Believe it or not but it wasn’t until the Drowned World Tour that I got to see Madonna perform live. My father had intended to take me to see The Girlie Show in Frankfurt back in 1993 but unfortunately that got cancelled. It was a different time back then and my father just didn’t have the time and money to take me to travel to either Paris or London. I had opportunities to see Madonna at The Next Best Thing London premiere and tried to win tickets to see her at the MTV Awards in Sweden in 2000, but it all failed.
Madonna had become my ultimate obsession and I was determined to see her on her next world tour. When the tour was announced it was as if I had won the lottery, but better than that! As I was the ultimate amateur I had no idea how to book tickets and I had to rely on the use of an internet cafe to get my Madonna tour information….yep different times indeed. I remember reading about companies organising bus trips to Madonna shows in Paris during The Girlie Show and was relying on something similar happening for the Drowned World Tour. I was right!! My heart skipped another beat when I read in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf about a company offering a bustrip with hotel and ticket to see Madonna in Paris on June 30. The very next day at work I counted the seconds and once the clock ticked 9am I made the call to the company. I felt my heart beating in my throat when a lady answered the call. I skipped the “hello” part and immediately asked “are there still tickets for Madonna?” The lady laughed and was clearly amused by my frantic behavior. She assured me that since I was the very first person to call, I was guaranteed of a ticket indeed. This confirmation was like my ultimate life goal, like this huge weight had lifted off my shoulders…..I was going to see her…at last.
Still we kept an eye on other possible ads and we also booked another bus trip + ticket to the June 27th show in Paris. Madonna was set to premiere the tour in Cologne Germany so there was no doubt in our mind that we had to include that in our tour trip. Through another newspaper ad we found an agency selling tickets to the Cologne and Berlin shows. We contacted them and ordered two tickets for the opening night show in Cologne. Unfortunately a while later we all learned that due to technical difficulties the show wouldn’t be able to premiere in Cologne Germany but in Barcelona Spain instead. My heart sank…..I didn’t have the guts to travel to Barcelona for the premiere (remember, this was all new to us and taking the plane was just a step too far, I would’ve shat my pants….literally.)
The agency offered us Berlin tickets instead of the Cologne ones we had ordered and paid for. We chose to go with tickets for June 22 in Berlin and made a trip to a travel agency (I think it was V&D at the time) to book a train trip and hotel.
I can still vividly remember the day that the Berlin tickets landed on my doorstep. I came home from work and a white envelope from M&M events was waiting for me. It was like the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket for me….so I treated it like it was the most fragile thing I had ever held in my hands. Even opening up the envelope was such a thrill. Stuck in between the receipt were two green-colored tickets and my eyes read “MADONNA DROWNED WORLD TOUR 2001” I checked the date and the venue and read the title and announcement over and over again. Yes it really did say MADONNA and it really did say DROWNED WORLD TOUR. It was really real, it was an actual ticket. My ultimate dream was coming true. It probably was the most precious thing I had ever held in my hands. I think I even cried.
A few days before the tour was kicking off in Barcelona we made our daily visit to a nearby internet café to check out the latest news. On the Madonnarama website (from back in the day) the final setlist for the show was revealed. My eyes quickly scanned all the songs and I remember thinking that I was missing quite a few classics. I got excited reading that I would be witnessing seeing “Secret” and “La Isla Bonita”, I couldn’t quite possibly imagine what she had worked on this time. I had been watching a lot of The Girlie Show in the past few weeks (especially the show recorded in Fukuoka) and that sort of was my way of preparing for this new live show I was finally going to see in person.
BARCELONA opening night June 9 2001
I had been a nervous wreck all day, spiritually I was in Barcelona myself in front of the Palau St. Jordi basking in the sun, while in reality I was stuck in bloody boring Almere and torturing my fingernails by using them as replacement for chewing gum. I was so bloody nervous, sick to my stomach and feeling giddy because of the tons of butterflies flying around in there. That evening when the clock struck nine I was sure that the show was starting or about to start and I would’ve given ANYTHING to be in Barcelona myself. I laid down on my bed and stared up at the moon while listening to the cassette tape I had put together with the tracks she was performing in the show, in the order I had read on Madonnarama. It was my way of attending the premiere, but gosh I felt incredibly alone at that point.
