Exclusive Video: Synth Secrets of Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour

Behind the big production and choreography of Madonna’s 2015-16 Rebel Heart tour are some state-of-the-art synth rigs. Musical director Kevin Antunes, whom we’ve also talked to about his work with Justin Timberlake and on Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: One tribute, invited us onstage for a rare look at the hardware-meets-software stage rigs assembled for himself and co-keyboardist Ric’key Pageot.
On Antunes’ stage riser, a huge amount of the sounds come from a mirrored dual-laptop Native Instruments Komplete setup that includes Maschine pad controllers and Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboards. The MacBook Pros also runMOTU Digital Performer. His audio interface of choice is the RME MADIface XT because he needs to send lots of channels to and from both the front-of-house and monitor mixers. A venerable Mackie Big Knob serves as Antunes’ personal monitor controller, along with customized Master & Dynamic headphones. To his right, a Roland Fantom-G workstation and V-Synth GT comprise the hardware synth portion. A custom-made rack of Gibraltar components utilizes a convex, ribcage-like shape to allow freedom of movement and easy access to foot pedals–and also looks so stealthy that from the audience perspective, it’s as though the keyboards and synths are floating in mid-air.
Ric’key Pageot’s main axes are an Access Virus TI 2 above a Nord Stage 2. For loops and samples, he runs Ableton Live and a Push controller on a MacBook Pro, via an Apogee Ensemble interface, connected via Thunderbolt. (Read about the latest features in Ableton Live 9.5 here.) Like Kevin, he also has the Roland Fantom-G and V-Synth GT.
Kevin, Ric’key, and keyboard techs Joe Wolfe and “Bongo” Longo explain all this and more in this trio of exclusive videos, shot just before sound check at Madonna’s October 2015 performance in San Jose, California.
Read more at Keyboardmag.com
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Madonna will not perform sensitive segment in Singapore, organiser clarifies – Holy Water will be cut

“We wish to reconfirm MDA’s earlier response to this matter and clarify that Holy Water will not be a part of the Singapore show,” says organiser Live Nation Lushington.

SINGAPORE: Madonna will not be performing her controversial song Holy Water during the Singapore leg of her Rebel Heart Tour later this month, clarified organiser Live Nation Lushington on Friday (Feb 19).

In an article published by the Straits Times on Feb 16, it cited an investor in the show, Chief Executive of Kinglun International Holdings James Lee who said Holy Water would be performed in an amended version at the Singapore show.

Live Nation Lushington also stated that it had a cleared song list and performance that would meet the Media Development Authority (MDA) guidelines and requirements of show licensing in Singapore. The company holds the licence for the show.

MDA stated previously that Madonna would not be allowed to perform the segment because it contained “religiously-sensitive content which breach our guidelines”.

The regulator reiterated that the concert organiser has agreed to comply with the terms of the license. “(The license) states that the concert should not contain content or materials which offend any race or religion, and that the performance overall must fall within the guidelines of the R18 rating.”

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Madonna’s Groundbreaking ‘Truth or Dare’ Helped the LGBT Community at Its Most Vulnerable Time

I’ll never forget May 24,1991. It was a sunny Friday and my friends and I went to the Old Orchard Theater in Skokie, IL. to see the opening of the film Truth or Dare. I was still the only huge Madonna fan left in the group. The other guys respected her up until she did the lesbian kiss in the video for “Justify My Love,” released on video cassette after it was banned on MTV five months earlier. We talked about it on the way to the theater in the early afternoon.

“Yeah, that video is so sick,” I said, fully knowing I was a closeted homosexual, as were at least two of the five people who went with us — all pretending to be macho straight guys.

I knew the movie would contain questionable content, but that it did receive good reviews. Besides, Madonna could attempt to murder me at that time and I would still forgive her. This was 1991, when Madonna was the Queen of the Universe. There was no mainstream Internet, but she ruled the radio airwaves, the music charts, conservative protests, magazine covers and just about everything else.

