Madonna shrewdly turns personal turmoil into a compelling show
Modal TriggerMadonna performs in concert at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia.Photo: Getty Images
Madonna’s 2015 album “Rebel Heart” came and went, but the decades- long fascination with her personal life is stronger that ever. And on her current tour of Australia, she’s serving it up with near-painful honesty.
During dates down under last week, she performed an intimate and conceptual “Tears of a Clown” concert, which featured her attempting to ride a tricycle, doing a cover of Elliot Smith’s “Between the Bars” (which she previously performed with Rocco), and stopping to address her family issues directly.
“It’s not a fun story to tell or think about,” she told 1,500 fans inside Melbourne’s Forum Theatre. “I probably could have enjoyed myself a little bit more on this tour if he hadn’t disappeared so suddenly, and also if I knew when I would see him again.”
It’s clear the 57-year-old is hurting. But she also knows she has a job to do. Art is at its most compelling and most provocative when it comes from a real place, and so instead of turning up and doing the same tightly rehearsed show and mechanically dishing out the hits as though everything were dandy, Madonna is giving her art a compellingly erratic edge that mirrors her own personal life.
But Madge is also smart enough to know that the world’s media is watching her and looking for cracks in her psyche. So why not give them a few?
In the last week, she requested that someone “f - - k” her — although she quickly followed that up by saying she was just kidding — and has been doing shots of tequila (not really a way for her to drown her sorrows — the tour’s sponsored by Jose Cuervo). But it’s more than enough to send rumors and headlines about “boozy meltdowns” and “sloppy” performances around the world, and keep the “Rebel Heart” tour in the conversation.
But if decades of Madonna-watching has taught us anything, it’s that she likes to give fans and others the emotional insight they seek — but on her own terms. Even when she’s seemingly coming off the rails, she’s firmly in control. Manipulation is just part of Madonna’s savvy.
So gaze into her mind if you want, but just know that she’ll be gazing back into yours.