The next morning was a Sunday and I got up extra early to catch any TV news report on last night’s premiere in Barcelona. I had grabbed a chair and put it in front of the television and literally sat there with my finger on the REC button of my VCR, ready to record it all. Nothing, nothing and nothing until I changed channels and stumbled upon a French channel. My ears picked up something in French and then…..’Muhdnna’ YES YES YES!! My finger never touched a button so fast in my life, the red REC light confirmed it was recording and my eyes were glued to the TV screen. The presenter finished the intro and the show cut to some live footage of last night’s show.
The first footage they showed was Madonna standing in some sort of mist while turning around and dropping onto the hands of dancers with gas masks on? I recognized the music to “Impressive Instant” and I watched Madonna being carried by her dancers to the front and center of the stage. What was she wearing? A red kilt? Black top, black pants? Blond straight hair? She sang the first lines of the first verse “Universe is full of stars, nothing out there looks the same, you’re the one I’ve been waiting for, I don’t even know your name” and then….the crowd just went wild. I saw nothing but hands in the air and people jumping and I just started screaming and jumping in my little attic room. It happened, it had finally happened. I was going to see THIS, I was actually going to see this…..I was crying again. I was such a wreck.
I remember my mother calling up to me asking me if I was all right. I guess if you have a teenage daughter, you’re kind of used to the tantrums and mood swings that go along with growing up. But a screaming jumping girl going nuts because of a friggin’ French TV news report, was a whole another thing. Through my tears I was saying I was okay but that I had finally seen the first footage of the Madonna show. My mother just sighed….she had been dealing with my Madonna obsession since 1991 and had gotten used to it. When the TV news report ended I kept on rewinding and playing it throughout the entire day. I managed to tape two more news reports that day that showed even more live footage. I was also fascinated by all the fans who had come dressed like Madonna or in full cowboy gear. They were my people, I felt it was where I belonged and I couldn’t wait to come and join them.
Over the next few days I spent all my pocket money on the newspapers that reported on the show and grabbed any chance I could to browse the internet to read all about it.
BERLIN JUNE 22 2001
My first ever trip without my parents. My first ever trip with my boyfriend. My first time going to Berlin. My first time going to see the woman I had idolized since 1991…..
With freshly bleached hair Simon joined me and we made our way to Amsterdam Central Station where we would be taking the train to Berlin. The trip would last for about six hours and I was quite nervous about the entire adventure. We had reserved seats but the train was quite dated and there was nothing comfortable about our trip to Berlin. When we reached Germany the train stopped at every single station and it became quite crowded. People were standing right next to our ‘reserved’ seats and I was gagging for some fresh air.
When we were about to enter Berlin and reach our final stop I was literally gasping for air. I don’t know why but somehow I was lacking oxygen and it made me feel unwell. When the train stopped and the doors opened I breathed a sigh of relief and inhaled the fresh air as if it was my ultimate lifesaver at that moment (well, it also actually is.) I was so thankful to be off that train that I wasn’t even thinking about our important date tonight. The sun was shining and we went to find out how to get to our hotel. We needed to take the Metro to the Zoologischer Garten where Hotel Forum would be.
Berlin was huge and quite impressive. Walking up to the hotel I realized it was a skyscraper and I was praying we weren’t getting a room at the top floor. Yes besides airplanes I also quite dislike elevators. Simon checked us in and gave me the wonderful news that we were indeed booked into a room on floor 34!! Please God no……we tried, but the hotel was fully booked. I had to suppress my anxiety and force myself into the elevator. I grabbed the walls as if I had just gone on a theme park ride and closed my eyes. Simon pressed the button for floor 34, the doors closed and the elevator took off like a rocket….well sort of. To me it felt like I was shot into space so when the doors opened I shakily jumped out of the elevator onto the safe carpet of floor 34. I told Simon that I was never ever going into that elevator again. He just shrugged, laughed and said that I would have to if I wanted to make it to tonight’s show……
Later on in the day I got all dressed up in my Madonna gear including a black shirt with the name “Madonna” in glitter on the front, bought on a Dutch market. We settled on the Burger King right near the hotel for our dinner. While we parked our derrieres on the red chairs my eye spotted something familiar on the near left wall. When I turned my head to get a good look I saw a framed portrait of Madonna as Breathless Mahoney on their wall. Now if that wasn’t a good sign I don’t know what else would be!
