The nominations for the annual UK Music Video Awards have been revealed!

The annual ceremony takes place at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm on Wednesday October 23 and will be hosted by Bug frontman Adam Buxton.

Madonna has a nomination in the category Best Pop Video – International with “Dark Ballet”!

Others nominations in the same category:
Billie Eilish – When The Party’s Over
Madonna – Dark Ballet 
Rosalía – Aute Cuture
Rosalía – De Aquí No Sales
Sigrid – Sucker Punch
Tove Lo – Glad He’s Gone

You can see the full list of nominations HERE

Picture from behind the scenes of “Dark Ballet” video

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Belgian choreographer does Madonna show

Belgian Damien Jalet has worked on the choreography for Madonna’s new tour, Madame X. He worked with Madonna on the opening number as well as three other songs in the show, so he writes on his Facebook. ‘A longtime dream has come true’ says Jalet.

The choreographer who is originally from Brussels worked previously with his life partner Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, but has built a very succesful solo carreer thus far. He has worked on music video’s by Editors and Bjork. The first Madame X concert took place on September 17 in New York

De Standaard

Thanks to Danny!

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Madonna Dons Hat By Moroccan Designer Youssef Lahlou for World Tour Opening

Madonna wearing Youssef Lahlou’s custom design.
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Madonna’s Madame X Show Takes The Underplay To The Next Level: Live Review

Madonna
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Capacity: 2,983
Sept. 19, 2019
PollSTARS:      
 
It was in 2017, while in the midst of doing press in support of the Rebel Heart Tour live album that Madonna first expressed her interest in mounting a series of smaller–scaled shows. Speaking to the BBC, Madonna mused “I’ve done so many shows—world tours, stadiums, sports arenas, you name it—that I feel like I have to reinvent that now too. I like doing intimate shows and being able to talk directly to the audience.” 

Cut to 2019 and Madonna has put that dream into motion via the “Madame X Tour.”  It kicked off on Sept. 17 with the first leg ending Oct. 12 after a 21-show(!) residency at the historic Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, whose stage has also hosted noted non- multi-platinum pop artists such as Phillip Glass, Robert Wilson, Steve Reich, John Cale, the late Lou Reed and Twyla Tharp. Along with being one of the few times Madonna has played a small venue (in 1985 she played NYC’s Radio City Music Hall, her opening act, a then upstart rap group called Beastie Boys), the shows both at BAM and the remainder of the tour serve as a stark contrast to the massive and multi-faceted stage craft that has helped make Madonna one of the most consistent live performers of her generation.

Madonna Announces Intimate ‘Madame X’ Tour

It’s not just the scale or seating capacity (the BAM theater is at 2,100) that marks a significant change in Madonna’s creative strategy. Unlike her previous tours which grossed close to $1.3 billion dollars and sold over 9.5 million tickets, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, the ‘Madame X Tour” is only hitting select cities in the U.S. (Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco) and Europe, including Lisbon, where Madonna now lives as a self-described ”soccer mom” and whose fado scene inspired both Madame X the album and the live show (spoiler alert- her intentions might be pure but Madonna’s relatively thin and ever so auto tuned vocals are no match for fado’s mournful undertones).  

Each stop on the tour consists of a residency of a week or more rather than one or two appearances per venue. The decision to perform and then set up camp is an increasingly appealing one. Witness the popularity of Las Vegas residencies, which in essence allows the artist to commute to work and enjoy a semblance of a normal life; something that Madonna, who has three of her six children performing with her (her eldest Lourdes is featured via video during the emotional highlight “Frozen”) would no doubt see as a plus. The residency also allows for fans to see Madonna more than once during the run of her shows as well as enjoying more flexibility when choosing what night they will attend. 

A series of shows means sets and staging do not have to be broken down every night, which helps keep costs down; although judging by the sets, costumes and the fact that Madonna flew over at least 15 musicians from Portugal and Cape Verde it’s clear that she had no qualms about putting her money where her vision was. Running at about two-and-a-half hours in length, Madonna hits the stage at a brutal 10:45 p.m. with about 85 percent new material. Older hits such as “Vogue” and “Human Nature” are reconfigured to better suit the more grown folks atmosphere. While the late set time is annoying, especially since tickets say the show begins at 8:30 and all phones are locked up once you enter the venue via Yondr, Madame X is a crowd pleaser; a gorgeously designed and artfully executed production, skillfully mixing Broadway caliber set design, scrims, video and lighting to create the world of the elusive Madame X. What exactly the whole Madame X conceit is remains unclear, but Madonna and her team have ensured that everything looks and sounds great. This, even as you’re realizing that you’re going to be getting home at 2 a.m.

Madame X is yet another example of what the industry refers to as an “underplay.” In lay person’s parlance an underplay is when an A or maybe B+ level musician opts out of the de rigueur arena or shed tour in favor of a more intimate and modest venue. It’s a trend that’s been bubbling under for a while but, not surprisingly, Madonna has helped to focus attention and generate buzz. For years Madonna has been rightfully heralded as a queen of reinvention, seamlessly going from nascent trend to nascent trend, changing up her look and influences to best suit the zeitgeist and capture the attention of her wildly devoted, diverse but, frankly, aging fan base. With Madame X, Madonna joins the ranks of an impressive list of musicians who have also turned the volume down, so to speak. 

There’s Raphael Saadiq who kicked off his “Jimmy Lee Tour” with a series of low-key club dates; he will double back in 2020 to play larger halls), Jay Z, who throughout his career has graced the stage of NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom and BAM, and most notably Bruce Springsteen’s Tony winning and sold out stint on Broadway.  Nick Cave, whose double album Ghosteen drops next week, has spent the last year on the road with “Conversations With Nick Cave” in which the revered singer/songwriter plays stripped down versions of his extensive catalogue and takes questions from the audience.  The irony is that Cave, after decades of slugging it out as a cult artist, embarked on his first US arena and festival tour not even two years ago. The move back to a more subdued, if such a adjective can used to describe Cave’s music, signals that Cave remains in touch with his loyal fans and is at the point of his career where he can afford to take calculated risks.

But the undisputed king of the underplay must be the late Prince. Throughout his career Prince would double dip; headlining a sold-out arena gig during prime time and then do a looser late night/early morning gig at a club or lounge; often on the same night. The shows, which were the worst kept secret in town, were aimed at the faithful and by all accounts were the stuff of legend. Or sometimes Prince would just skip the bigger space altogether and just rock out at NYC spots such as Irving Plaza or the now shuttered Roseland.

Getting the chance to see a mega star in such close proximity helps to add a magical and elite vibe. Rather than being one of twenty-thousand, a fan is part of a community and can brag that not only did they see Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” shows but were part of the “Madame X” experience; close enough to see every nook and cranny; metaphorically speaking. Underplaying feels more special and in many ways it is since for obvious reasons there are less tickets available. For reasons I can’t quite understand I had never been to a Madonna concert. But now I can say that I was there when she played BAM.

