THE CELEBRATION TOUR

The preparation

The rumors were true, Madonna was taking her own story on the road. Instead of focusing on her autobiographical film, the showgirl wasn’t about to step down. With a legendary career that has spanned four decades….this was quite a task to take on. So many hits, so many looks, so many stories to tell. The tour was to be titled simply: The Celebration Tour.

When I received the embargoed Dutch and international press release and posted them when possible, all I could see were the weird distorted “Madonna’s” used in the logo. No new photo shoot or theme but classic Madonna images in a new ‘Picsart’ style. When the dates were announced I kept having flashbacks to the Madame X Tour, and not the positive ones. I can deny it however I can but I have to be honest when I say that I looked at it and thought that M would never be able to pull that off. Simply because of what happened during the Madame X Tour. The many postponements and cancellations had left quite a mark and I hadn’t been able to shake it off. I should’ve known better and put my faith and trust in her but I was too wary and kept my enthusiasm under wraps. Too afraid for more disappointment.

When tickets went on sale early 2023 me and my friends figured out who would purchase what for when and for who. In the end we all settled on dates for Antwerp, Paris, Berlin, Cologne and Amsterdam. Speaking from experience we knew possible second dates would be announced, so we were taking all those in consideration. In the end I booked a total of nine shows and Antwerp would be our opening show and we would attend the final dates in Amsterdam…..but little did we know that things would indeed be changed. Only this time it wasn’t us who would be affected but Madonna herself.

Hospitalization

In June I received a text from my friend Dave, it was a screenshot from a message by Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary. Madonna had been taken ill with a bacterial infection and had been hospitalized. She was stable and on the road to recovery. I was shocked and the news affected me greatly. The tabloids didn’t help my anxiety and we read the worst stories, she had been found unresponsive? She had been intubated? It didn’t help that that first message from Guy was also the very last for quite a while. Everyone was on their toes and the silence was deafening. I didn’t give a damn about the tour, all I wanted was for M to be safe and sound, knitting sweaters for all I could care.

Then finally positive reports appeared and when she was finally photographed by a woman walking down the streets of New York, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Our workaholic girl also announced the tour was back on but would start in London in October instead. The entire US leg was postponed until after the final European dates. I’d had a feeling in my gut all along that the tour would never start in the US but Europe instead, but given the circumstances I was surprised she was starting it at all. So instead of attending the final dates we were now present at the first few.

The Tour

Madonna was starting The Celebration Tour in London on October 14 at the O2 Arena. Unfortunately we didn’t have tickets and all the dates had sold out. We simply had to attend the official opening of the tour, especially now that it was around the corner. Thankfully to The Powers That Be we were able to score tickets for opening night, without knowing where our seats would be. It was astonishing to think that in less than a month we would be making our way over to London, something we hadn’t even taken into consideration. But oh my I was beyond excited, I just silently prayed that M would be taking things easy and hoped she wasn’t rushing herself.

London

One day prior to the world premiere of The Celebration Tour I made my way on a very rainy early morning from my house in Amsterdam to the Central Station by tram. While walking the deserted streets my suitcase was kind of waking up the entire street with its hard rock wheels….I hope my neighbors have all forgiven me. I met up with Dave, Hans and Ronald at the Central Station and anticipation started kicking in. We got to board the Eurostar on time and we found our seats. This was the first time I got on the Eurostar in Amsterdam instead of Brussels, what a luxury not having to transfer trains halfway! Of course I had read about the rumored setlist, the inclusion of Bob the Drag Queen and the story she was to tell. I could form an image of what I was going to see in person, but still it was a whole big mystery to me.

Once we arrived in London we decided on a taxi to take us to The Good Hotel which was near the O2 Arena. The ride took forever and on my way all I could think about was that I should not forget to photograph trams, busses and metro for my son Jax. The sun was out and the temperature reached a very nice 21 degrees, so I was in my element. I wasn’t familiar with the area where our hotel was situated but we had a great view of the O2 and after dumping our luggage in the hotel we decided on a light lunch before taking the cable Car to check out the arena. Even though we were very near to the O2, walking would take up around an hour. I am not very keen on heights and so wasn’t very happy about the Emirates Cable Car, but I told myself not to be a baby and get on it anyway. However, it was a very windy day and our cable car was swaying from left to right. Let me tell you that I wasn’t happy and breathed a sigh of relief when the damn cube finally went down….Where All Life Begins.

The O2 was already in Celebration mode and we walked right into three huge billboards advertising the tour. This never gets old. Seeing the arena, seeing the promotional posters, seeing fellow fans….it just brings the excitement. The obligatory pictures were taken and we were so happy to be there and so blessed to be able to attend opening night of what was already a very special tour. There was also already a merch booth outside, but obviously still closed. We knew a special pop-up shop would be opening at the O2 so went to have a look where it was located. We found it all the way in the back but it was still empty and were told it would open the next day at 10am. Now we wanted to chill and have some cocktails. I ordered a Blue Lagoon and we were all quite surprised when we received not one but two cocktails as it turned out to be Happy Hour. You can imagine walking away from the O2 was a little more difficult than when we got there.

When back at the hotel I bought a box of my most beloved Krispy Kream Donuts, a trip to London is never complete without them! Me and Dave settled on some small bites to eat in the hotel lobby, while Hans and Ronald went to the city center to eat at Hard Rock Cafe. Dave wasn’t feeling well so he headed to bed early, I stuck around in the lobby and found some great company. When I did finally go to bed I was a little too enthusiastic when hitting the pillow, and hit my head on the wooden board behind the bed instead…..a tour is never complete without a few bruises here and there.

London October 14, 2023

The DAY had arrived!! I woke very early and grabbed a donut for breakfast as I was starving after our ‘small bite dinner’ from the day before. We then met up with Hans and Ronald for breakfast in the hotel lobby. We agreed to go over to the O2 as to be on time for the pop up shop to open. To my relief we took the subway instead, which was only two stops. At the pop up shop we saw that we weren’t the first ones there, but had we expected otherwise? We were there well before 10am and the people inside were still busy decorating the store with Madonna merch. My eye already spotted some shirts that weren’t available at the online store. But I wasn’t sure whether I liked them, I mean the Madonna’s in the logo were distorted, but these shirts were something else! They were random images from M throughout her career and probably supposed to be ‘arty’ but then again….while some find certain art absolutely groundbreaking, others just consider it hideous….

Hans predicated the store wouldn’t open until 11am and we all laughed at his joke, but he turned out to be right though. When the store did finally open its doors at 11am the fans jumped on the rack with the Blond Ambition Bomber jackets, they were priced at 250GBP but if you hadn’t known, you would’ve thought they were handing them out for free. There was also The Girlie Show jacket, the re-invented tour shirts, M inspired make-up, exclusive lithograph set and photo op moments. I hadn’t planned to purchase anything at all as the tour was already expensive enough. But I just couldn’t pass on the lithograph set, I mean it had one of my all-time favorite images of M by Steven Klein (2003) and for 50GBP it was rather cheap. I also really liked the red hoodie so I grabbed that one too and after trying on a size small of the Blond Ambition Bomber, I just couldn’t resist! I also adored the rubber bracelets with the Madonna X Maripol tag but when I heard they were 50GBP a set, I threw it back like a rubber ball and not even missed the spot.