After finishing our fast-food-dinner we made our way back to the metro station to catch our ride to the Max Schmeling Halle. Our map told us it was only a two-stop ride, God knows why we felt we needed to take the metro when walking would be cheaper and probably faster as well. When we walked through the metro station in search of the right platform my ears already picked up on Madonna music coming out of the speakers and stores. On the wall I saw a framed promotional poster for German magazine PRINZ with Madonna on the cover. Arriving at the right platform I knew we were heading in the right direction as I spotted the first obvious Madonna fans, all dressed up in cowboy (or cowgirl) gear. Just seeing fellow Madonna fans was so exciting and made it all the more real for me. I nervously grabbed Simon’s arm and could hardly contain my excitement. Oh boy even the damn two-stop ride to the venue was exciting to me…..you’d think I was living quite a dull life……
Getting off at the right stop in full daylight I was welcomed by more Madonna music blasting from every street corner. I had the biggest grin on my face and I am sure my eyes were sparkling like never before. I felt like I had officially entered my biggest dream and was finally actually living it. I felt so at home, so at place so in sync with all the other people there. No classmates, family or colleagues around me cracking jokes or laughing at me for being a Madonna fan. I was so used to having to defend being a Madonna fan, that being with people who felt the same about her was so surreal.
The sun was shining bright and left and right people were pressing promotional flyers into our hands. We greedily tucked it all away in a bag…..hell it was free Madonna merch to me! When I spotted the Max Schmeling Halle my heart skipped another beat (poor little heart of mine.) It looked so small and resembled a sports center. There were a lot of people there and I saw that the doors had opened already. Just a few days ago I had seen those same entrance doors on a TV news report, and now actually being here myself, those doors were like the gates of Heaven to me. We spotted a merchandise booth outside and of course were drawn to it like a moth to a flame..I had a budget reserved for the official merchandise so I was ready to take out my wallet and start spending. Simon convinced me to wait until at least after the show, or come back tomorrow. This way I had time thinking over what I would like to buy. I really wanted the white shirt with the ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl’ image on it. They didn’t have it in my size (XS) so I settled for the one and only size they had left (L). I didn’t care it would be way too big for me, I just needed it. I also purchased the ‘Madonna’ name necklace and the expensive official denim jacket. The tour book also found its way to the plastic bag. It would have been much easier to purchase such a book after the show, but hey what did we know…..
I remember buying The Girlie Show tourbook at the mega record and CD fair from the MadonnaMania fanclub back in 1993, as I never made it to the tour due to the cancelled Frankfurt date. To be able to buy a tourbook at the show was such a thrill!
We then made our way to the doors that would lead us to the most talked about live show in 2001. No queue as most people were inside already. I am still shocked at our late arrival when I think about it. I grabbed the two golden tickets from my bag and handed it over to the security. The guy took it, held it in his hands, frowned and called out to a colleague of his……my heart sank.
I knew it. I shouldn’t have trusted such an ad in a random Dutch newspaper and I had paid so much for this ticket. I wasn’t going to see her after all. All my dreams and all my hope gone in an instant. I was literally dying inside. But then the colleague handed the security guy a black marker and he used that to draw an ‘X’ on the ticket, took out a green wristband that said ‘MADONNA DROWNED WORLD TOUR’ and asked for my wrist. In a trance I shakily gave him my wrist and watched as he put the wristband on. The same was done for Simon. We had no idea what this was for and what this meant but as we were struggling with words, our question about it was met with a vague answer. We took two steps and we were in.
Just thinking about this exact moment still gives me the shivers.
I was INSIDE the venue. I was in the SAME building as MADONNA. It had taken me ten years, but here I was. I am not lying when I tell you I was in tears already. I know what you’re thinking….Kimberly you are such a pussy! Yes I know I was. But there are no words to describe how much it meant to me to be able to see Madonna in person. It was basically my goal in life and I always set to achieve it.