Since 1983 Madonna has courted controversy, some legit and some manufactured. Her music and presentation has championed the underground and been a voice for, among others the LGBTQ community. But perhaps her most significant cultural impact is that while she might not always be the first one in the pool, over the course of close to four decades she’s proven herself to be the performer who makes the biggest splash and whose artistic choices continue to matter.  The Madame X shows are yet another remix. Even though Madonna is, to some degree, following rather than leading the pack these days, the industry is paying especially keen attention to how The “Madame X Tour,” which thus far has received universally strong reviews and ticket sales, pans out.

More at Pollstar

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Catch Ric’key Pageot and his wife (Parlor Social) performing on Friday 9/27

 

In NYC for Madonna this week? Then, mark your calendars for Friday, 9/27! Madonna has kicked off her #MadameX tour and she’s joined by Ric’key Pageot, her longtime pianist and accordion player. This is Rick’s 4th world tour with Madonna and on days that Rick is not performing or practicing, he and Dessy Di Lauro, his wife will be playing a number of Parlor Social shows across different cities.

First up for their ‘Not Giving Up On You Tour’ is this Friday, 9/27 at Ginny’s Supper Club below the world famous Red Rooster Restaurant. It’ll be a night of #SpeakeasySoul and #ProhibitionFunk by Rick, Dessy, and some very SPECIAL guests! Tickets are just $15 in advance. Get yours today at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/parlor-social-with-dessy-di-la…

Thanks to John LaHair

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I’m Breathless yellow vinyl Barnes & Noble exclusive – pre-order now (link available)!

 

A collection of songs featured or inspired by the comic-book-turned-movie Dick TracyI’m Breathless is essentially Madonna‘s take on popular music from the ’40s, particularly big-band pop. Although her singing shows a surprising amount of range, the material tends to be nothing more than cutesy novelty numbers, like the double entendre-laden hit “Hanky Panky.” I’m Breathless approaches greatness only on “Vogue,” a hit single tacked on to the end of the record. Featuring an endlessly deep house groove and an instantly memorable melody, “Vogue” is a detatched, affectionate celebration of transcendent pop and gay culture and stands as Madonna’s finest single moment.

Release Date: 11/22/2019
Label: Barnes Noble Consign
UPC: 0603497854370
catalogNumber: 26209

Pre-order HERE

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Madame X Tour VIP Medellín Experience, September 21 – Live Report by Juan (and buying the polaroid!)

 

When Madame X Tour was announced, the first cities were in the US and to buy tickets there was a lottery system. I saw the prices and told myself: Go for one ticket in NYC. I saw the list of cities and the days of each show and decided to enter the lottery for only one in one city and one price range: VIP Medellín. Front row experience. And yes, 1,995USD plus taxes. I entered.

The day the lucky winners were announced I was really nervous. No email. No email. Then I decided to check my credit card status and voilá, the charge for the ticket was there. The same day I received the email confirmation in the afternoon. Days before they emailed me with my seat: Row AA seat 12. Haaaaaaappy.

So this year my holidays were going to be in the US, last stop NYC. I had to be in NYC on September 21st. I arrived in NYC on September 16th. The opening night was going to happen on September 17th. I had no tickets for that show. So I entered the Icon contest for 10$ tickets but I did not win. So my friends and me decided to go to a Broadway musical: Beetlejuice. Next concert happened on Wednesday 18th. For that show there was no Icon contest, and I had a cruise on East River reserved. During the cruise I decided to check Ticketmaster, to see how much were tickets for the next concert, Thursday 19th. Then I realized prices went down for the unsold seats even the verified resale tickets. And I saw one ticket that my heart started beating fast: Mezzanine Row A. I bought it. My friends didn´t have tickets for any concert, they were with me just for holidays. But on Thursday they went to Ticketmaster and got tickets in Mezzanine for 95$. So we all went to the concert that day. No long queue, at 8pm we were inside the venue. That day the show started around 10:30pm. For me, I really enjoyed myself while waiting for the concert to start.

Show started. Amazing! No spoilers. But I had read that at one moment she took a selfie with a polaroid and sells it to the audience. First day, Rosie bought it. Second night Andy Cohen bought it. That night I was attending I saw how it was sold. Two fans went in front of stage, they offered around 100$. Then a girl from row D or E went and offered 1,000USD. OMG! She got the polaroid. Madonna said: “Only cash”.

My mind started to think the idea of trying to buy it on Saturday, I was going to be front row. So I decided to try it and went to an ATM and got cash.

Now my experience as VIP Medellín. Saturday September 21st, BAM. I arrived at 6:30pm. Only 5 people on VIP Live Nation queue. We entered the theater at 7pm. I went to the VIP area, there you can use your phones. Drinks, appetizers, photo call, music. Fantastic time there. Backstage tour started at 8:40pm. Amazing experience. We saw many area’s, and also where Madonna changes costumes. Toni Villanueva was there. Also we saw Celeste Rodrigues’ grandson: he plays with Madonna on stage. Applauses.

Back to VIP area and also a first look at my seat. My seat was #12, last seat on the row was #14. Concert started around 11:30pm. The guy from seat 14 told me: “This intro is amazing”.

Then polaroid moment arrived. I was in my seat. Madonna said: “How much will you offer for it”. Two or three people went near the stairs to the stage. So I moved there too. I went down on my knees. I had in mind what I was going to offer, I had the cash in my wallet. A young boy told: “It is my birthday, I offer you 500USD”. My heart started beating faster. OMG it is his birthday! But I was not going to fight against him. I had my money in my wallet and I took it out and a paper where I wrote the money I was offering. And displayed. Madonna said: “Madame X is a material girl”. Then looked at me and asked me: “How much do you offer?”. I told: “1,500USD” (and… I´m not a rich, don’t hang your shit on me…). I wanted wanted the polaroid so badly (well, everybody offering money wanted it so badly too). She asked my name and what I did for living. Told her: “Juan from Madrid. I work in a hospital, I´m a nurse”. “You save lives”. I think some people said: “For him (the polaroid)”. Maybe I´m wrong and they said the opposite. We counted the money, we shook hands. She also shook the hand of the birthday boy. I returned to my seat.

Wow, I was in heaven, I was in front row, Madonna in front of me, talking to me, and the polaroid in my hand… But the concert was on. I focussed again on the show and Madonna.

Now a little spoiler: at some point, she goes down to the orchestra section, and seats on a special seat put there for her: seat #16 (later removed when she goes back on stage). So she was there again (I noticed on Thursday how good my seat was, so I knew she was going to sit and speak with the guy next to me). She was so close to me and at same face level, that I was looking at her face and eyes for about… 5 minutes? 8 minutes? That was heaven. She also spoke to me while she was there, and when she left back to stage she said: “Thank you Juan for the cash”. OMFG!!!!!!!