So yes I spent too much, something I wasn’t planning on but honestly it was like a virus. When you’re surrounded by fellow Madonna fans, all enthusiastically grabbing the brand new merch and seeing how happy they were about it…..the virus got to me too and I could no longer resist. We brought the freshly purchased stuff back to the hotel and caught another light lunch at the cafe opposite our hotel. Guess what? The temperature had dropped A LOT and it was now actually freezing cold. The absolute perfect recipe for catching a cold and getting sick. Something that never seems to miss on any Madonna tour. I have never been not sick during a Madonna tour, so I was already kind of welcoming it into my world.

The Show

We went back to the O2 a little later in the afternoon and saw that it got a lot more crowded. The merch booth outside was open and besides the same merch as at the pop up shop there were also new things unavailable at the pop up shop, such as the tote bags and posters. Many familiar faces and met up with so many lovely people I hadn’t seen since the Madame X Tour. We then settled for cocktails at Pizza Express and I ate my absolute favorite pizza in the entire world: Pizza Padana! If you want me happy? Bring me some goat’s cheese…..preferably with caramelized red onions and pine nuts. Many fans passed our table and so we got to speak to quite a few, we had a great time.

At 6pm we rushed over to the window outside to pick up our tickets as we still had no clue where we would be sitting! I went up to the lady, handed over my passport and she returned with an envelope that had my name on it. I had to sign the envelope and hand it over back to her. When I got the tickets I saw that wristbands were included with them that said ‘Danceteria’ and the tickets confirmed it….we were in the PIT!! We were so happy and couldn’t believe we would be seeing the world premiere from the pit. If we weren’t excited enough already, this one just sent us through the roof. By now the place was filled with Madonna fans and so many had come dressed up as her or were wearing shirts from previous tours or had created a tee themselves. This kind of brought me back to my very first Madonna concert ever, which was the Drowned World Tour in Berlin back in 2001. The entire area around the tiny Max Schmeling Halle was like one giant gathering of Madonna fans and I had never felt more at home.

But now we just wanted to go in and see what the stage and the pit looked like. Our tickets were checked and we were directed to the entry to the lower floor. When we opened the door we got to have a first look at the stage and I expected the usual two huge banners right next to the stage, but there was this one image that had been posted before on Ms Instagram, however this was just as distorted as the images in the logo. It was the simplicity that did it. The stage was HUGE though, absolutely massive. No matter where you would be standing during the show, you would be close to her at least once. Descending the steps we found our way to the floor and asked one of the stewards how to get to the pit. When two of them had no clue how to get there, it was all the more obvious this was a first show for them too. We got to the pit eventually and there were only three people there. We had the ultimate luxury of settling on a spot somewhere. Since we were clueless what the best spot was, we settled on the barriers on the side of the center catwalk, which turned out to be the best choice!

Slowly more and more people entered the arena and we spoke to more fellow fans. I even met up again with Jean-Michel, who has worked with M since previous tours and we have known him since MDNA. So nice to be able to speak to the crew again and see how many wrinkles we have added to our faces…or gotten rid of them…depending on choices in life. The minutes crept on by and the excitement was almost unbearable. It was the first time for me since Sticky & Sweet in 2008 to attend the opening night of a Madonna tour and this time I was as good as spoiler-free. Of course I had picked up on the many rumors and heard a bit here and there, but with Sticky I had heard the full rehearsal of the show the night before…..we had absolutely no clue what to expect and that made it all the most special and unique for us.

We all expected for M to start around 9pm due to the infamous curfew in the UK, but it wasn’t until 10 minutes past 9 that Bob the Drag Queen started the show! I was absolutely shocked by the fact there were so few people in our (Danceteria) pit, it couldn’t have been more than 30-40 people it was honestly half empty. Gosh….the excitement cannot be described in words how I truly felt when the show started. I saw Bob on the screens as he made his way through the crowd, which reminded me of Mariah’s entrance during her Charmbracelet Tour in 2003. Bob was complete in Marie-Antoinette drag and I laughed at every joke made, as honestly even a fart could’ve made me burst out into laughter. I was just so happy and felt so blessed to be there in that exact spot that I was in. I noticed the screens with all the early M photographs and references and I was taken right back to Mary Gabriel’s Madonna: A Rebel Life book, of which I had the opportunity to read an advance copy throughout the Summer. Mary’s book was so brilliantly written that I had felt I had been on Madonna’s journey with her and now I saw it all come to life in front of me. When Bob said “this is not just a concert, it’s a celebration….” we knew that the moment had come…..M was only seconds away from us.

We still had no clue as to what her entrance would be like but we knew that no one does an entrance like Madonna. They’re all in a league of their own (see what I did there?). Suddenly there was a sea of light and we were mesmerized and taken into a whole new world as the music changed and the lights brightened. “When I was very young…..” and there she was…..she rose like a goddess from the stage and I was taken right back to my very first live encounter with Madonna ever….the Drowned World Tour in 2001. Her entrance there felt most similar to this one and I instantly started to bawl my eyes out. I don’t want to sound like a crazed Madonna fan but she was the absolute picture of perfection and felt otherworldly. I was not just looking at any random artist, I was looking at the greatest live performer of all time, I was looking at a genuine bona fide legend!! Knowing what she’d been through, knowing we’d almost lost her just months earlier…..I was overcome with gratitude to still have her around, to be able to still cherish and celebrate her. In short, I was a sobbing mess.

I’d learned earlier that “Nothing Really Matters” would be the opening track and had no clue how it would work, but man IT WORKED!! It worked like no other song would have been able to come as close as the perfection that “Nothing Really Matters” was. Everything about it reminded me of the Drowned World Tour and I can go on and on on how she cast a spell on me once she set foot on that stage, but I was just enchanted. I will wrap this up saying that M had transformed into a real life goddess and that the experience was not one of this world, it was alien. It was just too special. I tried taking photographs but my new camera was as bad as a vintage disposable one so I quickly threw it back into my bag and tried my best with my phone (which sucked too). From this point on every song was a surprise and every turn the concert would take would be ‘shiny and new’. When “Nothing Really Matters” was over, she turned her back to us and walked to the back. Suddenly all changed on stage and we were taken back to the start of her career, the early days in New York. To my surprise I caught two scans from my archives on madonnaunderground that were used in the compilation on the screens….shock and happiness!