We saw a lot of people standing on the sides and noticed that we were actually on the first floor, the stage was one level down. So I got to take a peek inside the venue. It was incredibly small and incredibly crowded, it was a full house! Quickly we handed over our jackets to the cloakroom and found the stairs to the ground floor. Walking down the stairs we bumped into security and showed them the green wristbands and we were let onto the floor in front of the stage……THE STAGE!! THE ACTUAL STAGE!! We entered the floor on the left side (right side for performer) and saw that we could easily walk up to the front at the barriers on this side. Most people had crowded up near the center of the venue, so there was enough space on the sides. The stage looked much smaller in person than what I’d seen on TV. Due to the venue looking like a gym I felt like I was here to see a school’s musical or stage play. There was nothing glamorous about either the venue or the stage….yet. It was all just very very dark and I really had no idea what to expect next. While the clock struck nine I was chilling and leaning onto the front barrier, simply enjoying the fact that I was here when two people caught my attention. Two women had come up to the front barrier where I was standing and they were busy talking and looking and pointing at the stage. The blond woman was wearing a pink cardigan and she was quite tall and thin and looked so familiar to me. My eyes doubled in size when I recognized Gwyneth Paltrow! Now that I knew who I was looking at I also recognized the other woman as Ingrid Casares. Gwyneth and Ingrid, two of Madonna’s very best friends and who as a Madonna fan I had read so much about. Seeing them right in front of me was surreal and I whispered it to Simon. A fan next to me also recognized Gwyneth and touched her shoulder. Gwyneth immediately retreated without ever glancing to see who had poked her. It sounds crazy but seeing Gwyneth and Ingrid was the ultimate confirmation for me that we were indeed here to see MADONNA and no one else. If they were here, then so was Madonna.
Not more than fifteen minutes later the venue went dark and the biggest roar I have ever heard in my life erupted from the crowd. I panicked. What?! What’s going on?! We had only been in the venue for maybe half an hour, for sure the show would not start now? This soon? Then suddenly….sounds….lights……and a lot of screaming around me. Before I knew it the band rose from the stage and I saw Donna and Niki……DONNA AND NIKI!! I was so close and I could see it all. I remember seeing Stuart Price ripping up tape with his teeth….which I thought was random. The intro completely set the mood, it was dark and oh so scary to me. It was all so damn scary. I had never before experienced something like this and the music just completely overtook me. Seeing Donna and Niki in person would have been more than I ever dare dreamed, but here they were. I had seen them so much on TV and in magazines, but here they were right in front of me. I was panicking because I still wasn’t wearing my glasses and therefore I could see everything but nothing was clear. I was trying to watch the show and search for my glasses in my bag at the same time. Suddenly I hear Simon and he is saying something along the lines of…
“There!!! There she is!! There! Look there!!”
I look and I see.
The weird thing is, while I am writing this I am listening to Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment In Time’ that randomly came up in my playlist. No matter how hard I try to put into words what I was experiencing at that moment, I think the title to Whitney’s song explains it best. To put it simply.
All I see is blond hair, a microphone, a red kilt and a lot of mist. Is she floating on the stage? I find my glasses and put them on. My eyes, brain and heart can’t hardly register what my eyes are witnessing. I recognize the nose, the mouth, the ears, the arms and the eyes. It is in fact Madonna. This is the strangest feeling I have ever felt. I can only compare it to maybe seeing a wax figure come to life right before your eyes. When you have studied your idol for years but always from a distance, it’s so incredibly weird to ACTUALLY seeing them. There is absolutely nothing like it. Nothing comes close to experiencing your favorite artist live for the very first time in person, NOTHING!
I panic and don’t know whether to sing along, to scream, to cry, to laugh so I mix it all up and the final result is questionable. Security gives me a concerned look, afraid I might be about to pass out. I smile back to try and reassure them that I am perfectly fine, but trying to deal with shock. I am actually quite tame but completely in awe of what I am seeing. The opening to the show is so haunting and takes me to a completely different world. Oh my God she’s actually real. She’s perfect in every single way. She is so much more beautiful in person than in any of the thousands of pictures I have seen of her over the years. But how tiny is she? I actually think I might be bigger than her, which is another shock to me.
Madonna finishes the first song and I recognize the footage I have watched over and over and over again. The incredible ‘Impressive Instant’ starts and Madonna drops off the platform onto her dancers’ hands. This is beyond!! The entire venue goes absolutely insane!! Everyone is screaming and jumping and it feels like we are one giant family celebrating together. I watch what I have seen on TV in person but have no idea what comes after the “all the others look the same….” line. I watch in awe when I see Madonna coming over into my direction….she moves closer and closer until she stops right in front of me. I believe my jaw has dropped to the floor and the world has stopped spinning for me while Madonna sings the opposite “and the world is spinning, spinning baby out of control”……She is so close that I can focus on the tiniest of details. She’s pumping her right shoulder to the beat of the music and it instantly became my favorite ‘moment.’ The thing that strikes me most is how muscular her arms are! I will repeat a quote as heard saying by Carlton Wilborn’s mother in ‘Truth or Dare’…
“She’s so tiny and cute!” she is INDEED!