I´ve seen her front row many times in Europe, but in previous tour in Europe the arena or stadium floor is standing, no reserved seats, so if you want front row you have to be in line for at least 2 days. Many people do it, I do it. I even know people that queued for one week. My first Madonna concert was DWT opening night in Barcelona. Since then, all tours. I used to go to one or two concerts each tour, maybe 3, but not more (I´m not a rich, don’t hang your shit on me). For this tour I already have been 2 in Brooklyn. I have tickets for 2 more in London and one more in Paris.

The concert was amazing, her voice sounded perfect. My favourite part was Frozen. You need to look at her and the backdrop video.

End of the night. Needed to sit for 10-15 minutes and text my friends. I was shaking. And then back to Manhattan by metro.

Thank you to Juan!

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Madame X Tour BAM NY Backstage Tour opening night report #2

Backstage Tour – Opening Night
 

During the pre-show party we were picked up by Justin and Bryan for the backstage tour. We were led into the back of the venue where we were given a lecture about the process of the show. Justin is the head of security and told us Madonna is one of the hardest working people in showbiz. She does about 100 entire shows before opening night! She is involved in every single detail of the show and it has to be perfect. From zipper to lightning.

After the interesting lecture, we were brought backstage, we were told we needed to stay in between the white lines on the floors, because the backstage was extremely packed. Usually there is a lot less stuff brought in at small venues like BAM. I believe everything goes into 9 trucks and it takes them aprox 9 hours to unload. I think it must be like playing ‘Tetris’ for Madonna’s staff.

We were shown the hallway to the dressingrooms, but we were not allowed to see them. We did see the smaller dressing area of Madonna and the one for the dancers. A setlist was hanging on a wall, so we got to see what songs she was going to do. I saw two of my faves (not gonna spoil) so I was really happy. We came to the musicians area, where all the instruments stood.

Everybody was quiet backstage. Justin told us it was because everybody was up since early that morning and they were very focussed. He also told us that all music was performed live, either onstage or offstage. Nothing was prerecorded. Then we headed onto the stage. There were these boring looking stairs. But don’t worry, during the show they use ‘geomapping’, to make things quite colourful. Nothing boring about this show! We took a group photo on the stage and after that we were escorted back to the pre-party area and we were free to get to our seats.

Thanks to Tanja Jonk!
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Like a Prayer 30th anniversary editions coming up…..(but when?)

There have been rumours circulating for quite a while regarding the release of a 30th anniversary edition of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ album (though by the time it’s released it will most likely be 31th anniversary edition).

Though not officially announced by Warner Music (yet) the website for Warner Music Czech Republic is already listing the 4CD special edition (EAN: 0603497849680). The rumoured formats to be released are:

  • Remastered Vinyl
  • Remastered Picture Disc
  • 4CD Special Edition
  • Remastered CD (plus a possible 2CD set)

We await the official announcement by Warner Music and will update you once (confirmed) news becomes available.

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Madonna review — intimate risk-taking, rapturously performed ***** (The Times)

Madonna’s show was a blend of physical theatre, political sermon, club night and royal audience
Madonna’s show was a blend of physical theatre, political sermon, club night and royal audienceSTUFISH

★★★★★
Well, she’s still got it. Not just the musical chops, but the ability to surprise. Madonna’s show at the 3,000-capacity Brooklyn Academy of Music, which comes to London for 15 nights in January, is two hours of intimate risk-taking, rapturously performed.

A recurring theme was a quote from James Baldwin that “artists should disturb”, the words punched on to a screen by a woman at a typewriter. Madonna has always liked to see herself as an agitator, but that often gets lost in bigger shows. Here the 61-year-old could communicate directly with a vocal audience, who were all the more engaged for being parted from their phones, which were sealed in special pouches at the door.

Madonna’s voice was characterful and versatile
Read more at The Times
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Madonna at War (Madame X Tour Review)

One of the few press images made available from Madonna's Madame X show
STUFISH
Madonna has banned cameras and phones from her performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, but images will live on in attendees’ nightmares. They’ll not forget the traumatizing intro segment of chest-shaking gunshots and big onscreen bullet holes and a slain dancer. Or the apocalypse pangs later: a pianist in a gas mask, some riot-gear-clad ballerinas, pictures of burning forests projected behind her. Or—causing the biggest shiver at Thursday night’s show—how Madonna sat down next to a random crowd member and interrogated him about not having a date to her concert.

The abusement was the amusement, and the amusement was epic. “Artists are here to disturb the peace,” read the words typed out against a black backdrop at the start of the show, and the James Baldwin quotation proved malleable enough to explain the many confrontations of Madonna’s quite special Madame X tour. Rather than try to sell out arenas after a decade without a hit and the release of what’s arguably her oddest album, the 61-year-old icon has posted up for intimate residencies in a very few cities. Seventeen shows in Brooklyn kick off the gambit, with many tickets pricey enough to deserve censure by Elizabeth Warren.

Did Madonna give fans, some of whom sported the eyepatches and red suspenders that’ve defined her latest makeover, their money’s worth? She certainly got hers: At one point she took a selfie on a Polaroid camera and auctioned it off for $1,000. Kowtowing, clearly, wasn’t on the agenda. She joined the stage more than an hour after the advertised 9:30 p.m. showtime. She forwent many frothy hits—“Hung Up,” “Ray of Light,” “Material Girl”—for less-banging songs off Madame X. Themes of violence, Armageddon, and abortion punctured the promise of escapism. Yet when the lights went up around 1 a.m.—blaring hot and white as Madonna and her dancers marched down the center aisle and out the theater doors—all I saw were grins and tears from the wowed faithful.

Format-wise, the event was less rock concert than a collage of Broadway musical, multimedia art installation, dance-troupe reverie, stand-up night, and draggish pop revue. The set comprised moving staircases with compartments for performers to spring from and for her, at one point, to recreate the S&M writhing of her “Human Nature” video. Footage projected across the stage—sometimes even onto the surrounding walls—teleported the concert to fantastical locales. The most spellbinding transformation saw Madonna singing “Frozen” under a gargantuan version of her daughter Lourdes doing yoga. Don’t laugh, do cry: The moment made for a moving statement on motherhood from someone whose status as a public parent has been all too questioned and contested. She also brought out her kids Stella, Estere, and Mercy James for an adorable “Express Yourself” singalong.

Such personal touches helped ease the tensions of the performer’s Madame X era. Her promotional material has told, told, told fans that the album’s titular secret-agent character is a shapeshifting saint–prostitute–dance instructor. But it hasn’t convincingly shown Madame X as anything other than Madonna coming back from a stint in Lisbon wearing black garters. The BAM show didn’t quite fix that, but it did sell Madonna’s recent influences more ravishingly than the album itself did. One long, gorgeous segment conjured a Fado club with colorful tiling. Another brought in a troupe of traditional hand drummers to thunder through “Batuka,” one of a number of relatively shapeless Madame X songs improved in person by intensity and imagery. For the lead single, “Medellín,” footage of the Colombian singer Maluma popped up in various places around the set, making him seem like heartthrob Tinker Bell.