The most obvious track of the night (well to me) was heard, Madonna’s debut single “Everybody”. Madonna looked absolutely stunning in a lace body, skirt, jacket and loose curls (quite a well known hairstyle ever since Sticky & Sweet). It was so good to hear “Everybody” and we sang along to it loud. It was all so colorful and the dancers looked stunning. Next I had expected “Burning Up” but was surprised when I recognized “Into The Groove” instead. She revisited the Remixed & Revisited version which she performed during the Re-Invention Tour as well. While many fans were singing the well known lyrics to the chorus, Madonna was singing the “Into The Hollywood Groove” version instead. Damn good to be back at the Re-Invention Tour again! When I looked I kept on noticing new things and so many hidden things, so many nods to past tours, past looks, past performances. After a high-energy performance of “Into The Groove” suddenly everything stopped and everyone looked around confused. There seemed to be a technical issue and M wasn’t able to continue the next performance. Instead M took the time to talk to the audience and speak of her early days in New York. This lasted quite a while and I was silently praying, things would be fixed because it had all started off so well. Thankfully they were able to fix whatever was wrong and M performed the next track “Burning Up”. I hadn’t even recognized the lady sitting next to her was to resemble her early self. “Burning Up” has been performed quite often on previous tours so to me at that point it was the least exciting performance, but as it’s such an important song in her early career it shouldn’t have been missed. But boy oh boy when we heard the first notes to “Open Your Heart”, we almost lost it!! Now there’s a classic we had been dying to hear again. To think Hans had been discussing his first time ever seeing Madonna live in 1987 and hearing the first notes to “Open Your Heart” still gave him goosebumps, so you can imagine how we felt upon hearing them here again. It was GLORIOUS.

We were a bit lost when she went into a discussion with Bob the Drag Queen about acting wanting (and not getting) into a club before moving on to “Holiday”. It went on a tad too long and it kind of took the energy out of the show. Even though “Holiday” has been performed to death, this one is always such a crowd-pleaser and never fails to entertain. M and dancers in the long coats gave me true Girlie Show vibes. When at the end the song slowed down and one of the dancers (Daniel) acted out he passed away on stage and M covered him with her coat….the entire vibe changed. Hearing some of “In This Life” took us back….now there was a song we’d never thought we’d hear ever again and then BAM “Live To Tell” started. M came up in her “floating time machine” and a huge photograph of Martin Burgoyne appeared. I lost it. I had read so much about Martin in Mary Gabriel’s book (Madonna: A Rebel Life) on their bond and the way he passed and how beloved he was by so many…I was just hit by so many emotions and I felt so much grief, it was overpowering. Then Christopher Flynn appeared…then Herb Ritts…then Howard Brookner….Herb Ritts. My face was soaked. This was by far the most moving performance I had ever EVER witnessed. More and more photographs appeared of the thousands and thousands of lights, an entire generation, lost to Aids. The energy in the O2 was electric and the feeling was so overwhelming but so powerful, something I’d never experienced before.

M landed on the stage right in front of us and her dancers dressed her in a hoodie….and I yelled out “Like a Prayer….Blond Ambition style!!” I instantly recognized the cape/hoodie was the same/similar to the one she had worn during the Blond Ambition performance. I heard The MDNA Tour intro and saw M and dancers pass us by back to the main stage. That is when I suddenly noticed the dancers in the moving circle structure…..I could only utter a WOW and knew we were about to be treated to a very special version of “Like a Prayer”. Then we heard Sam Smith’s “Unholy” which was a perfect fit, followed by one of the greatest remixes of “Like a Prayer” ever, that darn BEAT, that BASS!! Oh holy mother of mercy, yes this was the second coming of the original “Like a Prayer” performance of the Blond Ambition Tour. This was absolutely insane and it was the closest I had ever been to experiencing anything remotely related to that legendary tour in 1990. I was really going from WOW to WOW to another orgasmic Madonna moment. This whole show was one giant Madonna orgasm…to put it mildly.

After a “Living For Love” interlude we saw a boxing ring being set up in front of us…it took me back to a Hard Candy photo shoot as well as the live performance of “Erotica” during The Girlie Show in 1993. Yes, she was indeed performing “Erotica” in the album version with a little bit of the fan-favorite “You Thrill Me” thrown in there (as she did on The Confessions Tour in 2006). She wore a wig that kind of resembled her early 90s days and wore the bathrobe worn during that exact “Hard Candy” photo shoot the boxing theme had reminded me of. Not only that, but she wore the boots she had worn during the finale of her Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008. So many hidden things….so much fun to be able to spot all the nods to her previous tours and performances. Suddenly someone (can’t remember who) tapped me on the back and told me to look behind me….everyone went insane realizing that that infamous red bed, the red bed of that infamous Blond Ambition “Like a Virgin” performance was right there! A dancer dressed as her in that gold corset with THAT ponytail simulated her performance. We went insane!! The red bed was obviously a replica, since it has been sold in a Dutch auction in The Netherlands in the early 90s. Then suddenly “Papa Don’t Preach” started blaring from the speakers and M and the dancer copied the original choreo from (again) the Blond Ambition Tour!! Holy Hell….how many more could I take? It was highlight after highlight after highlight and so on and on…..

She did not perform “Papa Don’t Preach” which was a pity, instead she walked back to the center catwalk and performed a genius “Justify My Love” which was all about the intense choreo. She then sang a bit of “Fever”….more screams from the crowd and then Tokischa was on the screens. So I said “Hung Up on Tokischa”….and indeed the infectious beat gave way and M transformed it to the original 2005 classic we all love and is such a favorite! The crowd went wild and I was right back at The Confessions Tour….it was so nostalgic! After The O2 had danced their butts off things changed and a piano rose from the stage with Mercy playing it, right in front of us. When M approached the piano and we heard the first familiar tunes of “Bad Girl”, we all screamed like never before. Finally….FINALLY….FREAKING FINALLY!! We were actually witnessing Madonna singing “Bad Girl” and she was singing it right in front of us and she sounded absolutely glorious. Not only that but how stunning did she look? How beautiful was she really? She was absolute PERFECTION. She walked over during the second verse and stopped right in front of me, I managed to record it on my phone but my eyes never left her…did not want to spoil this moment by watching it through my phone screen. More tears. A 42-year old mess!!

After “Bad Girl” the stage transformed into a ballroom and we loved hearing “Up Down Suite”, there was M in a black corset by Gaultier performing “Vogue”. We loved it, but thought the judging bit dragged on for a bit too long. I hadn’t even noticed it was Lola (Ms daughter) sitting beside her as the co-judge. Just like it wasn’t until later that David was basically everywhere during the show. M then performed “Human Nature” right beside us. This has been done to death and it was the only time the show kind of lost my attention. I get why she keeps on performing it but if you’re not a random attendee and you’re a die-hard fan like me, you have really seen the likes of this one. It was a surprise this one went straight into “Crazy For You”….beautifully sung but a weird transition. Then OMG….behold she is coming soon! We were once again taken back in time to 2004 and were (kind of) witnessing the opening to the Re-Invention Tour again, but only slightly different. I have always ADORED the opening to the Re-Invention Tour (The Beast Within) so to me this was a HUGE treat.

