Today in Madonna History: October 9, 2021

On October 9, 2021, Variety published the following recap of Madonna’s surprise performance at Red Rooster in Harlem, New York (performed the night before):

On Friday night in New York City, Madonna, joined by Jon Batiste, his band and a small group of fans, gave an intimate cabaret performance in the basement of Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Red Rooster, before spilling out into the Harlem streets for a 2 a.m. parade set to “Like a Prayer.”

The midnight cabaret turned New Orleans-style street party rang in Friday’s release of “Madame X,” a documentary concert film of Madonna’s 2019 tour, released by Paramount Plus.

“Obviously, Madame X has been born,” Madonna said to the basement crowd, dressed in a black cocktail dress, lace gloves and long blonde wig. “She was always here. She’s always been by your side, encouraging you, pushing you, inspiring you, I hope.”

Taking the stage in the dimly lit supper club just after 1:40 a.m., Madonna, who laid on top of Batiste’s piano like Marilyn Monroe and climbed up the basements’ columns to grind up and down the wall, sang lounge renditions of “Dark Ballet,” “La Isla Bonita” and the Portuguese “Saudade.”

“Do you feel like something is missing from your life?” she asked the crowd, softly into the microphone while Batiste played beneath her. “So, what’s our job? What’s our destiny? To go out and find it,” she said. “I was talking to Jon on the way here, and we said to each other: Here’s the big question: How bad do you want it?”

The evening was almost impossibly intimate, attended by a crowd that looked to be about 100-200 friends, family and fans, who sank into the club’s plush banquets awaiting her arrival.

During the performance, after falling to her knees in a contemplative adaptation of “Like a Prayer,” Madonna grabbed a nearby megaphone, gestured to the musicians to pick up their instruments, and told the crowd to take to the streets. Obliging blindly, the partygoers climbed up the basement stairs — propelled by the rhythm of Batiste’s band and the sheer thrill of unpredictability — and filed onto 126th street. 

Tambourine in hand, Madonna led Batiste and a modest group of the party’s attendees through the early-morning streets of Harlem, joining together as the group sang an anthemic “Like a Prayer” into the night sky.

Traveling a few blocks down the street, the congregation ended outside a nearby church, where Madonna, framed by the ecclesiastical doors behind her, offered an invocation. “The Lord is with all of us,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to say a prayer.”

At Red Rooster, where most partygoers returned after Madonna’s streetside sermon ended, the room grooved far into the morning, voguing down the dance floor as the open vodka bar continued to flow.  Nearby, joined by queer icons like Aquaria, the Queen of Pop sank into the same plush banquets and watched from afar as the room danced, high and carried away.

Today in Madonna History: August 26, 2001

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On August 26 2001, Madonna Live! Drowned World Tour 2001 was broadcast live on HBO and The Movie Network in Canada from The Palace Of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI. It was seen by 5.7 million viewers – the network’s third highest rated prime-time concert special since 1997.

The broadcast marked the second time Madonna had selected her hometown as a location to record one of her shows, the first being The Virgin Tour home video/laserdisc release, filmed in 1985 at Cobo Arena in Detroit.

With the Drowned World Tour itinerary not including any dates in Canada, many Canadian fans who purchased tickets for one of the two shows in Detroit were pleasantly surprised when it was announced that the second show would be broadcast live in both countries. Madonna’s previous HBO specials for the Blond Ambition and Girlie Show tours did not receive a live broadcast in Canada, although the latter did air on MuchMusic at a later date.

Today in Madonna History: August 18, 1987

On August 18 1987, Madonna performed the first of three sold-out Who’s That Girl Tour concerts at Wembley Stadium in London.

In total, Madonna performed for 216,000 fans during the three nights at Wembley.

Today in Madonna History: June 30, 1986

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On June 30 1986, Madonna’s True Blue album was released by Sire Records. She worked with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard on the album while co-writing and co-producing all the songs.

True Blue was an immediate global success, reaching number one in then record-breaking 28 countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It spent 34 consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart, longer than any other album in history. It became the world’s top-selling album of 1986, as well the biggest selling album of the 1980s by a woman and remains one of the best-selling albums of all time with sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide. All five singles released from the album reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, with Live to Tell, Papa Don’t Preach, and Open Your Heart peaking at number one.

Today in Madonna History: March 28, 1987

On March 28 1987, the final single from Madonna’s True Blue album, La Isla Bonita, was briefly reviewed in Billboard magazine.

The now-classic song was Madonna’s first sonic exploration into her love of Latin music and culture which would become a recurring inspiration in her body of work. Written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard, and frequent Leonard collaborator, guitarist Bruce Gaitsch, it has been reported that the instrumental demo of the song was initially offered to Michael Jackson, who passed on the track.

While Madonna has said that La Isla Bonita took inspiration from “the beauty and mystery of Latin American people,” she has remained more elusive about the song’s geographical references. Years later, she teasingly commented in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine:

“I don’t know where San Pedro is. At that point, I wasn’t a person who went on holidays to beautiful islands. I may have been on the way to the studio and seen an exit ramp for San Pedro.”

Today in Madonna History: December 4, 2007

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On December 4 2007, Warner Bros. released Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis on CD and DVD. The CD included Madonna’s Hey You, while the DVD included her La Isla Bonita performance with Gogol Bordello.

The CD/DVD was released internationally on November 26 and December 4 in North America. Proceeds from the CD/DVD were directed to the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Madonna performed the following songs during the benefit concert:

  • Hey You
  • Ray Of Light
  • La Isla Bonita
  • Hung Up

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Today in Madonna History: November 20, 1993

On November 20 1993, Madonna – Live Down Under: The Girlie Show (taped November 19th at Sydney Cricket Ground) was broadcast on HBO-TV. In Australia, Madonna postponed a scheduled concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground due to severe rain.

Recording of the November 19th show had been intended to serve as both a practice run for the following night, and as a safety recording in the event of technical difficulties or cancellation of the November 20th concert. With Madonna apparently satisfied with the safety footage captured on the 19th, neither the December 3rd show at the Cricket Ground nor the rescheduled date (December 4th) served to provide supplemental footage for the eventual VHS/laserdisc release. The only notable differences between the HBO broadcast and the released version were some alternate camera angles and additional audio mixing.

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