Such moments of joy and silliness radiated as vividly as the flintier, dramatic material did. The Madame X character, it became clear, embodies a pop star’s messiah complex in a time of global crisis. No subtlety complicated the onstage military-funeral interlude, or the footage of Madonna releasing doves from a New York City rooftop, or lyrics equating all oppressed people—poor, gay, Palestinian, you name it—as beneficiaries of her saintliness. Late in the evening, she gave remarks about preferring love to popularity and freedom to either, and said her purpose was to be a voice for the voiceless: a typical self-justification from any leader in a cult of hero worship. But the power of a show as successful as this is that it beams you directly into a warm, sassy, transfixing human’s brainspace and makes you believe in its rightness. What better entertainment could there be than leaving the theater feeling like a pop star might just save the world?

More at The Atlantic

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Madonna X-periments With ‘The Madame X Tour’

As the 11th tour in her over three decade-long reign as the Queen of Pop, Madame X is entirely unlike any other Madonna tour to date. For one thing, the show is designed for the theater, as opposed to her usual sold-out baseball stadium fare. (The first venue on the trek, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, seats fewer than 3,000.)

Given the close quarters, there’s no catwalk to consider, nor do fans needs to panic about which side is “better.” It’s all relatively close (“intimate,” as she purred to the crowd), and all front and center. Seeing Madonna in that environment,her first time on a theater stage since her West End debut with Up for Grabs in 2002, is objectively a special experience.

The Madame X Tour is also phone-free.

It’s 2019: we’re all addicted to our phones. Even the woman on stage — who the audience paid hundreds, and in several cases, thousands of dollars to see — teased the crowd multiple times about their phonelessness, only to admit to being addicted to her own device during a misguided monologue about technological entrapment and slavery. (A rework is needed on that speech, ASAP.)

Based on conversations in the crowd before the show, no one was actually bothered by the concept of a no-phone concert experience. Fans respected Madge’s desire for undivided attention to get her message(s) across — it only amplifies the intrigue, after all. Finally, a return to the Way Things Were! But be warned in advance: the confiscation doesn’t happen before the show. It happens as soon as you walk into the venue.

After a security check, representatives for Yondr instructed us to silence our phones and slip them into a locked pouch, which we carried for the night. Let’s say you were to arrive no later than 8:30 PM as instructed on the ticket, and she were to delay the show until 11 PM, as she did opening night. That’s nearly three hours of socializing – who knows? You might find love at the Madame X Tour! — or a terrifyingly long time to sit alone with your thoughts. (To be fair, if you explored the venue, there were various roped-off areas where you could unlock your phone with the assistance of an attendant and get a few last-minute hits of dopamine.)

The phone-free concept is also not entirely new: not only is it used at advance album listening parties for journalists, but comedy shows, too. (That Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, also manages Amy Schumer, is perhaps indicative of where they got the idea.) Still, for a concert — especially at this level of superstardom — it’s fairly radical.

The scene inside was anxious and excitable, as people, still adjusting to life outside of their screens, mingled and mocked everyone else’s phone-free behavior. One older couple, bedazzled in custom suits and Madame X eyepatches, bemoaned the fact that they couldn’t show off their outfits in the venue with pictures — normally a staple pre-show spectacle at any Madonna concert.

In short: don’t rush to get there, don’t lose your friends, bring a watch, and maybe even a book, too. Time truly does go by so slowly for those who wait.

So what lies beyond the “X” curtain? What even is this show, exactly? At the highest level, it’s a bit of a hybrid between an actual theatrical production and a concert, but looser in structure than either of the two, giving it the distinct feeling of a production with plans to shape-shift, in setlist and staging, each night on its 90+ show run.

For those who’ve been following along the Madame X ride, it should come as no surprise that the concert kicks off with a silhouette of Madonna at a typewriter, typing out a James Baldwin quote about art and the artist’s role to disturb society, starting over from scratch each time a dancer alongside her onstage gets shot.

Cue “God Control,” her happy-go-lucky disco ode to gun control — and the party begins, with Madge patriotically dressed up in founding father garb, marching with her dancers along two symmetrical stairwells which move and dismantle into various configurations throughout the show. (At times, the concept is almost reminiscent of Grace Jones’ ahead-of-its-time One Man Show from 1982.)

No one who’s ever attended a Madonna concert in the past two decades would accuse the Queen of Pop of being apolitical. The Madame X Tour is no different, and she attempts to cover all her bases, all night long.

“Fuck the patriarchy!” she snarls, kicking back at armored cops before a horn-y rendition of “Human Nature,” one of the show’s standout moments, as nagging fingers point at her from projections around the stage. She launches into an impassioned tirade about abortion after a too-brief performance of the first verse and the chorus of “Papa Don’t Preach.”

“That’s right, I made up my mind! You don’t mind if I choose what I do with my body, do you?!” she declares. She’s not challenging anyone in this crowd, of course. Staunch conservatives probably aren’t queueing up in eyepatches for The Madame X Tour. The crowd roars back in a choir of approval.

“I consider myself a freedom fighter,” she later announces.

She performs “American Life” with a guitar afterward, as torn uniforms shower down on a dancer from above the stage, concluding with a flag-draped coffin being slowly carried across the stage by soldiers.

Madonna interacts frequently with the audience between songs, at one point even sitting down in an empty seat and making small talk with one of the attendees.

“Do you come here often?” she seemingly challenged him. There was a tension in the air, as though the Queen could banish him for one wrong answer.

“For the art,” he said.

“Ah, the art… would you say I’m an artist?” “Oh, yes,” he gushed. “I like how you said that — oh, yes,” she responded back, amused. She approved, thank God, and even boldly took a sip of his beer.

Earlier in the show, Madonna took a Polaroid selfie and effectively auctioned it off to the audience, jokingly boasting about how much it’d be worth.

“Don’t get emotional,” she told one woman, as fans began to bicker for the prized picture. A wad of cash in hand got her attention – and the hand belonged to an old friend: Rosie O’Donnell. Madge pocketed the money, thanking Rosie for her contribution to Her Art, reminding the audience that she’s not making money off of her show, as each dollar goes to yet another light and yet another prop.

She also tries her hand at comedy, which she’s threatened to do ever since her Tonight Show stand-up “debut” in 2015.

“Do you know what they call a guy with a small dick?” she asked the crowd during the show’s first breather as she quick-changed onstage behind a small vanity.

“I wouldn’t know,” she finally answered. “I don’t call guys with small dicks.” Ba-dum-tss!

Parts of the show feel incredibly familiar (“American Life” is like a minimized version of her Re-Invention World Tour performance), and much of the Madame X Tour revolves around recreating her recent promotional performances, including the “Vogue” and “I Don’t Search, I Find” segment — a solid pop star-style performance from her Pride Island show. The sequence finds Madame X in secret agent mode alongside a gaggle of bewigged blonde lookalike dancers in trench coats, strutting around before being captured and interrogated, lightbulb dangling overhead and all.