“Die Another Day” was next and performed right in front of us. I adore the song and it is one of my absolute all time fave songs and I loved the performance but was questioning the style. Her long hair and cowboy hat with black dress, made her seem out to be some sort of witch or wizard? I couldn’t put my hand on it and thought I’d needed to see this performance again to try and understand it. But when I saw the horses on the screens I yelled “Don’t Tell Me!!” to my friends, they must have hated my guts because I kept spoiling the fun (sorry didn’t mean to). I was right M took us back to the Drowned World Tour and performed a similar fun “Don’t Tell Me” as she did back then. Oh this was so nostalgic to me and I loved every second of it. When a huge photograph of Ms mother appeared I was expecting “Promise To Try” to start, but we heard “Mother and Father” instead. I was in absolute heaven as Mother and Father has always been my favorite track from “American Life” and is in my top 3 all time fave Madonna songs. What a huge and amazing surprise and despite having performed it previously on the Re-Invention Tour, we now got the actual album version and it kicked SERIOUS ASS!! While M sang to her mother, David sang to his late mother as well.

After a speech and a version of “I Will Survive” we got the ultimate crowd-pleaser “La Isla Bonita” before M walked back to the main stage and suddenly started to sing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” over a beat that did not really fit the melody of the song (in my opinion). I was expecting (and hoping) for the Miami mix to make an appearance but that did not happen. M left the stage and we were treated to an amazing compilation of M career highlights. There was even a clip of the 2005 interview that Peter van der Vorst did for “Pulse” (and I was present live in the studio for an interview when this originally aired). It is by far one of the worst interviews ever, the questions are so cringe I’d hate to repeat them here. Out of the blue M appeared wearing a long blond wig (think “Frozen” Sickick remix video) and a silvery shiny catsuit thingy….we recognized “Bedtime Story” and M got on top of a cube that rose from the stage. I liked it but felt it somehow took the energy out of the show as not much was happening. This one went right into a super hi-energy remix version of “Ray of Light” and M was once again back in her floating time machine. The dancers raved on the main stage while M surrounded by lasers was performing the hell out of the track, absolutely unable to stand still during this one.

When she was back on stage and a “Frozen” backdrop was seen along with the well known black coat…we all expected the famous humming…..but were treated to “Rain” instead. And what a TREAT it was!! Just as “Bad Girl” this was such an amazing experience and “Erotica” was given the attention it truly truly truly deserves. I had heard M would be revisiting the Billie Jean/Like a Virgin mash-up (as done on The Virgin Tour in ‘85) but this one was done differently. With dancers appearing as Michael Jackson and M on screen dancing to the mash-up. It was done really well and I loved it, just didn’t understand why someone else was clearly singing “Like a Virgin” and they hadn’t just used the album version….

“L U V MADONNA!!” yay back to 2012, a year I absolutely cherish! The dancers dressed in famous Madonna outfits did their routine on stage, before M emerged wearing a blue corset and singing “Bitch I’m Madonna”. However they incorporated someone ‘rapping’ during the pre-chorus which caused for some confusion….no sick beat but yeah….something else. Then there was a bit of “Celebration” and thought I heard a bit of “Music” and then bam it just ended. We were all left standing around confused. This was the end? Oh really it was? Oh okay….the show had been PERFECT but that ending needed a little work. Still we were on CLOUD 9. We were all so happy and so surprised and so overwhelmed by what we had just witnessed. We ultimately agreed that this tour had exceeded our expectations by far and it was right up there with her best ever tours! The Madonna Virus has returned big time and how amazing it had been to be able to witness this in person at the one and only world premiere! After a drink with friends and viewing the photographs we had taken, we took one of the very last rides back to our hotel.

The next morning it was time to return to Amsterdam. We had only traveled to London for the opening show and would not be seeing the other three that were scheduled before she traveled to Antwerp. We took a taxi back to St. Pancras and got back on the Eurostar for the 4-hour trip back to Amsterdam. In the train we had lovely company from a couple that continuously video-chatted to relatives in a very loud way. Dave decided to play some classical music on his Spotify as a response. The nice lady later approached me telling me “you have a really nice voice”, I had no idea if she thought I had been the one singing opera or when I was imitating Kylie’s Padam Padam instead. I gave her a questioning look but thanked her anyway.

Back in Amsterdam I got lucky with the bus and despite the Amsterdam Marathon I was back home within 15 minutes. I spent the rest of the day but going through all of the London photographs and setting up the first ever photo gallery of The Celebration Tour on madonnaunderground.

Antwerp October 21, 2023

Hans was feeling very sick ever since London and wasn’t feeling like going to Antwerp at all. But since he had my ticket and we had made arrangements to travel to Antwerp with his car, he kind of had to. He picked me up early morning and together we made our way to Antwerp by car. I was behind the wheel while Hans tried to relax next to me. It was quite rare that it was sunny as usually when we travel to Belgium we are welcomed by dark clouds and heavy rain fall. I was very much looking forward to seeing the show again and knowing I had Golden Circle tickets for tonight, I was quite relaxed. When we were near Antwerp Google Maps suddenly directed us off the highway and redirected us to a different route. Hans said he didn’t trust it and felt we had to make a U-turn and drive back to the highway….so I did. Once on the highway we immediately ran into traffic and came to an immediate stop. Now we knew why Google Maps had given us an alternative route….there was construction (as usual) and it led to heavy traffic. So yeah….thanks Hans! With a 20-minute delay we made it to Antwerp safely where we parked the car in an underground garage.

We met up with Dave who took us to an apartment we had rented for the next two days. It wasn’t a very busy area and was most similar to a ghetto. The hallway of the building reeked of urine and I didn’t quite know how I felt about this. The apartment was spacious enough and had three separate beds lined up against the wall. Later that afternoon we got ready for show number two and first made our way to a cafe in town where Dave had agreed to meet fellow friends and fans. According to Dave the cafe was only a short distance….but knowing Dave, in our world that meant half an hour walk…AT LEAST. We were right. When we finally got to the cafe we greeted our friends and sat down for some dinner. By now it was already past six but knowing we had Golden Circle tickets, we were taking things easy. I settled on a very greasy margherita pizza which wasn’t that tasty and upset my stomach quite a bit. After that we had trouble deciding how to get to the arena as it was rush hour and everyone was trying to get there at the same time. We decided on the subway but my stomach got so upset that I had to make a necessary stop to a nearby toilet….tmi I know. Returning to the subway we saw that it was absolutely packed and there was no space at all for anyone to even enter the vehicle. Went back upstairs and tried to find a taxi….time was ticking and we were not relaxed at all anymore. I ordered an Uber but it took a while to get it confirmed and in the meantime we found a taxi. So I had to cancel the Uber and I was charged 7,50 for that….holy crap! So the five of us got into the taxi and we went to the arena. Getting there was no trouble but the taxi driver explained that dropping us in front of the arena would not work due to traffic. So we got out and completed the journey by foot. We felt like we had traveled for hours and had seen all of Antwerp by now.