We laughed at the beginning of the film, especially when Madonna says, “I’m waiting!” only a couple seconds after she requests help on stage with the sound at a show in Japan. At that time, Madonna’s narcissist behavior and rudeness were part of her appeal.

The scenes with her flamboyant dancers made me uncomfortable. Was I uncomfortable because of the very conservative environment that our country was going through at the time, when gay people were thought of as evil? Was I uncomfortable because her dancers reminded me that I was different and would have to soon face my differences if I wasn’t going to commit suicide (which is what many gay men did at the time)? Was I uncomfortable because I thought that if I was to come out, these men didn’t represent me at all?

There were other raunchy scenes, but they were more funny than disgusting, although at least ten people in the theater had walked out. However, the scene where Madonna’s dancer Oliver talks about the problems of being the only straight dancer on the tour led into something that changed my life forever. It was a scene of a gay pride parade – something I had never seen before. I knew they existed, but I didn’t know several thousands participated in them. I didn’t even realize there were several thousand other homosexuals in the world.

In the scene, Madonna’s dancers stand in the sidelines while people march, screaming, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to us!” There are all types of people in the scene: some flamboyant, some simple, some old, some young, some dressed outrageously and some dressed conservatively. In other words, they represented everybody. “Even I could fit in there,” I thought.

That moment changed my life. I felt a tear form in my right eye and wiped it right away, just so my friends wouldn’t suspect I was gay since I was moved by the scene. I felt a tingling sensation in my legs that was both powerful and relieving. Even though I still felt I was nothing like Madonna’s dancers, they were now my heroes. They let me know that it was okay to be different. Even if you are a part of the LGBT community, you wouldn’t understand what I felt unless you lived through the 80s or early 90s as a teenager.

When I remember the decision to accept myself no matter the consequences (and believe me, there were some major consequences), I always remember that scene in Madonna’s Truth or Dare at that Midwest movie theater. Even though Skokie wasn’t considered a conservative town (the majority of people there voted for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election), saying the word “gay” was still considered a sin in the early 1990s.

There was another scene where two of Madonna’s male dancers kissed each other. I remember the collective shock and awe the theater experienced. Those who stayed through the film thought they had seen it all. I remember hearing word such as “gross,” “sick,” “disgusting” and even “Jesus,” but I just laughed. I can’t say the same thing about my friends.

Truth or Dare was the first mainstream gay film that many people, gay or straight, saw. It led to acceptance of future films and television shows with gay themes (Roseanne being the biggest). Madonna’s career was hurt by this film as well as future gay and sex-themed projects that alienated a lot of her fan base. However, as many gay men who grew up during that time will admit, it changed their lives. Of course, Madonna’s LGBT activism certainly didn’t end with Truth or Dare and she even influenced Ellen DeGeneres to come out of the closet and change history herself.

It’s important to recognize the dancers in this film just as much as Madonna for putting these scenes out there. Little did they know that they would be a part of pop culture history and would lead to LGBT acceptance. Little did they know how much controversy the film would cause.

Madonna’s dancers from the film, with the exception of Gabrielle Trupin who died of complications from AIDS, will appear in a documentary called Strike a Pose, which premieres at the Berlin Film Festival this week. According to the Independent, the film deals with how the dancers inspired many gay men to come to terms with themselves, how the tour affected their lives and — most importantly — what became of them after the tour.

Like all others who instantly rise to fame, Madonna’s dancers struggled once the fame went away. A couple of the dancers sued Madonna for the film and claimed their privacy was invaded. The case was settled in 1994, but their impact on gay rights will be something that lasts forever.

Daryl Deino

Read more at the Huffington Post

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Madonna flies the flag for Hong Kong: bauhinias, breasts and bravado in first of two sold-out concerts

Bauhinias, breasts and bravado: welcome to Madonna’s first Hong Kong show. “It’s the year of the monkey, right?” she asks, appearing momentarily sweet and innocent.