“Like a Prayer” and “Dark Ballet” are essentially the same stairwell-style set up of both her Met Gala performance and her Eurovision performances, and “Medellín” was more or less a recreation of her 2019 Billboard Awards performance minus her handsome cha-cha partner Maluma – and the $5 million holograms. (He does show up, albeit green-screened into a projection, which is standard Madonna concert cameo fare.)

“Batuka,” too, is essentially the song’s music video come to life, as the women of The Batukadeiras Orchestra gather ’round in a semi-circle and pound away at drums. Madonna respectfully lends them the spotlight for a majority of the performance, sitting to the side on a stairwell before eventually joining the women to gyrate and celebrate.

In case it wasn’t obvious enough from the title, the Madame X Tour is Madame X heavy. Before one of the show’s more cohesive stretches (she welcomes us into her Fado cafe), Madonna delves into the story behind the music of her latest album, explaining her move to Portugal to become a soccer mom, finding herself bored and lonely, and rediscovering her passion and finding inspiration with the regional music wafting through the bars and living rooms of Lisbon — leading to “Crazy,” a bit of “La Isla Bonita” and even a brief cover of a Fado song, “Sodade,” by the late Cesária Évora. In a touching gesture, she is accompanied by the young grandson of a late Fado legend she encountered in her travels, Celeste Rodrigues. He plays alongside Madonna onstage — and fetches her a beer.

Madge curiously does not perform “Faz Gostoso,” a joyous fan-favorite on the new album, but does make time for the album’s most serious-faced moments, including “Extreme Occident” and “Killers Who Are Partying,” a well-intended but embarrassing dirge dedicated to taking on the pain of minority groups. (Mercifully, it goes down better in live form.)

“Future,” which was originally a medieval-meets-post-apocalyptic moment on Eurovision, is now a more muted piano piece, as images of burning forests flare up around the theater.

 

For a Madonna show, the Madame X Tour is surprisingly free of new visual interludes: her existing music videos for the era serve as the backdrop for the most part — and even old ones (“American Life”). The only new projection is inarguably also the show’s greatest highlight: “Frozen.”

After a line of dancers dramatically flail to the sound of sharp breaths and a spoken word verse of “Rescue Me” (so close to a live performance, yet miles away), the screen reveals a woman hunched over, her legs spread, and her hair falling over her face, The Ring-style. As the unmistakable strings of the Ray Of Light classic start to swell, Madonna appears just behind the screen. And then, the woman on the projection looks up through her hair: it’s fucking Lourdes, first daughter of The Queen, supreme heir to the throne.

A collective gasp and cheer ensues.

Beyond just being the stunning 22-year-old daughter of pop royalty, Lourdes can actually move. Madonna stays entirely still, crooning as Lola supplies an incredible interpretive dance on the screen just in front of her mother. It’s captivating. Towards the end of the song, the camera focuses on the “M-O-M” tattooed across her knuckles. It’s an absolutely iconic moment, arguably worth the price of admission alone to witness. (“This is Madonna,” one man breathlessly declared one row behind.)

That’s not the only cameo from her own brood, either: twins Estere and Stella, as well as Mercy, all get down during an acapella version of “Express Yourself” early on the show. They later return for an endearingly sassy strut during the DJ Tracy Young remix of “Crave” — a strangely injected moment of poppers o’clock beats, sequins and furs — towards the very end.

The night concludes with her Stonewall Pride anthem “I Rise,” as Madonna and her dancers leave the stage and march down the aisles, fists aloft, singing the rallying chorus over and over again. A giant rainbow flag drapes down the digital screen.

Madonna is not one for an easy ride. She’s told us as much. And “easy,” in Madonna’s case, would be putting on her usual stadium spectacle of choreography, costumes, stunts and smashes galore from an immaculate back catalog. No one does it better. But she’s got that incessant itch to scratch as an artist, and an endless craving to satisfy — to move forward, go more eccentric, and challenge herself to do things differently this time around. And yes, she’s probably doing it to annoy her fans on purpose at times.

 

“You’re not one of those people who comments on my Instagram and tells me I better perform Hard Candy, right?” she joked at one point. Everyone laughed, even if some of them probably are.

Go to the Madame X Tour, as a stan. You will appreciate the intimacy and unpredictable, experimental theater-esque feel of the show in comparison to what’s come for so many years before. But if you want to hear the hits, dance and capture the moments, this isn’t really the tour for you. Yes, there are a handful of classics scattered throughout — “Like a Prayer,” “Vogue,” “Human Nature” — but for the most part, the Madame X Tour is a disjointed artistic expression; an impassioned mixture of politics and Portuguese based around a vaguely all-encompassing, darkness-fighting alter-ego without any one clear narrative. She is nothing if not (blonde) ambitious.

That’s not to say that elements of her major tours aren’t present in the Madame X Tour — it’s still a Madonna show, after all — but in comparison, it’s a relatively sparse and somewhat strange audience experience (do we sit, do we stand, what do we do with our hands?) — which may be even more of a draw for some fans curious to see what she does without all the bells and whistles, and with plenty of dead air during set changes to fill with actual audience interactions.

In the absence of sensory overload and digital distractions, there’s room for Madonna to breathe and evolve as a performer in a new kind of way — and, presumably, to grow.

Madame X is a cha cha instructor. A professor. An equestrian. A saint. A whore. And still a work in progress.
 
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Concert Review: Madonna’s ‘Madame X’ Is a Political Spectacle and a Test of Fans’ Indulgence (even more press pictures!)

“Stop raping the matriarchy!” Madonna, clad in a sequin-encrusted Revolutionary war costume, shouted to the sold-out crowd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House on Thursday night. Like the Madame X character she crafted for her 14th album, the Madonna who has opted for a theater residency after 37 years of touring stadiums and arenas is playing with multiple dualities. And like the alter-egos at the center of the album that dominates the concert, the show itself has a range of identities: at times it’s performance art, a political rally, a comedy show, a church and even her home in Lisbon, which inspired the record. And Madonna is everything from a political activist and a spy to a comedian and a “cha-cha” dancer on the stage. So why not mix sequins with a getup Thomas Jefferson might have sported while trying to protect women’s rights?

As she never really lets you forget, Madonna is calling the shots with “Madame X,” this show and plenty else besides. And for her, that means attempting to use her privilege and power to enact change while still owning her artistry, even if it is inexplicable at times.

(Photo: Stufish)

Like the first two nights of Madonna’s residency — which opened Tuesday but waited till Thursday to invite the press — attendees were required to lock up their phones for the entirety of the two-hour-plus performance. “I’m not here to be loved — I’m here to be free,” she says during the show, and part of that freedom apparently means not being photographed on anyone’s cellphone. Still, she knows the rule is controversial, so she takes the opportunity to auction off one Polaroid selfie she takes on stage to an audience member for $1,000 (on opening night, the buyer was Rosie O’Donnell).