Things weren’t going to get any better….not by a mile! We got our ICON pre-sale tickets ready on our phones and went to the nearest security lady near the doors. She couldn’t scan the tickets and redirected us to one of her colleagues…..same thing happened….redirected to someone else again and we were even told by the ever oh so friendly and cooperative security that we had bought fake tickets. The fourth try was finally a go and we got to go in…at least. By now, we were nearing showtime and we still wanted to dump our heavy winter gear inside one of the lockers we had read about. I asked a lady working at the merch booth where to find them and she told me to walk all the way to the other side of the arena. So the five of us went to the end of the hallway inside the arena but found no lockers, but more security people instead. I told them I was searching for the lockers and you know what they told us? “the lockers are all the way on the other side….and oh yeah….they are outside as well, you have to go back out”. Thankfully time has mellowed me just a bit…but I was on the verge of spitting fire and getting myself arrested.

We ultimately decided to bring our jackets inside as we really had to get to the Golden Circle. We got a wristband and when we finally entered on the side and walked to the entrance of the Golden Circle we breathed a sigh of relief. However, security stopped us and simply said “Golden Circle is full, you have to go to the side”…..emmm….EXCUSE ME?! How on earth is it possible that whenever we are in Belgium to see Madonna we always have all the odds against us?! Like a dark cloud that never seems to want to leave the space above our heads. Obviously we got into a heated argument with security stating we had purchased Golden Circle tickets, which were in the space between main stage and catwalks and NOT on the sides as initially was advertised when they first went on sale. Security just shrugged, laughed and turned a blind eye. The left side where we were told to stand had a steep floor that went down into some sort of pit where the bar was. In other words…here you wouldn’t be able to see a damn thing other than the people who were standing in front of you. Thankfully to The Powers That Be we were upgraded to the pit (Sound Factory) and the security that initially laughed at us were now told to help us put on the pit wristbands, they did apologize though. But unfortunately many other fans weren’t as lucky and were standing on the steep left side floor.

Bob the Drag Queen started the show at precisely 9.40pm which was still early in Madonna Time. He entered through our Pit and we were told by security to make room. I was standing directly next to the door in the pit that security opened for him to enter…..Gosh he’s tall!! Madonna made her stunning entrance as a Goddess again and she looked sensational. She was in really good spirits and I noticed she had shorter hair than in London. She either had a different wig or had forgotten her extensions. But I preferred the shorter hairdo. It was such an experience seeing the show from this angle as we now saw things that we never noticed during opening night. One example was “Burning Up”, which was quite the trip and seeing M having so much fun right in front of me was way different than staring at her back as we had done so in London. She was all smiles and really talkative. What struck me most was even though this was definitely the MADONNA I had fallen in love with, there was also something very different about her. I am not talking about her looks dammit. She seemed more relaxed, seemed to have taken a step back and not the powerbitch control-freak we knew and loved…but honestly I can be so wrong about that. She just came across peaceful. During her speech before “I Will Survive” she spoke about her illness and the loss of her mother at the early age of five. She said she woke up five days after her induced coma surrounded by her kids, being thankful to be given another chance at life and that her mother unfortunately didn’t get that luxury. She was crying on stage and we were all taken aback by her honesty, her story, her sadness, HER. We all had tears in our eyes and I realized I had never even thought it was really THAT serious and that we truly had come close to losing her. It was a beautiful but difficult moment in the show.

Damien Jalet (the choreographer) was the co-judge of the night and there was a small technical glitch before “Bitch I’m Madonna” as she didn’t rose from the stage completely. But that didn’t take away from the fact that she had put on an even more impressive show than in London. We grabbed our jackets and made our way out trying to find some transportation (again) for our way back to the urine-apartment. Gladly we were able to hop on the tram and even forgot to get off on our stop, so had to walk a little back to our Temple of Golden Showers. When my head hit the pillow I almost forgot to put in my earplugs as I was right in the center of two snoring men.

Antwerp October 22, 2023

When I woke up it was daylight (I thought) and Dave and Hans were asking me if I had slept well (I thought)….that is until I actually woke up and they asked me again. I replied “didn’t we just have this conversation?”……dreams are weird.

When I got into the bathroom to take a shower, silly old me asked the men how I was going to get the shower head stiff as it was currently limp……Dave told me to pet it.

We walked another short distance (Dave-style) to a cafe for some breakfast. I could have eaten a horse…if I hadn’t been a vegetarian! The breakfast was welcomed by my stomach with open mouth and I swallowed it whole. I had rarely been this hungry. We wanted to get to the Sportpaleis earlier today in order to get inside the Golden Circle today. We had an early dinner at a pizza place opposite the arena and I chose another pizza, this time a Hawai version that included pineapple and banana…..I did ask if they could please not include the latter. Around 6.30-7.00pm we got to go in and this time the check went fine and we were given the Golden Circle wristbands. We had to wait a while inside before getting inside the space. The Golden Circle was as good as empty and we found a great spot on the right side of the main stage, relaxing our back at the barriers of the far right catwalk (when looking at the stage), another new angle!

A show in Belgium just cannot be complete without any issues. So here I was told by a very over-enthusiastic security-MAN that my camera wasn’t allowed as it was a pro. I told him that it wasn’t a pro as long as the lens wasn’t removable. He tried to look very serious and said something to someone in his ear and told me he had to disappoint me as it really wasn’t allowed. I tried explaining to him that my camera was ancient and probably older than him, but that didn’t do me any favors too. Thankfully when Ms team came out he noticed I was “approved” and no longer commented on my poor camera. Thankfully another guy from security was very friendly and he kept on talking to me while waiting for the show to start, thank you for restoring my faith! A little later than yesterday the show started and when Madonna appeared it seemed her hair was even shorter than yesterday. It was also not stuck in her coat as on previous shows. It looked different, but I loved it! Stuart Price was tonight’s co-judge during ”Vogue” and how come he hasn’t aged at all? During her speech she addressed the passing of her brother Anthony and how she couldn’t comprehend that someone who had always been saving others, was unable to save himself. It was another very personal touch to a very intimate show. This was a Madonna we’d never seen before, a Madonna who wasn’t afraid to be fragile.

After the show me and Hans got back to our car which we parked near the arena that afternoon to make our way back to Amsterdam. There was no traffic and we were on the highway quickly. I got home late at night or early in the morning, depending on how you look at it. I honestly can’t remember a thing after getting home, I probably went to bed and did the necessary hours of sleeping.

Paris November 11, 2023

We had quite a break from being in Antwerp and then going to our fourth and fifth shows in Paris. This madame had made quite a nasty fall in the hallway of my apartment in Amsterdam. I somehow thought I would be able to pull it off by taking my dog’s leash in my right hand, holding the garbage bag in my left and a box full of paper and glass dangling on my arms. You can imagine there were no hands left to grab the railing when my feet slipped on the concrete step and I fell down the entire flight of concrete stairs and landed on my spine and my hip took the second blow. I actually saw stars and when I ‘woke up’ I was sitting in the middle of glass bottles, garbage and a whole lot of old paper…..and Boney (the dog) was looking at me and I could just hear him thinking “what the hell are you doing woman?!”. The pain was excruciating and I was convinced I had broken something. I wasn’t able to stand tall and crawled my way back up to my apartment where I called my doctor and explained what had happened. The doctor ordered me to come in.