In her tightly choreographed show, there’s little room for improvisation. But after courting controversy in Taiwan last week for her politically charged message, she is willing to taunt an expectant and enraptured local crowd. “We’re starting a revolution, we’re fighting for what you believe in. So if you’re a Rebel Heart, put your f**king monkey hands together,” she proclaims.Madonna brandishes a crucifix on stage. Photo: Supplied

It’s a wry nod, almost too subtle for a megastar more accustomed to thrusting her groin in the face of vagaries. Then the crimson bauhinia appears, draped across the shoulders of a shirtless dancer.

READ MORE: Madonna in Hong Kong: thousands of fans gather in glittery garb to watch superstar perform at Asia-World Expo

The crowd erupts and Madonna appears to have become the Messiah. It’s the parting shot at the end of a night of Madonna asserting her relevance and cultural immortality amid a set of relentless dance floor anthems spanning three decades, combined with raunchy, religious iconography.

With 32 years in the industry, ten mammoth world tours and 13 albums under her belt, the undisputed Queen of Pop had yet to indulge a Hong Kong crowd on a city stage.

Tickets for tonight’s appearance sold out within 30 minutes – the fastest-selling concert in Hong Kong’s history, prompting another Asia World-Expo date to be added to the Rebel Heart tour.

When she disappeared offstage to change costume, the dancers came into their own in beautifully choreographed routines.

READ MORE: Hong Kong’s 30-year relationship with Madonna: it’s complicated

Whether you think she’s a trendsetter-turned-tagalong, or zeitgeist-mining genius, there’s no denying that without Madonna, live music wouldn’t be what it is. Extravagant dance routines, a backdrop of pyrotechnics, cutting-edge visuals, and a carousel of costume changes are now the modus operandi for major popstars worldwide.

In these uninhibited times, it’s easy to overlook her achievements. A forebearer and sort of fairy godmother for the #freethenipple era; an age where kink and nudity can be artistic expression and political awareness, and a pop star can be simultaneously object of lust and pillar of revolution.

The prolific pop star’s first performance in Hong Kong proves that the longer something is withheld, the more rabidly it is desired and enjoyed.

The show culminated in a bacchanalia of Great Gatsby proportions, featuring chameleonic dancers suddenly shimmering and swinging in flapper gear. Music and Candy Shop were given a roaring 20s makeover while Madonna – somewhere in the glittering melee – was momentarily outshone by a topless dancer evoking “black pearl” Josephine Baker.

Taking to a vintage microphone, the singer suddenly reigned in the fiesta with a powerful solo rendition of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, oozing with romantic languor. No one was allowed to catch their breath for long as the revellers steamed on towards the pulsing grand finale, Unapologetic B***h.

Encore and closer Holiday was a free-form freak-out of lights, colour, feathers, streamers, and that fluttering, red flag. It was both parting shot and starting gun: Hong Kong finally got to bask in Madonna’s glow, but it was far too much fun to be a one-night stand.

Read more at SCMP

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Hong Kong’s 30-year relationship with Madonna: it’s complicated

It was 30 years ago, in January 1986, when Madonna first came to Hong Kong.

She arrived here to shoot the film Shanghai Surprise, and quickly found herself sought after by fans keen to get her autograph.

Married at the time to actor and Shanghai Surprise co-star Sean Penn, the couple refused all interviews and photograph requests, but intrepid SCMP photographer Sam Chan managed to snap shots of the pair dining in the legendary Godown restaurant in Central.

Famous singer Madonna and her actor husband Sean Penn are spotted in the Godown restaurant in Central, in 1986. Photo: Sam Chan

She may have rejected requests for the media’s attention, but Madonna was far more gracious to her fans, who dutifully staked our her hotel and film locations in their search for sightings and an elusive autograph from the material girl.

The photo, along with a framed signature from ‘Madonna Louise Ciccone’ were hung on the walls of the Godown for some years until thieves unceremoniously pinched them in 1990, never to be seen again, despite the posting of a HK$1,000 reward for their return by the venue’s owners.