Another part of being free is playing a set focused on the present and dominated by new material, as she has done for most of her tours in recent years. While longtime fans were probably prepared for this, it’s almost cruel: The few songs from Madge’s earlier career that she performs, including “Express Yourself” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” are largely cut to under a minute, while her “Madame X” tracks are performed in full. One couldn’t help but get the sense that the words in her recent song “Future” rang true for some members of the audience: “Not everybody’s coming to the future.”

(Photo: Stufish)

The present Madonna is also 61, and the move from stadiums and arenas to a more intimate setting reflects that as well. She’s more than capable of dancing, but the demanding routines and choreography that a stadium tour would require may be off the table. Instead, the set is steeped in political commentary. For the opening of the set, she provides another duality: a James Baldwin credo and gunshots to introduce her anti-firearm disco anthem “God Control,” which sees the pop icon prompting the audience to “wake up.” Soon enough, she’s taken on an espionage persona in “I Don’t Search I Find” with a noir-style narrative where the vocoder is an interrogation tool and is hiding in plain sight as a blonde-bombshell spy with “Vogue.” Later she becomes a Lisbon club singer, putting her own spin on Portuguese genre “fado” backed by the guitarra-playing grandson of late fado singer Celeste Rodrigues, Gaspar Varela, and invite a group of batuque musicians to support her for “Batuka.”

Whether it’s more sequins — on nun garb during a choir-backed performance of “Like a Prayer” — or altering her famous lyric “I’m keeping my baby” to “I’m not keeping my baby” on “Papa Don’t Preach,” even the small moments of nostalgia are brought into the “Madame X” era and ethos. Yet, the most undeniably striking moment of the evening was a performance of “Frozen” where the legend sat inside a black and white hologram of her daughter Lourdes reimagining the song’s 1998 music video, bringing the stirring ballad into the present.

(Photo: Stufish)

Of course, Madonna’s fight for “freedom” comes with creative risks. Some, like “Frozen,” pay off. Others are clunky, like when she does the Hustle in the aforementioned Revolutionary War costume during “God Control” while being bounced between two police officers’ shields. She touts female empowerment in unusual ways, with lines like “This is what it’s like to have Mozart coming out of my pussy,” getting the audience to chant “I’m not sorry,” and having her young daughter Esther declaring #Time’s Up to the audience.

By the end of the evening, the themes reach a closure: The show’s early gunshots are answered by a rallying cry for community with “I Rise,” which begins with an excerpt of a recorded speech by Parkland shooting survivor and activist Emma González. It’s Madonna’s warrior stance — one that includes exiting the stage via the aisle with an all-female choir.

And with that, a show full of extremes — and that, on its three opening nights, began at nearly 11 p.m. and ended after 1 a.m — comes to an end. Earlier in the evening Madonna turned on the charm and apologized for the lateness. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting tonight,” she smiled. “I have a lot of wigs. I have six kids. I’ll never do it again.” And once this tour concludes, she probably won’t — at least not at an opera house in Brooklyn.

(Photo: Ricardo Gomes)

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Madame X Tour backstage tour report (BAM opening night NY)

The Medellin VIP package included a backstage tour at the BAM in New York as well. Here are a few details of the backstage tour on opening night.

People were taken on a tour around and on the stage while security came along for the trip. Everyone was informed on Madonna’s routine, rehearsals and the process of creating the show. Madonna makes long hours and there were over a hundred run-through’s of the entire show before the audience got to finally see it. Madonna pays attention to every little detail, for example if she is dissatisfied with a zipper on a specific costume it has to be replaced at once. Madonna doesn’t arrive at the theater before 4 or 5pm and sometimes carries on working until 6am the following morning.

On this occassion there were no dancers around to meet, but some of the musicians were present. All of the instruments were stored there as the entire show is 100% live music. They were also shown the little booth where Madonna changes costumes during the show. Also a sneak peek behind a curtain at the costumes, shoes and various props.

The fans present were also treated to the setlist already as it was displayed backstage.

Thank you to Wendy Gardien for the report!

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Madonna brings freewheeling intimacy to Madame X tour

“You guys know who Madame X is by now, right?” Madonna asked the crowd midway through her set last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, her diamanté eyepatch glinting in the stage lights. “She’s an equestrian, a head of state, a cha cha instructor, a whore, a saint.”

She’s also Madonna Louise Ciccone, of course, and she is an entertainer; a job she’s held, essentially without pause, for nearly four decades. Though never quite as happy-go-loosely as she seems to be doing at this limited series of shows: a freewheeling two hours and 15 minutes of song and dance and conversation in a 2,000-seat venue so intimate, she might stop to steal a sip of your beer — which she did more than once, from a bedazzled fan.

It’s called the Madame X Tour, so it’s not surprising that the evening pulls largely from that album, her 14th, released this past June. But Madonna is nothing if not a canny keeper of her own flame, and several stone classics from her catalog made their way into the setlist, as well as several lesser but still beloved (particularly to this self-selected crowd) hits.

For nearly every “God Control” and “Killers Who Are Partying” from X, there was a segue to the past: “Dark Ballet” into 1995’s “Human Nature,” in which she spun herself like a gymnastic clock inside a circular wall inset, or “I Don’t Search I Find” yielding to a spare reprise of “Papa Don’t Preach,” its circa-1986 chorus defiantly changed to “I’m not keeping my baby,” and followed by a short, fierce disquisition on reproductive rights.

Though some two dozen songs manage to appear in whole or in part, she often stopped to interact during costume changes or between numbers, confiding that moving to Lisbon to become a soccer mom (her son David attended an intensive sports academy there) had left her bored and lonely, and then led her to the city’s fado clubs; dropping dirty jokes (“Amy Schumer told me to tell that one, so if you don’t like it, blame her”); and even dipping into the audience more than once for a get-to-know-you chat (Carol the accountant and Dan from Clapham, you live among immortals now).

As befitting an artist who has spent so much of her career exploring other cultures, there were touches of them everywhere: Gaspar Varela, the young grandson of fado legend Celeste Rodrigues, guesting on guitar; the all-female singing troupe from the island-nation of Cape Verde, known for centuries as a hub of the transatlantic slave trade, who joined her, joyfully, on the rhythmic celebration “Batuka.” A rotating cast of gorgeous multi-culti dancers and musicians appeared in everything from nun’s habits (for the string section) and Midsommar chic (white gowns, flower crowns) to something like Stork Club meets Latin disco (much of the show’s back half).

She paired those somewhat tangentially with her own costume changes, emerging first in winking, Dolly Parton-on-the-Potomac camp (Revolutionary War via 10,000 rhinestones) before morphing into various other looks: femme fatale trench coat with Veronica Lake hair; glitter-bombed Amadeus; a sort of couture Ice Capades in fluttery navy tulle. She drily apologized, too, for the show’s tardy start time, at nearly 11pm: “I have an injury. I have six children. I have a lot of wigs.”