Long story short….I had x-rays and ultra sound done and thankfully nothing was broken, but there was a tiny tear and severe bruising in the hip area. I was prescribed painkillers and told to take it easy and to skip my Paris trip……oh HELL I won’t! Even though my body felt like it was falling apart I convinced myself I would be able to enjoy Madonna’s shows still. Look if she almost died and still performs every night, the least I can do is take my bruised ass to the Accor Arena Formerly Known As Bercy in Paris. So I did. I spent the night at my boyfriend’s place in Amsterdam and was picked up by Dave and Henk Jan the next morning. Henk Jan was so nice to drop us off at Sloterdijk where our Flixbus would depart to Paris. The cheapskates that we are settled on a bus trip to Paris as it was SO MUCH cheaper than the Thalys. Can you imagine traveling to Paris for only 27 EURO’S?!

The trip went very well and before we knew we were setting foot on the surroundings of Bercy….erm….Accor Arena. However I had trouble walking and was limping a bit so I am eternally thankful and oh so grateful to Dave for also taking my suitcase with him. We were staying in the same hotel I had stayed in since the Re-Invention Tour in 2004. Hotel Le Quartier Formerly Knows As Hotel De Reuilly….always a blast. And yes there is still a see-through window in the bathroom….so you can entertain whoever shares the room with you. That first day we met up with my dearest Fred at Lucky Records. That place unfortunately lost its magic. I know the new owners are doing their best and they have given it a modern twist, but…..I am one for the nostalgia, and it was severely lacking just that. We went to have dinner at the place where we sat down with Tracy Young during the Madame X Tour. But then I suddenly started to feel dizzy….and wondered if it was due to the painkillers (damn Oxycodon). We said our good-bye to Fred and took the subway back to our place. Once in the hotel room I hit my pillow when the clock told me it was only 8.30pm and I didn’t wake until 8.30 the very next day….I must have been exhausted.

Paris November 12, 2023

The day of the first show in Paris!! We had a nice little breakfast in the hotel and later ordered a chocolat chaud and some chevre at the cafe opposite the hotel in the street. We took things easy and had agreed to meet up with Fred at Bercy Village for some dinner. We settled upon Five Guys (I spotted more than five though) and I ordered a veggie sandwich with some coke (the black fluid kind). The veggie sandwich was stuffed with mushrooms….ugh….upon deleting those from my dinner I managed to chew the thing down. It was so nice finally seeing Fred again…it had been quite a while since the Madame X Tour! We then walked up to the Accor Arena and since we had Golden Circle tickets and were entering late, we were again dispatched off on the side…like five minutes before showtime we were upgraded to the pit (Sound Factory) so I wanted to go down on my knees and thank…but wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.

We settled upon a space in the pit next to the catwalk where she would perform “Open Your Heart”. Madonna’s hair extensions were back! She was again very smiley and once again delighted the audience by spitting some water in their faces. She was very talkative and once again discussed her illness and said that her kidneys had been failing, her lungs had been working for only 40% and that her mother had been alone when she was dying in the hospital. She also spoke about adopting her kids in Malawi and people turning a blind eye (once again) to the people there dying of Aids, just like what happened back in the 80s. The crowd was amazing, really into the show and really giving back to Madonna. Matières Fécales was the co-judge of the night and I had no idea what or who that was….it was awkward. But oh my lord why is Bercy (aka Accor Arena) always so incredibly hot? I mean it’s been like this ever since the Drowned World Tour, but at least then the interior was red and it was kinda cozy….now it’s just annoying. Also no space at all on the sides to walk if you wanted to go for a drink, so overcrowded, it was insane! Not my favorite venue BY FAR.

After the show we were trying to find out if people were selling unofficial Madonna merch again, which is quite common on the streets of Paris. Indeed there was! They were selling unofficial Madame X Tour shirts still but also unofficial Celebration Tour shirts and hoodies. The hoodie was so well-made and the quality so great that for only 40EUR it was a steal and I had to grab one.

Paris November 13, 2023

Another chill day today and I spent it mostly in bed….more sleep. It didn’t help that by today I was “Painting The Town Red” as Doja Cat would say….but thankfully I had Dave to help remind me to take care of my business before we went to the second show in Paris tonight. We again met up at Bercy Village for some dinner with Fred and this time at a place where we could eat more burgers and more fries! We later said our goodbyes and entered the arena. This time we ended up seeing the second show from left side stage / catwalk. Madonna’s children were walking in and out of the area as well as many people that worked with her. At one point the area was filled with Family & Friends and the conversations were interesting to say the least.

Madonna performed another fantastic show and JR was the guest judge tonight during “Vogue”. The audience was really into it and “Hung Up” and “La Isla Bonita” are the ultimate crowd-pleasers! Loved the fact Dita was full-on back as she was wearing her gold tooth during the 90s “Erotica” section of the show. M wouldn’t have been M if she also hadn’t been wearing her beloved grillz during the show. Our trip back to Amsterdam went perfectly fine despite some traffic during rush hour. However, once back in Amsterdam we had to get ready as we were about to travel to the next stop of the tour: Cologne in Germany!

Cologne November 15, 2023

I met up with Hans at Amsterdam Central Station, we were taking the train to Cologne this time. Dave, however had forgotten to reserve seats so we just grabbed the first spots we saw, which were in a different area. It was incredibly humid there. After three hours we had arrived in Cologne Germany. A city I have been to various times to see Madonna. The very first time I had traveled to Cologne to see Madonna was back in 2003 for the “Absolut Madonna” TV Show….good memories!!

Our hotel was near the Central Station and was actually right next to the hotel where Madonna was staying. Same hotel she stayed at during her Rebel Heart Tour back in 2015 and facing the DOM. Cologne is such a great city so we had no trouble making the best of our time while there. Having a great lunch and getting ready for the show, we hopped on the tram on our way to the Lanxess arena. The queue was huge and I felt a lot of resistance to join that queue. When we we were standing there, suddenly a lot of people for some strange reason ran back to a different queue and Hans blindly followed. I asked the security at the end of the queue, turned out this was for seated tickets so we were back at one and could re-join the original queue we had been standing in……

After waiting a while in the cold we were finally inside the arena. We had regular standing tickets for tonight and we all really wanted to see the show from the front and center. We settled upon a great spot at the soundDesk and chose to view the show from here. I had made up my mind to catch Bob at his entrance. I listened to my 6th sense and walked up to the right entrance. M was late. Crew were checking their watches every two minutes or so while waiting backstage for the “OK” to come out. Finally at 10.10pm Bob started the show, I managed to record his entrance from the start...”WILKOMMEN!!”. After that I tried walking around to find the best spot possible, which was quite easy to do as the floor had much more space to move around. What an improvement over Paris, I much preferred this arena over the Accor arena in Paris.

