Much more than just a concert, Madame X is a mix of political rally, religious celebration and worldly celebration. That was the concert on Tuesday night, the first open to journalists.
Still a few minutes to the start of the concert and as it fills up, the sometimes so big of a room of the Coliseu dos Recreios in Lisbon seems to get smaller and smaller. After all, it’s not every day you see one of the world’s biggest pop stars so close, literally “eye to eye,” as Madonna herself will make a point of underlining when she later takes the stage. This is therefore not a concert like the others. You can feel it on the street, a multinational crowd that neatly forms two lines to enter the coliseum, but especially in the living room, where anxiety levels are calming to the sound of a quartet composed by Madonna’s Lusophone entourage, the Carlos Mil-Homem percussionists. and Miroca Paris, guitarist Gaspar Varela and trumpeter Jessica Pina, who said goodbye to the sound of an instrumental version of Like a Virgin, all sung in chorus.
When the lights went out and for the first time Madonna’s voice was heard, speaking in the spectacle “eye to eye”, “no cell phones in the middle”, the silence was utter, as in the initial choreography by a dancer, just at the sound of a typewriter while projecting a few sentences by African-American writer and activist Js Baldwin. “Art is here to prove that all security is an illusion,” reads at some point on the stage, as if anticipating the nearly three hours of spectacle about to begin. More than just a pop concert, Madonna’s performance is closer to the concept of musical, in which the songs, the sets and the choreography serve to convey a political message. Supporting minorities, the struggle for freedom, feminism, the individual emancipation of each. In short, the right to be happy. And songs like the ones that make up the latest Madame X album are the perfect soundtrack for such evangelism, as we saw in Lisbon at the very beginning of the concert, to the sound of God Control, with Madonna alerting the audience – “this is your wake up call “- for the urgency of a” new democracy “.
The first big explosion of the night, however, comes with Human Nature, the theme of the 1994 album Bedtime Stories, in which Madonna shares the lead with Portuguese trumpeter Jéssica Pina, before finishing singing in the chapel, accompanied by a choir of Black women, including daughters Esther, Stella and Mercy: “I’m not your bitch, don’t hang your shit on me.”
The stage is followed by changes of scenery, staircases, balconies, walkways and all kinds of structures, where dancers and musicians go up and down. Behind a screen Madonna shifts right there, leaving only her legs open. “They say that the eyes are the eyes of the soul, but there is another part of the body that lets the soul see much better,” provokes, before saying a resounding “fuck”, the only blunder she knows in Portuguese, confesses. “Who do you think of when I talk about small dicks?” The public response was automatic, and somewhere in Washington, the president of the United States must have had his ears burning. “I have no empirical knowledge on this subject, but I know that size really matters,” she says. Strike a Pose, however, is heard, anticipating yet another outburst of the crowd, by now all standing, despite the chairs, to dance to the sound of Vogue, the 1990 classic. The return to Madame X happens with I Don´t Search I Find, which serves Madonna to explain who this new alter ego is: “She is a dancer, teacher, head of state, prisoner, student, mother, child, nun. She is a queen, but she is also a prostitute. Who is she?” do you prefer me to be, the queen or the prostitute? ”
Alone on stage, Madonna then takes a polaroid of herself, “the only photograph there will be tonight,” she stresses, recalling again that it is a concert without mobile phones (the devices are stored in pouches, only open on the way out). As happened in the remaining concerts of Madame X’s tour, Madonna auctiones the photograph right there. In the first night it yielded five thousand euros, paid by a Brazilian fan, and yesterday another thousand, disbursed by Juan, who came on purpose from Spain to see it.
Donald Trump, “the psychopath who invented a war,” returns to the fray as an introduction to American Life, the opening theme of the album of the same name, released in 2003. The mood is however about to change, as one notices when the Cape Verde Batukadeira Orchestra bursts into the room. Already on stage, sitting in a semicircle around Madonna, they interpret with her the theme Batuka, in one of the most moving moments of the night, which ends with all holding hands. Madonna then comes to the front of the stage to tell the audience the story of her relationship with Lisbon, the people she met here and how the city inspired her. The speech is often interrupted by declarations of love from the public in various languages and accents. Madonna enjoys and also makes a declaration of love to “great friend Celeste Rodrigues”, who honors singing a fado, accompanied only by the Portuguese guitar of Gaspar Varela, great-grandson of the fado singer. “Another great woman, Celeste,” he blurts out before returning to Madame X with Killers Who Are Partying: “The world is wild, the road is lonely,” he once again sings in Portuguese.
Meanwhile the curtains open and the scene is now transformed into a typical Lisbon fado house. “Welcome to my fado club, where you drink bitter.” You hear La Isla Bonita, which merges with Sodade. Madonna then calls on stage the “king of Funana”, Dino D ‘Santiago, with whom he plays a chilling version of Cesária Évora’s classic. In the audience, everyone sings and some Cape Verdean fans can’t contain their tears. “I really wanted to sing this song to an audience who knew the lyrics,” she confesses at the end.
The temperature gets hot again with Medellin, in another duet, this virtual duo, with Colombian singer Maluma, during which the singer descends to the audience, to dance among the audience. She’ll be back later, this time with her son, David, to sit in the front row, resting for a while, next to Ben, a young German nurse dressed in a cone-shaped bra, identical to what Madonna wore in 1990, during the Blond Ambition Tour. “What’s in there?” He asks, while sharing a beer with the fan, who replies that “it’s just a pair of socks”. “See? Size really matters,” she shoots before returning to the stage to play Extreme Occident, another theme from the new album, which she also sings in Portuguese – “What hurts the most is that I wasn’t lost.”
This is followed by a return to the past, this time to the sound of Frozen, the ballad included in the 1998 album Ray of Light. Madonna plays the song behind a semi-transparent screen, where a choreography featuring the eldest daughter is projected. , Maria de Lourdes. After this most intimate moment, the political theme returns with Come Alive and Future, two of Madame X’s most pamphletal themes, with the American singer seizing the occasion to give a speech on “the value of freedom”, urging all present to like themselves “freedom fighters”. The artist warns that there is only one song left, but no one is left standing after Crave’s lively disco party – not even missing a giant mirror ball, reminiscent of the old days of Studio 54 in New York, where Madonna started singing . Everyone knows that one of the most awaited moments of the night is still missing and when you hear the first chords of the classic Like a Prayer the Colosseum explodes as it had not happened before. Everywhere sings and dances to the sound of the gospel choir that accompanies Madonna on stage.
Now it could end, but no, something was still missing. The typewriter keys are heard again: “artists exist to disturb peace,” appears drawn on the walls of the coliseum, in a new quote by James Baldwin that seems to perfectly sum up Madonna’s entire career. On the screen then comes the image of Emma González, the young American anti-gun activist, who in 2018 survived a massacre at her Florida school. From her are the words heard at the beginning of I Rise, the manifesto ending Madame X – the record and the concert. Clenched fist and raised arm, Madonna chants the last slogans, accompanied by all the musicians, dancers, and singers: “Yeah, we’ll get up. Yeah, we’ll get up. Yes, we can, we can get it together.” ” Then disappears into the crowd, as if she were just one of us. In fact, this is more than just a concert.
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