It was her family, actually, who provided some of the night’s most genuinely moving moments — a rare glimpse of domestic life transported to the stage when her seven-year-old twins, Stella and Estere, joined her for a giddy snatch of group choreography, and teenage daughter Mercy slung her arm around her mother’s neck for an acapella “Express Yourself” singalong.

Most striking though was a full scrim late in the show that projected a black-and-white video of a dancer veiled in long curtains of dark hair, which lifted to reveal her firstborn, 22-year-old Lourdes. A trick of stagecraft allowed Madonna to sing her shimmering 1998 ballad “Frozen” both to her daughter and from inside her; the moment was mesmerizing, and exquisitely tender.

The show is hardly without flaws: her political messaging, though heartfelt, is often clumsily on the nose, and several set projections leaned toward the community-theater end of things. But in moments like these, when the construct of Madame X disappeared, what remained was something simpler and somehow much more satisfying than the equestrian or the cha-cha instructor or the saint (or even the mother, the magpie, the erstwhile standup comedian): Not just a pop star and perennial provocateur, but an artist in full.

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Why Madonna’s Madame X Tour Is the Gloriously Insane Mess of Your Dreams

Madonna has never shied away from taking chances. Thirty years after she set fire to the Eighties with the disco basilica Like a Prayer, she’s as gloriously weird as ever. Hence her excellent new Madame X tour, a testament to the genius in her madness. Instead of a full-blown tour, she’s doing these shows as residencies in intimate venues, starting with 17 nights at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. The tiny rooms are the perfect place for Our Lady to strut her stuff. Like her Madame X album, the show is messy, but anyone who’s scared of a mess should avoid Ms. Ciccone entirely, because as any fan knows, her weirdness is where she finds her greatness.

The show follows Madonna’s adventures around the globe. “Everybody knows I moved to Lisbon to become a soccer mom,” she said on Thursday night. “I found myself alone, without friends, a little bit bored.” So after too many Sundays at her son’s soccer games, she started going out to Lisbon clubs and flipped for Portugal’s fado rhythms, which got her creative juices flowing again. As she announced, “From now on, I’m Madame X and Madame X loves to dance!”

The show started extremely late — she didn’t go on until nearly 11 p.m., which she kept joking about all night. “Forgive me if I kept you waiting too long this evening,” Madonna purred seductively, stretched out on top of a piano. “I don’t like to keep you waiting. But I have an injury. I have six kids. I have a LOT of wigs.” Then she had a couple of her dancers help her off the piano and improvised a pop melody: “I bet you had more sleep than meeee!” No rest for the wicked, indeed.

It was a cellphone-free show, with the audience’s phones locked into Yondr pouches that got unsealed at the end of the night. (Honestly, all shows should be this way.) Madonna kept mentioning how much she enjoyed looking into the audience and seeing our eyes as opposed to screens. “The eyes are the window of the soul. But there’s one window you’re forgetting.” She opened her legs, to a blast of orchestral music. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it’s like to have Mozart coming out of your pussy! I am one classy broad!”

The Madame X songs work much better in a theater setting — the album has always felt more like a soundtrack to a stage spectacle, an Original Cast Recording, than an actual listening experience. She had a small army of dancers, plus scene-stealing musicians like trumpeter Jessica Pina and cellist Mariko Muranaka. One of the highlights came early on: “Human Nature,” one of her most enduringly great Nineties hits. She turned it into a stripped-down confession, writhing athletically before doing a bongo solo. It ended with Madonna surrounded by 11 black women — including three of her daughters, Stella, Estere and Mercy James — chanting, “I’m not your bitch!” Madonna yelled at the end, “Have we made ourselves cleeeear?” Just in case, she handed the mic to the very young Stella, who said, “Hashtag #TimesUp!” For good measure, the ladies sang an a cappella chorus of “Express Yourself.”

The show opens with a motto from James Baldwin: “Art is here to prove that all safety is an illusion…Artists are here to disturb the peace.” Fighting words, but Madonna lived up to them in “God Control,” an elaborate production number with cops attacking the dancers under a video montage of news footage. Points were made, including gun control, police brutality and why Madonna doesn’t approve of smoking dope.

Her comic banter was as stellar as the music — she was loose, salty, spontaneous, thriving on her closeness with the crowd. At one point, she crashed in a vacant seat next to a London fan named Dan, flirted, drank his beer, apologized for going on so late, drank more of his beer (“I come from a long line of alcoholics”) and then said, “Dan, you’ve been a great crowd, but I need to get on with my journey.” As she explained, “Freedom is the theme of this show. And the theme of my life, for that matter.”

Madonna performs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in Brooklyn New York on September 17th 2019. Photo Ric Lipson

The night’s two big emotional powerhouses came near the end. She sang “Frozen” all alone, visible behind a video screen of her eldest daughter Lourdes doing an interpretive dance, with her “MOM” knuckle tattoo. It was a beautifully simple moment — just the singer, the daughter and that song, a show-stopper from the album (Ray of Light) where she fully embraced her hippie-mama spirituality. It also demonstrated that for all her love of theatrical excess, she’s a singer before she’s anything else. The night climaxed with a full-choir “Like a Prayer,” a moment that felt sacred yet also sleazy — the ultimate Madonna combination.

Madame X has the global sprawl of her 2001 Drowned World Tour, which this fan would definitely have to pick as her best live show ever. She included a a fantastic fado interlude, starring the Portuguese guitarra of 16-year-old Gaspar Varela. Madonna sang a fado chestnut made famous by his great-grandmother, the late Celeste Rodrigues. There was also a showcase of Batuque musicians from Cape Verde, the all-female Orquestra Batukadeiras, working a centuries-old percussive tradition. She picked up her guitar to cover the Cesária Évora classic “Sodade” — a fangirl moment very much in the Madonna tradition, because what makes her a pop genius is the way she moves so fluidly between fangirling and creating her own art. It echoed her last tour, when she covered Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” which somehow wound up as Lady Gaga’s big drag-show performance in A Star Is Born. (Don’t be surprised if “Sodade” shows up in Gaga’s next Oscar-winning film?)

As always, she focused on new material, doing almost all of the erratic Madame X. (Alas, not “Bitch I’m Loca.”) But the most powerful moments came when she revamped her classics. “Vogue” became a B-movie fantasia with a troop of femme fatales in a black-and-white film noir cityscape, wearing blonde wigs, shades and trench coats. She strummed “La Isla Bonita” as a guitar cha-cha. “This is my striptease right here,” she announced. “This is as X-rated as it’s gonna get tonight.” Then she peeled off one glove, in homage to Rita Hayworth in Gilda and Natalie Wood in Gypsy. One of the night’s big musical surprises: “American Life,” which holds up remarkably well, as she vented her eccentric political rage with Mirwais Ahmadzaï’s vintage Francodisco frisson.