I settled upon a fantastic spot right in the center with an amazing view over the entire stage and was able to take the most amazing photographs from here. Madonna delighted the crowd with a bit of a cappella “Causing a Commotion” before moving on to “Burning Up”. She also once again sprayed Cologne with her cologne. She said she had been in a funny mood all day and during her speech she had the idea that no one in the audience was getting her jokes. She joked around about sausages and asked where her sausage was at? Therefore she never really got very personal with the German audience. The fact that M was joking around on stage and smiling, made for an absolutely fantastic show. It was definitely my favorite up until then. I kept on taking the most insane photographs and my view was absolutely spectacular. M was rocking the hell out of “Ray of Light” and she was very kind to give me the finger while I shot some more fantastic images. The show was absolute world class and this was by far the best way to view the show! I had discovered so many things I never noticed before. “Justify My Love” was a whole another experience from this angle, as was “Ray of Light” and “Hung Up.” Center stage and further back in the arena….best view!

After the show we headed back outside and hopped on the tram back to our hotel. We had to walk a bit of a distance back to our hotel but after sipping some Baileys we all went to have a good nights’ sleep. We woke very early as we had to catch a taxi to take us to the Cologne airport to take a Flixbus from there. Are you keeping up? We had actually booked a train back but of course they decided to organize a strike on the day we planned to go back to Amsterdam. In short…there were no trains and we had to book and alternative way to get back home. We originally had the second Cologne show as a ‘maybe’ in our schedule, but then London came knocking and we decided to not book tickets for the second Cologne show. Also, Hans had to be back that evening for a Eurovision concert at the Ziggo Dome.

So we arrived at the airport and saw the Flixbus, but the driver told us to get to a different Flixbus instead and that one was overbooked with also an additional stop in Dusseldorf….ugh. The trip wasn’t the greatest and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief once our feet hit the sidewalk at Sloterdijk in Amsterdam. The things you do to be at a Madonna concert. I had now attended a total of six Madonna shows of this tour and they were getting better and better….is that even possible?! Back home I made it my habit to turn on my computer and get to work on the photo gallery. I was stunned by my photographs and so happy to have finally seen the show from that spot!

Berlin November 28, 2023

I LOVE BERLIN!! Berlin was the first city where I saw Madonna live for ‘the very first time’ in my life! It remains my all-time favorite Madonna performance. She performed the Drowned World Tour at the Max Schmeling Halle and that was like the tiniest arena I have ever been to….compare it to a school gym…that is how small it was. What a way for my first ever Madonna live experience! So yes, Berlin is always a given. I just have to go there!

I was half asleep in my bed when I saw the screen on my phone go blue and when I picked it up, I saw it was Hans. He was calling me to tell me he was on his way to me by car….it was only 3am!! I made myself get up and do my thang…..we then drove off to Berlin by 4am. Winter weather had joined us full force, it was freezing cold and in Germany we even spotted white mountains! It took AGES before the day turned to light and it was almost 8am when we were finally able to see something on our way there. Hans was the driver for the entire 7-hour trip and I was the physical version of Google Maps. When we got nearer to Berlin it started to snow and we both aren’t heroes when it comes to those tiny annoying white flakes. We took things easy and told ourselves not to rush our trip….there was still plenty of time before the show would take place tonight…especially being familiar with ‘Madonna Time’.

When we reached our hotel near the arena and the East station we were able to park the car and with a little persistence managed an early check-in. Dave and Henk Jan were already in Berlin as they had taken the trip to Berlin and made it a holiday, Madonna was just the bonus. We met up with them in the afternoon and later we picked up Arek at the Mercedes Benz Arena. We were surprised by how the area had changed compared to the last time we were there in 2015. So many shops, restaurants and things to do…..I can still remember during The MDNA Tour (2012) we had to rely on a little street food thingy selling french fries outside. Now here was a whole new world with plenty of choice!

It was absolutely freezing in Berlin, it was so damn cold that I felt my soul leaving my body little by little. Henk Jan knew a great place where we could drink and eat something and it was not that far…..yeah, you guessed it….cut to around 30 minutes (in the freezing cold) later and we had finally arrived only to find out the place was still closed. Me and Arek were starving and really needed some food (especially after me and Hans already had such a long day). There was another place that was open but the only thing they served were nachos. I settled on a hot chocolate (badly needed) and some of the nachos. So great to catch up with Arek again. After our little get together, Dave and Henk Jan went on a shopping trip and we walked back to our hotel.

We met up again for dinner later and decided (once again) on Five Guys. I chose the same veggie sandwich but without the mushrooms this time. Dave and Henk Jan had regular standing tickets whilst me and Hans had Golden Circle tickets, so they had to stand at a different entrance. We made it inside much more quickly than expected and got inside the Golden Circle without any issues. It was not that crowded and we found a great spot at the very beginning of the left side catwalk (Open Your Heart) we had some great company in the form of someone working for security. Stuart Price delighted us by playing an absolutely amazing set as support act. He played great remixes to Madonna tracks such as “Future Lovers”, “Let it Will Be” and “Rescue Me”. We adored it! When he finished the set and passed us by on the catwalk, Hans called out to him and he acknowledged and gave him a high five. Me and Hans were just discussing on how we hadn’t run into the big boss Guy Oseary yet….when we suddenly saw him walking on the other side of the catwalk. There’s no such thing as coincidences.

A while later he walked passed our barriers and saw us and came over to say hi. He asked us how many shows we’d seen and asked us how we were doing. He then stretched out both his arms telling us to give him a big hug. It was so nice to see him again. Again around 10.15pm Bob started the show and we were still very much chilling in the Golden Circle with so much space to move around. I looked over at the main stage and saw M getting ready. I instantly noticed her hair….it was straight! A few days ago while she was in Milan she had been photographed with this hairstyle…and it seemed like she’d kept it. I told Hans that she had a different hairstyle and got my camera photo ready. “Nothing Really Matters” started and we got to face M, she looked absolutely stunning! The long straight hair was absolutely perfect, she was so beautiful. She was a little late for her entrance singing “Everybody”, was coughing here and there and sounded a bit hoarse. This was the very first time we got a first look at the preparations for “Live To Tell”. The box was right beside us and they covered the front with a dark blanket. Then after “Holiday” M came rushing into the Golden Circle, passed us by and quickly dove into the box behind the curtain. She ran a little late so the box was lifted a little later than usual. She later joked around with the audience asking if they were high or drunk or both. The co-judge was Gabriel Massan the artist that created the “Bedtime Story” video for this show’s performance. I had thoroughly enjoyed the first show, once again Berlin did not disappoint!

