.

Another change occured after Like A Prayer, when Madonna launched a dance version of Frozen, that also contained a small portion of Open Your Heart lyrics, which is the second time these songs get referenced together, after the Drowned World Tour. The end of the song saw a line from MJ's introspective "Man In The Mirror".

The penultimate song was the energetic Ray Of Light and without the infamous request section, Madonna went into the show closer Give It 2 Me, where everyone onstage wore a white glove, another reference to MJ's legendary performance of "Billie Jean", with even copying the signature crotch-grabbing move! Madonna got everyone singing with her, as she always does in the final songs.

Even after the show, Madonna still paid tribute to the late Moonwalker as his 1979 single "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" played when fans exited the O2.

Stella McCartney, Valentino and Jesus Luz were among the attenders.

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