The stronger songs from Madame X came alive in this setting — especially “Extreme Occident,” “Crave” and “Crazy,” where she dropped to her knees before one of her dancers and sang, “I bend my knees for you like a prayer,” a foretaste of the “Like a Prayer” climax to come. She did “Medellin” with a video boost from Maluma. She did just one verse of “Papa Don’t Preach,” as an excuse to change the key line to “I’ve made up my mind / I’m not keeping my baby.” (The song could have used that tweak back in 1986, but better late.)

The crowd was camp as Christmas and twice as loud, gathering Madonna worshippers from all over the world, dressed to the nines. Shout out to the silver fox rocking his vintage “Frankie Say Relax” T-shirt. (Bet he’s the same guy wearing that shirt in the new Beastie Boys Book, in the photo of fans outside their 1985 NYC show as Madonna’s opening act.)

In some ways, this show is Madonna’s version of Springsteen on Broadway, scaling down to an intimate theatrical setting to tell one account of her life story. It’s yet another bond for these two oddly linked legends, who’ve been topping charts together since the days when Like a Virgin went up against Born in the U.S.A. In June, Madonna’s latest concept album debuted the same week as Bruce’s Western Stars cowboy trip, giving them the Number One and Two albums. How gratifying that these two Eighties icons are not only still topping the charts, they’re doing it with their wildest, most experimental work. We chose well when we picked these two as our heroes, right? As Madame X proves, Madonna will never be the kind of superstar who repeats her successes, sticks to her strengths, or plays it safe. Instead, she’s getting weirder with age. Thank all the angels and saints for that.

Set list:

“God Control”
“Dark Ballet”
“Human Nature”
“Vogue”
“I Don’t Search I Find”
“Papa Don’t Preach”
“American Life”
“Batuka”
“Fado Pechincha”
“Killers Who Are Partying”
“Crazy”
“La Isla Bonita”
“Sodade”
“Medellin”
“Extreme Occident”
“Frozen”
“Come Alive”
“Future”
“Crave”
“Like a Prayer”
“I Rise”

More at RollingStone

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As Madame X, Madonna Is Her Most Authentic Onstage Self In Years

The joy of being a Madonna fan is that she’s a true artist, an incisive creative eye who embeds meaning and shades of emotional grey into her work; the other great thing about being a Madonna fan is that she’s an artist who also happens to be a pop star. So when she has something to say, it’s in the details, yes — but wait long enough and it’ll also be bludgeoned over your head. 

“Freedom is the theme of this show,” Madonna told an enthralled, intimate crowd at the Thursday (Sept. 19) night show of her Madame X Tour at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “And the theme of my life, for that matter.”

She might have explicitly spelled out her mission statement during the show, but when it kicked off just before 11pm ET, she eased into the theme with a characteristically unabashed mixture of high art and high camp. As a silhouetted typist hammered out a James Baldwin quote at a desk, a lithe dancer mimed dodging bullets, eventually succumbing to the barrage. After that, Madonna hit the stage, staring out from beneath a Revolutionary War-style tricorn hat as a battered American flag fluttered via video projection. There probably isn’t a more deliciously kitschy way to introduce a show speaking to what personal freedom — and danger — means to the America-born pop artist.

The first song, Madame X’s lush disco standout “God Control,” turned the focus from national mythology to personal history, demonstrating exactly where Madonna found her freedom — on the sweaty floors of New York City discotheques in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s — and how she sees it, quite literally, under fire (the gunshot-punctuated musical odyssey explicitly nods to the 2016 Pulse massacre). 

From there, the Madame X Tour moves on to other freedoms she sees under duress: The freedom to act and the freedom to speak. With regards to the former, “Dark Ballet” found her playing out the persecution of Joan of Arc surrounded by a visually compelling mixture of Christian iconography and pagan pageantry, while a cool jazz take on “Human Nature” fulfilled the latter, allowing her the opportunity to tell-off critics projecting their hang-ups on a woman who dares speak of sex without a coquettish blush (while treating the crowd to a spread eagle that would put Veronica and Charlie to shame). 

In the midst of an a cappella “Express Yourself,” Madonna brought out three of her children — Stella, Estere and Mercy James — to shimmy with the dancers and read a few quotes of empowerment she’d provided for them. Later in the show, eldest daughter Lourdes arrived for the highlight of the evening, dwarfing even her mother. Well, only literally speaking. While stark, three-story-high footage of Lourdes dancing played on a translucent screen in front of her, Madonna delivered a soul-scraping rendition of her 1998 classic “Frozen.” Seeing the Queen of Pop, illuminated by a pinprick of light, engulfed in her daughter’s dancing was a visually stunning moment in an evening full of them.

Madonna performs onstage during Pride Island - WorldPride NYC 2019 at Pier 97 on June 30, 2019 in New York City. 

Another unexpected setlist choice (well, at least for those who didn’t catch her incendiary Pride Island performance) arrived via “American Life,” the unjustly maligned title track from her 2003 album (which was more a victim of the politically paranoid era than any creative deficiency on her part). Her arms snaking above her head as she ran down the list of capitalist concessions that fail to satisfy, Madonna looked exceptionally invested during this glitchpop gem — probably because this is one throwback song she hasn’t delivered ad infinitum.

That fresh, loose (okay, loose for a notorious control freak like Madge) attitude permeated most of her Madame X songs — which were the lion’s share of the setlist. Naturally, that was bad for anyone expecting a greatest-hits parade, but excellent for those open-minded enough to turn off their phones, their expectations and allow an artist they trust and adore the freedom to indulge in what’s getting her off at the moment. 

After moving to Lisbon for her son’s soccer aspirations, she’s currently inspired by the music she heard there: Fado, morna, salsa and more. Aside from playing the Madame X tracks that dabble in those genres, her non-album original song “Welcome to My Fado Club” (mashed-up with “La Isla Bonita”) gave her a chance to moonlight as the beguiling hostess of a hole-in-the-wall Latin club, which — considering her affection for Golden Era Hollywood — is certainly within her wheelhouse. But unlike most ‘40s productions on a Beverly Hills lot, Madonna bothered to include the authentic talents she was paying homage to, bringing out Gaspar Varela, the grandson of fado singer Celeste Rodrigues (whom she sang with prior to the legend’s 2018 passing), for several numbers, in addition to an all-female orchestra from Cape Verde for her rousing, thunderous Madame X highlight “Batuka.” 

“I’m not worried about being popular,” Madonna told the crowd (which, to be fair, was hanging on her every word) near the end of the show. For the Madame X Tour, she means it. At BAM Thursday night, the would-be soccer mom was free of set list demands, time constraints (she took the stage late and skillfully bantered with the audience as long as she felt like it) and the impersonal glow of an arena-full of cell phones desperate to capture a 30-second snippet for a social account. 

The Madame X persona might be a spy, a teacher, a saint, a whore, a cha cha instructor and a mother, but she’s also something not listed in the album lines notes — she’s a more authentic version of Madonna Veronica Louise Ciccone than we’ve seen on stage in some time.

More at Billboard

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