Berlin November 29, 2023

Dave and Henk Jan left for home today so wouldn’t be attending the second show in Berlin tonight. Hans and me went out to go gift-shopping for Jax and conquered the freezing cold and snow. We settled on a good old Subway sandwich for lunch and headed back to the Mercedes Benz Arena around 6pm for dinner. We had made a reservation at the Italian place in front of the arena and there we were served the biggest pizza I had ever seen. In the end I appeared to be quite hungry as I finished over half of the pizza, it was lush! When leaving the restaurant we saw, to our surprise that the arena had already opened its doors. This was a lot earlier than the previous day, so we made our way to the entrance at once.

The security check and walk to the Golden Circle was as easy as yesterday and we even wound up at the same spot next to the catwalk. We decided to move a little bit more to the center of the catwalk to be right next to her when she would perform “Open Your Heart”. We were really happy that Stuart was back playing another fantastic set including so many Madonna goodies. Wouldn’t it be great if he and M got back together in the studio for a brand new album? Bob started the show a little earlier than yesterday, at precisely 9.55pm. Madonna obviously wasn’t happy with the long straight hair after all as the curls were back. She messed up the choreo to “Papa Don’t Preach” and forgot the lyrics to “Ray of Light”. She was in a funny mood and kept cracking jokes during her speech. She said she didn’t know what to talk about, love, sex, drugs or alcohol? She then tried an ‘experiment’ and walked over to the fans in the front row and looked for an intelligent looking person. She asked a girl what kind of topic she wanted her to discuss, the girl replied saying M should talk about herself. To which Madonna responded “I’ve been doing that all night!”. She was in such a good mood and we loved every second of it.

Back in the hotel we were ready for a very short night as we would be heading back to Amsterdam in the very early hours by car again. Our trip went fine and we ate some breakfast somewhere in Germany in between a lot of truckers. When we arrived back in Amsterdam there was no time to sit back and relax as tomorrow we had to get ready for the very first show in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam December 1, 2023

The weather in Amsterdam was sunny and a bright blue sky was welcoming us back home. However even though the sun was out, it was even colder than Berlin! I couldn’t be bothered to go out and make a trip to Ms hotel or go out sightseeing or hunt down more media coverage. I was also expecting the crew from Hart van Nederland (Dutch TV show) as they wanted to film an interview with me for a Madonna news item. They spent an hour at my house and the feature aired later that day on SBS6. I got ready to leave for the first show at the Ziggo Dome tonight! Instead of traveling to a different country, Madonna was only a 15-minute drive away today. I met up with the gang at the Ziggo Dome and we were going to have dinner all together. Hans and Ronald had brought along Ronald’s children and it was their first ever encounter with Madonna. When we sat down at Jinso for our dinner I told them I had a surprise for them. I said that we were all going to witness the show from the pit tonight! Hans was super happy and excited as he and his loved ones would be in the best area possible.

I later picked up the wristbands at the Family & Friends window and then went inside and stored our belongings inside a locker. Sportpaleis in Antwerp should really be taking some lessons from the Ziggo Dome (in every single way). We also finally met up with Amon again and took some photographs with a giant Madonna projection in the hallway. The Ziggo Dome was absolutely packed! The entry to the pit was a little different than in previous countries and it was also quite full. Sevdaliza was the support act and she was playing her set and entertaining the audience. Also the music video of her single that includes Ms AI face was shown on the screen behind her. Even though we were all standing in the Sound Factory pit, we were given Danceteria wristbands.

Madonna started late tonight, I think it was somewhere around 10.20pm that Bob finally made his entrance. But the excitement was there right from the start and the place was absolutely packed, it was insane. It was also a very special show to her as it was World Aids Day but also the 60th anniversary of her mother’s passing. Madonna made her entrance and I was once again in a perfect spot to shoot the most fantastic pictures and enjoy the show at the same time. She looked stunning, but I am getting repetitive. You could tell that M was struggling to get through “Live To Tell” and she was teary-eyed when she got back down onto the stage…lost in thought. Sevdaliza was the obvious guest judge of the night during the “Vogue” performance. Madonna devoted a lot of time to her speech before singing “I Will Survive”, talking about Aids and how it had wiped away an entire generation. She was so heartfelt when she spoke about this and kept on asking the audience if they knew what she was talking about and how lucky they all were to still be here and living their lives. During “Ray of Light” she ‘flew’ over my head in her box and sang directly to me. This is by far the best version of “Ray of Light” ever and I enjoy the hell out of it. The show ended LATE, due to the late start and long speech so in the end it was obviously all the Dutch media could talk about. I apologize on behalf of the journalists in my country.

I was back home within 15 minutes and crashed onto my bed.

Amsterdam December 2, 2023

Another sun-filled but freezing day! It would have been appropriate if M had switched “Rain” for “Frozen” just to highlight the occasion. I made my way to the Ziggo Dome a little later than yesterday and chose to have dinner at home. I met up with Hans and Ronald at the Jaz Hotel bar and we went inside the Ziggo Dome around 8pm. We had regular Golden Circle tickets tonight and as we entered late, we were ‘punished’ by getting the side-view. Honestly if this had been announced when tickets first went on sale I wouldn’t have bought Golden Circle for every show as the view in General Standing was much better.

I learned that M had been in a sad mood the previous day because of World Aids Day and she hadn’t felt well because of it. She was sad during prayer and it was one of the reasons she started the show a little later than the previous dates. It was said everyone was inspired by how once M took to the stage, how she overcame her sadness and performed the hell out of the show. Today it was said she was in a very good mood and looking forward to perform.

The audience cheered in surprise when Bob started the show at 10pm! Madonna included a bit of “I Love New York” during “Burning Up” and also sang a bit of “Causing a Commotion” with the audience again. The floor at the Ziggo Dome was once again absolutely packed, it was really hard to walk around and people were even singing and dancing behind the bars and in the hallways. Miss Fame was the guest judge during “Vogue” today, I was completely unaware of who he/she was, but I later ran into him/her near the lockers. It did seem like M wasn’t connecting as much with the crowd as she did yesterday. She kept asking if the people understood her. Which is odd as most people in Holland speak English fluently. In Amsterdam it is VERY rare to find a place where the people actually speak Dutch…our language is dying. Madonna asked who here was high or drunk or both and who was sober. She didn’t thank Amsterdam as she had done on the first night at the end of the show.

It was hard to realize this was my 10th and final show of The Celebration Tour. I had expected (and was afraid) so many postponements and cancellations as I was still suffering from The Madame X Tour trauma. But Madonna managed to perform every one of the scheduled European dates, I was in awe! I mean I got tired just traveling back and forth to the different stops, but she manages to actually perform every single show even after almost dying a few months ago. Wonder Woman! When the show ended I made my way out the Ziggo Dome and found my car inside the garage. Back home within 15 minutes again and cuddled up with my dog. I was wide awake and was still browsing through my photographs when the clock ticked 02.00am and I made myself go and try to get some sleep.

M then went on to perform the final two European shows back at the O2 in London before moving the tour to the USA. The Celebration Tour can easily be hailed as one of Madonna’s greatest ever achievements. A celebration of a truly iconic career by the most legendary woman that we are lucky enough to still cherish today.

MADONNA.

Kimberly van Pinxteren