Everything that happened from here on was a complete surprise to me, apart from the official footage shown on TV I hadn’t seen any footage yet. This was in a day and age before everyone viewed live shows through their phone screens. If I were to describe how I experienced every song performed I would need 18 pages at least (front and back! Thanks Ross and Rachel.) Madonna was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, no questions asked. Things worth mentioning that I remember were when the ‘geisha’ section started. The music video to ‘Paradise (Not For Me)’ blew me away, those sleeves during ‘Frozen’, the beat of that drum! All of ‘Sky Fits Heaven’ and that haunting video to ‘Mer Girl part II’. It was the greatest form of theatrical art on stage I’d ever seen. I remember when Madonna was cracking so many jokes right before she started to sing ‘Secret’ that she had to pull herself together in order to start the song. Before singing ‘The Funny Song’ she delighted a fan in the front row on the right side with her spit, as she was pissed y’all. Gwyneth and Ingrid were back right next to the stage dancing to ‘Music’, when Madonna spotted them she pointed at them and boogied along with them. I was most impressed by Lo Que Siente La Mujer and the performance of ‘La Isla Bonita’. Of course ‘Holiday’ brought the house down and ‘Music’ was the ultimate finale.
When the lights went on and people started to make their way out of the venue, I was still frozen to my spot near the barriers. I was simply speechless and couldn’t find the words to express my feelings at that point. So much had happened in the past two hours that I had no idea how to process it all. I don’t need to explain that Madonna had exceeded my expectations by far. I had watched her previous tours on VHS countless times but this show was by far her best. I know it’s an unfair comparison as I hadn’t watched the others in person, but this show was so theatrical, so genius in every single way. I spotted a young girl with her father who carried some sort of backstage passes. They showed their passes to the security and they were let into the backstage area. The girl was all giddy and nervous but I was afraid that Madonna had already exited the building. Still of course I was green with envy of their backstage passes. I watched the venue going empty and picked up the gold confetti that was dropped onto the audience in the final song. This was my happy place. I was at home and I had no plans on going anywhere, I just didn’t want to abandon that euphoric feeling in the Max Schmeling Halle. I wanted to feel like this forever.
Unfortunately Security felt otherwise and when I was literally the final person on the floor in the venue they kindly asked me to leave. I tried to make a joke saying I preferred to stay, but my humor wasn’t catching on. The last two to leave the venue were me and Simon, but we just didn’t care and when we walked up to the metro we couldn’t help but feeling we had witnessed something so incredible, that probably nothing would ever compare! Once we hopped on the right metro to our stop I was clinging to the tourbook as if it were my newborn child. I glanced at the other passengers with a huge grin on my face and remember thinking ‘if only these people knew that I had the privilege of seeing Madonna tonight!!’ In all honestly the people probably couldn’t have cared less.
Back in our hotel, floating somewhere on cloud 9 and discussing every little thing we had seen tonight, we tried to catch some hours of sleep. Throughout the entire night I kept seeing Madonna as a geisha performing ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. I saw the sword coming down, almost cutting off her head….Madonna ducking and getting back up. It was all I kept seeing, no matter how hard I tried to count sheep and go into zen mode. The Drowned World Tour had settled nicely into my brain and wasn’t planning on letting me go.
BERLIN JUNE 23 2001
Not feeling very well rested we still woke up exhilarated. Still very much living on cloud 9 we discussed what we would be doing today. We had no tickets to tonight’s final show in Berlin so we decided that Simon would return to the Max Schmeling Halle late in the afternoon to buy the remaining merchandise I had set my eyes on. We spent the afternoon by doing a little sightseeing and visiting the hotel Madonna was rumored to be staying. Things were very quiet so it seemed like the gang had checked out already.
In the afternoon Simon went to the Max Schmeling Halle while I settled on our bed and watched German TV. It must have been 15 to 30 minutes later when suddenly my cell phone rang and I saw it was Simon. I picked up the phone and Simon told me he’d run into a scalper on the streets and he was selling tickets to tonight’s show. They were seated tickets with a restricted view, but if I’d like to go and see the show again tonight. My ears were ringing and heartbeat started to race. See the show again tonight? It’s absolutely insane that I had never even considered the fact that there was a possibility to buy tickets on the streets for the final show in Berlin. I honestly never even thought about it. What’s it gonna be, merchandise or seeing the show again? You can probably guess what I chose.