Autograph hunters with the signature

It was the same year Madonna had indicated interest in performing at Hong Kong’s Freedom Festival concert at the Sha Tin race course as part of the global celebration to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany.

To read the full article visit SCMP

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More tickets released for Madonna’s concert in Singapore

SINGAPORE, Feb 17 – Organisers for Madonna’s concert in Singapore have said that they will be releasing new tickets for the Queen Of Pop’s show on February 28.

According to James Lee, the chief executive officer of King Lun, one of companies supporting the concert in Singapore, there will be more tickets issued in the S$388 (RM1,163) category. However these will be standing tickets. They will be made available from today.

“We want as many people as possible to see this show,” he said. “That’s why we are releasing more tickets in this price category.”

He continued: “Although these are standing tickets, you will still be right in front of all the action.”

He also added that, currently, “about 80 to 90 per cent” of the tickets are sold out.

Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour 2016 in Singapore is produced by Live Nation Global Touring in association with East West Best and exclusively supported by King Lun & The UMS Group.

Standard tickets are priced from S$108 to S$688, with VIP seats at S$1,288, and are available from Sports Hub Tix. — TODAY

– See more at: https://www.themalaymailonline.com/showbiz/article/more-tickets-released-for-madonnas-concert-in-singapore#sthash.chBru3QV.dpuf

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Madonna sneaks in: Superstar gives media the slip as she arrives for Hong Kong concerts

Superstar Madonna gave waiting media the slip as she arrived in Hong Kong from Tokyo on Tuesday night to play two concerts as part of her spectacular Rebel Heart world tour.

The Grammy-winning pop queen landed at Hong Kong International Airport on a private jet with six private bodyguards, before settling in at a luxury presidential suite in The Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Around 8pm, dozens of journalists and photographers gathered at the fountain in front of historic hotel, with only a few guards deployed at the door, but were disappointed not to catch a glimpse of the 57-year-old star.

Madonna was chauffeured from the airport to the hotel in a black Mercedes car around 9.30pm, but when the same vehicle drew up at the front of the hotel about 20 minutes later, she was nowhere to be seen.

One waiting fan from mainland China, who only gave her name as Vivi, said she flew from Beijing to Hong Kong just to experience one concert by her idol.

“I took two days off work. Unfortunately, Madonna won’t come to mainland,” she said.

A presidential suite in The Peninsula with accesses to a private lift and helicopter service costs more than HK$80,000 per night, while a 15-minute private helicopter trip from the airport to the hotel’s roof top helipad costs HK$13,000.

The Oriental Daily quoted sources as saying that Madonna would travel to and from her concerts at Asiaworld Expo by helicopter, and that her extensive crew would stay in the luxury Intercontinental Hotel five minutes’ walk away from The Peninsula.

A lavish personal make-up room, private gym and a dining hall were being set up backstage for Madonna’s two concerts, according to reports. Her entourage included her troupe of dancers, a personal trainer and chef.

The concerts take place on Wednesday and Thursday nights, with ticket prices ranging from HK$688 for the cheapest seats all the way up to HK$11,888 for what organisers call the “ultimate front-row VIP package.” This includes tickets to the ice-breaking party, a VIP pass, souvenir, wine and snacks.

The pop diva will head to Macau on Saturday for two shows at Studio City.

Read more at SCMP

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‘Strike a Pose’: Berlin Review

Checking in on Madonna’s Blond Ambition dancers 25 years later, this Dutch documentary looks at what happens once the performance high is over and the celebrity bubble pops.

Remember when Madonna used to be playful and fierce, and her iconoclastic performance stunts were about pop provocation and spectacular chutzpah, not just frantic bids to stay relevant? The apotheosis of those golden years was the 1990 Blond Ambition Tour, which scandalized the conservative world with its juxtaposition of sex and religion, not to mention birthed the fashion flourish of the Gaultier cone bra. The tour was chronicled in Alek Keshishian’s juicy documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare, which featured the boss exchanging pillow talk with her beauteous multihued harem of seven young male dancers.