Absolutely elated I grabbed my tour outfit again and jumped up and down with joy. I was going to see her again tonight!! Instead of returning with a bag filled with merchandise Simon handed me the ticket for tonight’s show. I couldn’t believe it, what a surprise, what a freaking bonus night!
I think we ate at Burger King again before jumping onto the metro to our stop at the Max Schmeling Halle. Things were just as joyful as they’d been yesterday. We ran into the scalper who sold Simon our tickets and Simon found out he was also selling standing only tickets. We were offered an exchange for our seated tickets but after thinking about it we declined. We thought seated tickets would give us a different view of the show and we might see things we hadn’t spotted yesterday. We went up to the entrance doors again and handed over our jackets to the cloakroom. The girl who took our jackets put them both away together and gave us the one receipt instead of two. We thought nothing of it and went to find out where our seats were. Being inside the venue again really did feel like coming home. Lots of fans approached me asking where I had bought my shirt and whether they could buy it from me……really? No one wants to see me walking around in nothing but my bra…..not that I had much to cover with the bra in the first place……
Our seats were indeed restricted view on the right side (Madonna’s left side) but also gave us a unique backstage view of everything going on behind the stage. Not a lot of people were among us so we had the space to walk around and decided to go up to the front of this section so we had a clear view of the stage. No security around at all. The show started a little bit later than yesterday and seeing how everything unfolded backstage was a whole another experience. There is so much happening there that you have no idea of while watching the show from the front center. The Max Schmeling Halle was absolutely packed, another full house. But boy sitting here just confirmed to me how tiny this venue was. This really was just a sports center…..didn’t even come close to an ‘arena’ let alone a stadium.
Madonna was on fire again and since we had all the space in the world we jumped up and down, screamed and sang along to every song. No pushing, no shoving, just lots and lots of space! During ‘Frozen’ Madonna’s sleeve got caught over her mic while she was singing which annoyed the hell out of her. We caught her grumpy face when she couldn’t be heard singing for a few seconds. Seeing her pissed off in person was an experience on its own. The show was just so incredible that I never once regretted paying (far too much) for my restricted view ticket. I was having the time of my life and frankly no money in the world can compare to that! When Madonna finished the absolutely perfect show, we saw her exit the stage and of course waved like The Crazies. She was gone in an instant. Once again we didn’t really feel like leaving, but seeing as the crew was already dismantling the stage, we were given no choice really. It’s crazy how one minute the show is going full-force and the next they are taking it all down. We were rushed by security to leave the venue as they needed to clear the area. Walking up to the cloakroom we got into a heated argument with the lovely lady who had taken both our jackets and had only given us the one receipt. She only gave us Simon’s jacket while mine was still visibly hanging on the same hook. Simon spoke a bit of German, so he kept telling her that she still had to hand me my jacket, but the girl refused saying I would have needed to have my own receipt. Simon kept explaining to her that it was her own damn fault she hadn’t paid attention when taking our jackets and only giving the one receipt. In the end she was so pissed off that she took my jacket and literally threw it into my face…..the bitch, how very well dare she! Guess someone really wanted to have my jacket though……
PARIS JUNE 27
One thing I need to mention is when we came back from Berlin and I spoke to my mother on the phone (who was on a holiday herself), she wanted to know all about my experience seeing Madonna for the very first time. I remember choking up when all I could say was ‘it was so amazing….’ and literally choking while trying to hold back the tears. My mother told me to stop it or else she would start to cry as well.
I couldn’t wait to see Madonna again and was all set for our booked bus trip to Paris. We had to meet very early in the morning in Amsterdam with the driver of our bus. I couldn’t believe it when my eyes saw a familiar face among the crowd waiting to get on the bus. One of my former best friends from high school whose brother used to be a big Madonna fan, was there too. I’d spent years being friends with her and we even went to Spain together. Somewhere along the way we grew apart and we never spoke again. You’d think that seeing her here of all places would be a sign to reconnect, but I didn’t have the guts to go up to her. I still kick myself for not speaking to her. People can be so weird when they’re shy. Yes I am talking about me.
When on the bus there was a guy in the row next to us and he was on his own. I can still see the official red Girlie Show hat on his head. We started to talk and found out his name was Amon (cut to 20 years later and yes he is still very much a dear friend and Madonnaunderground team member!) He hadn’t seen the show yet and I promised him that I wouldn’t spoil him with any details of the show. Goes without saying that once we arrived in Paris he knew every single detail from the intro to the outro…..
It was still quite early and instead of waiting near Bercy for the rest of the day, we decided to try to find the infamous Madonna store “Lucky Records”. Being in Paris and especially at Bercy was another dream come true. A venue I had read about and seen many pictures of, and here I was myself. The weather was fantastic and we decided on a cup of tea before embarking on our journey to “Lucky Records.” These amateurs had somehow written down the wrong address for the store and it goes without saying that we couldn’t find our destination. We kept asking the French people where Rue de La Verriere was, I think we saw half of Paris by the end of the afternoon. So many stops with the tube, so many French rue’s we’d seen but none were close to what we were after. Thank God for someone that corrected our address and told us it was actually Rue de La Verrerie. We couldn’t believe our stupid mistake and all the hours we’d wasted looking for the wrong address…..Yes kids back in the day we had to find our way using maps. Maps were something we’d like to call a large piece of paper with all sorts of roads and addresses printed onto it. If you knew how to read a map and followed the right direction, you had a good chance of making it to your destination!
When we finally arrived at the correct address we were so excited to be there that we actually forgot we were in Paris to see Madonna tonight. Our goal for the entire day had been to find the store, and now that we were here it felt like we fulfilled that goal. The store was amazing and I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing, it was a collector’s paradise! Now that I think about it I’m not sure if I bought anything. I was such a broke girl back then that I was happy with the free flyers that were given out.
Back at Bercy it had gotten A LOT more crowded and we got all excited when we saw that the merchandise booth outside was open for business! I really wanted the black official cowboy hat with logo tag but no money mo problems! Amon had brought a huge camera with him with giant lens but he was told he couldn’t use that during the show. Thankfully he was given the option to store it inside Bercy. The travel organization had supplied us with seated tickets for tonight’s show, but we had no idea where they would be. Amon was seated in a different section than us so we said goodbye and found our chairs. Bercy was a lot bigger than the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, this was an actual arena! Our seats were right in the center opposite the stage, in other words: all the way in the back. Disappointed? Hell yes. Still over the moon to be there? You bet!
The show started right on time and once again I saw lots of things I never noticed before. Because of sitting right opposite of the stage I had such a clear view of the visuals on the screens, so in the end I was actually quite happy. Seeing the show for the third time with another different view was just as amazing as the shows in Berlin. Madonna surprised the audience when Mirwais joined her on stage to play ‘Don’t Tell Me’, the crowd went wild. I was up and dancing and singing from the start and soaked with sweat….yup Bercy either had no air conditioning or it was turned off by Madonna’s request. Gosh this venue was HOT, I guess the red seats represented fire?
When the show ended we were in such a state and kept on screaming ‘fuck off motherfuckers’ to literally everyone we saw. When outside we walked right up to our bus as it would be taking us right back to Holland. Everyone on our bus was so happy, they all loved the show. Some passengers told us that they went to Disney Paris before going to see the show and were too late so they missed the start and only got to see it from the geisha section. Wait what?! You get the opportunity to see MADONNA and you go to Disney instead?! I couldn’t fathom what I was hearing….decided to keep my honest opinion to myself. We were all exhausted so tried to get some sleep. But sleeping on a bus is always a challenge. Some people even went to lay down on the floor of the bus in order to try and fall asleep. You can imagine that those that needed to use the little toilet in the middle of the night, needed to somehow step over the bodies on the floor……
We all made it back to Amsterdam safely, while waiting to be picked up by car our dear Amon had to ride his bike all the way back to Haarlem….what a trooper!
PARIS JUNE 30
Another round trip to Paris but this time the trip included an overnight’s stay at a hotel. This was the first package I had booked and naturally my final show of this tour. We left Amsterdam a lot later than the previous trip with different company. I knew there were some stops ahead and since the show was tonight I was beginning to worry if we would make it to Bercy on time. Our driver was quite slow and made a habit of pulling over every hour at a gas station. I had brought along The Girlie Show live from Fukuoka VHS (the good old days!) to play in the bus on our way to Paris to set the mood. I was surprised by my fellow passengers as I had trouble spotting true fans. They seemed to be here just to spend a day in Paris and Madonna was just the bonus. None showed true interest in The Girlie Show while it played and the vibe was just off.
Once we finally made it to Paris our driver had trouble finding the right hotel to drop us off. We were driving back and forth through Paris and everyone became quite irritated. If you know me personally you know that I have little to no patience, so my anxiety went through the roof. At one point the passengers decided to help the driver out and took out their maps to show him the way. This I had never experienced before, passengers that told the driver how to reach our destination.