So what’s left to consider in another doc that revisits those erstwhile voguing peacocks a quarter-century down the line? It turns out quite a bit in the slender but sweet Strike a Pose, co-directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan. While it becomes slightly padded and a tad repetitious in the eventual reunion of the six surviving dancers, the smartly assembled film makes points that resonate in a world where fame is increasingly ephemeral and life after the celebrity window closes can get awfully cold. It’s a 21st century take on A Chorus Line that examines what comes after rather than before the euphoria of being chosen.

The modest but absorbing film should find a receptive audience keen on gay and pop-cultural programming at festivals as well as on streaming platforms and television. It also taps into recent renewed interest in voguing, as seen in the Sundance premiere Kiki, which also screened in Berlin’s Panorama Documentary section.

At heart, Strike a Pose is a story of orphaned children, who were barely into their 20s when they traveled the world, giving fabulous face and killer attitude with a stratospherically famous surrogate mother who banished their insecurities and made them feel like royalty. The doc’s principal weakness — and it’s no doubt an unavoidable one — is the absence of Madonna to share her memories of that temporary family. And while the guys are disarmingly frank about their personal highs and lows, the suspicion arises that they’re somewhat zipped-up about their possibly litigious former madre.

What rescues the film from becoming just another “where are they now?” reality show is the charm, personality and emotional honesty of the dancers — now in their 40s and mostly still looking pretty fine, even those with thickened waistlines, slackened features and less hair.

The core members of the group were Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez, plucked from the black and Hispanic New York drag-ball scene (House of Xtravaganza was their alma mater) by Madonna to dance in her music video for “Vogue,” directed by David Fincher, and following that, to perform in the yearlong global tour. The charges of cultural appropriation made against Madonna at the time are not addressed, but then, she’s always been a magpie so those gripes now seem irrelevant,

While a willingness to share the spotlight is not the first trait you’d associate with Madonna, she was looking for dancers with presence, and with a story to tell. “Give me more of you,” was her key piece of direction, one of them recalls. That came naturally. “We carried our flamboyance as a warning,” explains Camacho. “Yes, we have earrings on, we have eyeliner on, but don’t mistake any of this for weakness.”

Please read the full review at HollywoodReporter.com

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Madonna’s Feb 28 concert in Singapore costs investors $14 million

Madonna’s upcoming Rebel Heart concert at the National Stadium on Feb 28 is costing its Taiwanese investors US$10 million, or S$14 million.

The cost for her first concert here includes air freight for the pop star’s 27 containers holding the stage, lighting and wardrobe set-ups.

One of the concert’s two investors, Mr James Lee, 53, the chief executive of Kinglun International Holdings – a Taiwan-based property company – revealed the entire cost of the concert in an interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday (Feb 16). The other investor is also Taiwanese but Mr Lee and Mediacorp declined to reveal his identity.

The property magnate also fancies himself as a concert promoter, having brought Western acts such as Mariah Carey and Air Supply to Taiwan over the last three years. He is usually a fan of the acts he brings in, saying that “music culture is an important trend that’s upcoming, which is one of the reasons why we have decided to invest in it”.

The Madonna concert marks his first time investing in a concert in Singapore. He did not invest in Madonna’s Taiwanese concerts, which took place on Feb 4 and 6.

While he did try to get on board for those shows, he was unsuccessful as most of her shows during the Asian leg of her tour are handled by subsidiaries of international concert promoter Live Nation.

Since there was no promoter for the Singapore show, Mr Lee decided to step in.

By bringing the Rebel Heart tour here, he hopes that people from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia will fly in to see her. “It’d be a waste if people in this part of the world don’t get to see her show,” he said, adding that “it’s a show not to be missed, she’s such a legendary queen of pop”.