We were staying in a random commercial budget hotel and we couldn’t wait to store our things so we could get our asses over to Bercy. The clock was already nearing 5pm and we still had to eat. We had spent over ten hours on the bus, it was absolutely insane! We quickly went to a McDonalds and grabbed a quick bite to eat. I slowly felt a headache coming on so I asked someone working at the place for a cup of water so I could take some paracetamol. I was handed a paper cup and quickly drank it to wash down the bitter taste of the pills. We finished our ‘dinner’ and hopped on a bus that would take us to Bercy.
The queue at Bercy was enormous and stretched all the way around the venue. Now that I had finally planned on queuing properly for a good spot to experience my final show, it seemed I would have to settle for a spot somewhere in the back. I was so annoyed and pissed off with everything that happened today that it completely affected my anticipation of seeing the show for a fourth (and final) time. When we got inside Bercy we immediately felt the humid air around us and were reminded of how hot it had been when seated. I guess that could not even compare to how hot things would get while on the floor. The left side of the floor was still pretty empty so we walked all the way up to the front left side, just like we had done in Berlin. We found a great spot at the left side barriers where the security was watching the crowd. Bercy filled up quickly and the excitement and anticipation grew by the minute.
When the show started I was enjoying myself to the fullest. I now knew what to expect and when Madonna would come over to our side. You really have to see a Madonna show multiple times, there’s so much happening on stage that you can’t take it in all at once. Madonna was in a great mood and extremely playful. She gave me a great view doing her little dance in ‘Beautiful Stranger’ and during ‘Ray of Light’ she even sang a few words right to my face. I remember just waving like the crazy in love girl that I was. My final show and it had happened, she had looked me in the eyes!! Madonna of course could care less, but yes it’s the little things like this that make experiencing her show so special. I distinctly remember when she performed ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ how the entire audience was singing along so loud that it was hard to hear Madonna. I watched the crowd and it truly felt like we were one big family all singing along to the same song. A song that hadn’t even been a single, yet everyone there knew the lyrics. It was magical.
It was during the final act that I started to feel unwell. I think it was when ‘Lo Que Siente La Mujer’ started that my stomach got upset. I was getting cramps that were extremely painful, like my stomach kept shrinking by the minute. Why oh why did this have to happen now? I tried to pay attention to the show and tried to enjoy it, but when we got to ‘Holiday’ I was leaning over the barriers looking at Madonna like she was the most boring teacher in history. I was in doubt whether to ask security to take me out of the crowd and give up on seeing the final song…or to just stick it out. Madonna was on fire and it was my last show so I decided to stay and try to ignore the pain. But when ‘Music’ finished I was so relieved to leave the venue that I know I couldn’t have stayed for five more minutes.
Outside I breathed in the fresh air and had to sit down, it must have been something I ate. We decided on grabbing a taxi to get us back to our hotel. But before we jumped into the taxi we bought some unofficial merchandise that was offered on the streets, like posters and shirts. I said my goodbye to the tour silently and tried to sleep hoping I would feel better by the morning.
Thankfully I did. When thinking about what I had for dinner yesterday it occurred to me that it must have been the water given to me by the worker at McDonalds. I am aware I can’t drink water from the tap in Paris, but when I asked for a cup of water I am sure they gave me regular tap water. Well anyways it had kind of ruined my final night of the Drowned World Tour, so thank you McDonalds! We had until late afternoon in Paris before our bus would be driving us back to Holland. We paid Lucky Records another visit and did some sightseeing. At the end of the day we discovered that we were completely out of cash and had just enough to buy ourselves a baguette with some French cheese as dinner. We were completely broke.
On our way back to Holland the driver chose to play a movie in the bus instead of more Madonna. We got to watch Stephen Kings’ The Green Mile. A lot less joyful to watch, but fantastic movie still.
I have to admit I looked at options to go and see the Drowned World Tour in London in July, but since we were so low on cash there was just no way. We both still lived with our parents and had to rely on the money we earned by working at a call center selling phone subscriptions. We just didn’t have the funds so we had to be thankful for the four shows we did attend. I was over the moon when a little while later I found a bootleg VHS tape with the full Barcelona show on it. I played that VHS tape over and over and over. This tour was the ultimate experience of my life (at that point) and I needed to relive it again and again.
In the end this tour just made me hungry for more Madonna and I set out to try and attend as many Madonna events that I could. I think I succeeded.