He says the biggest challenge for the show was getting the government on board, explaining that no other shows on her tour had to be “curated” beforehand.

According to a statement from the Media Development Authority (MDA) last month, Madonna is not allowed to perform the song Holy Water and the show has been given an R18 rating.

The statement added: “In determining the rating, MDA had carefully reviewed the proposed setlist and consulted the Arts Consultative Panel. Religiously sensitive content which breach our guidelines, such as the song Holy Water, will thus not be performed in Singapore.”

Mr Lee admits that they were worried when the government “had some conditions for approval for the show”. They were equally concerned that Madonna would say not to performing in Singapore.

“But surprisingly, she not only agreed to come, but she is willing to change the content just for the Singapore audience,” Mr Lee explains.

The current Asian stops on her worldwide tour – namely Taipei, Bangkok and Tokyo – include a segment in which she performs a medley of Holy Water, a song from her latest album Rebel Heart, and 1990 hit Vogue while scantily clad nuns pole-dance on cross-shaped stripper poles.

When asked if that segment would be removed, Mr Lee says: “From our understanding, it will not be removed, instead it will amended.”

While he is not entirely certain of the changes for the rest of the show, he says: “What I can tell the Singapore audience is that they will not lose any part of the experience, but I think they should be happy because they’re going to see something different from other parts of the world.”

This will also be the first concert at the National Stadium that will require a reconfiguration of the seating to accommodate the show.

According to Mr Lee, the seating will be pulled out to cover the running track of the stadium so that the seats located at the sides are closer to the stage. The entire process will take 10 days and comes at an additional cost.

“We are willing to spend this money just to make it more viable and to bring people closer to the stage,” he says.

Some 80 to 90 per cent of tickets have been sold, but after some negotiations, Mr Lee says that more tickets will be released in the $388 and standing tickets category. These additional tickets will go on sale on Wednesday morning (Feb 17) at 10am via Sports Hub Tix.

He insists that his participation as investor in the concert “is not for profit” and that he is fulfilling a promise to his friends in Singpore. Mr Lee and his wife come to Singapore three to four times a year.

Read more at StraitsTimes.com

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The Berlinale Diaries 2016: The Maestro, the Enigma, a Saudi Love Story & the Madonna Dancers

So far at Berlinale, there have been groundbreaking films, films about love, films about current affairs, movies about the past and some looking to the future. Some push the boundaries of reality, while others really stick our noses into the nitty gritty of surviving, both at home and on the other side of the borders humans have created. But the one thread running through it all, through every film, TV show and interview I’ve been a part of here in Berlin is that if we work together, if we believe in humanity strongly enough, we may just turn out to be OK after all.

Some meetings have sparked newfound passions for me, like when I met a favorite actor I’ve long longed to interview, and, atypical of his usually serious, composed and contemplative expression, he flashed a wide smile saying goodbye. It’s wonderful when those I’ve admired turn out to be even more impressive than I could ever want them to be. Wait, you want a name? Hum… Lets just say he’s featured in that cool Sci-Fi movie in Competition.

Then there was an early morning meeting with the backup dancers from Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour (pictured above), who were featured in the film Madonna: Truth or Dare and are now part of a beautiful, deeply touching documentary titledStrike a Pose, premiering on the 15th of February here at the Berlinale.

We began the interview laughing, getting to know each other and taking photos, and then slowly moved into the human shades of remembrance and melancholy. I was deeply affected by Salim, Carlton, Louis, Oliver, Jose, Kevin, the filmmakers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, but also the spirit of Gabriel Trupin, the one out of the group who has since moved on to being an angel. He’s always remembered, in the film, on the press kit, even in the interview room. Strike a Pose is a perfect love song by Gould and Zwaan to the exceptional men those boys turned out to be. By the end of the interview, we’d cried together, shared our innermost thoughts about life and death, and loved, loved a whole lot.

To read the full Berlinale Diaries visit HuffingtonPost

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