Today In Madonna History: March 9, 2020

On March 9 2020, Madonna was forced to cancel the remaining Madame X Tour shows in Paris after French authorities banned events of more than 1,000 people to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

A statement posted on Madonna’s official website states that her March 10-11 shows in Paris would no longer take place:

“Following official notification from the Office of the Police this morning prohibiting all events with an audience attendance of over 1000, Live Nation regrets to announce the final two Madame X performances previously re-scheduled to 10-March and 11-March are forced to be cancelled. Tickets are refundable at point of purchase. We regret the disappointment to fans.”

Today in Madonna History: January 31, 2020

On January 31 2020, Madonna shared this announcement with her fans through social media channels:

A note to all my fans:

As you all know I have multiple injuries and have had to cancel shows to give me time to recover.

So as not to surprise you, I want to let you know ahead of time that I will be cancelling 2 shows – on Feb 4 and Feb 11th at the Palladium in London. Because doing 3 shows in a row is too much on my body and in fact my doctors insist I take a day off after every show but I believe can manage if I do 2 shows then I rest!

It’s a miracle I have gotten this far but a-lot has to do with the fact that I do 6 hours of rehab every day.  3 hours before each show and 3 after with multiple therapies. I have also switched to flat shoes and modified difficult parts of the show. This has helped enormously but I still need to be careful and of course rest is the best medicine.

Of course I never want to cancel any show and I’m determined that I will make it to the end if I pace myself.

God Willing 🙏🏼

Refunds will be automatically issued to the credit card on which tickets were ordered.

I appreciate your understanding and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.

Thank you!! Madame X

Today in Madonna History: January 30, 2020

On January 30 2020, glowing reviews of Madonna’s first Madame X show in London were published:

Music critic Neil McCormick (The Telegraph) had this to say: Anarchic and experimental – her best show ever? 5 STARS (out of 5)

I’m not sure who was having more fun at the opening of Madonna’s London residency, the audience or the star. She sang, she danced, she joked and she beamed with almost childlike glee at the crowd’s adoring response.

“How happy I am to have made it this far,” she declared, calling London “my second home”.

Madonna first played the city in 1983 to 1,500 early adopters at the Camden Palace. Her next London gig was Wembley Stadium. She was clearly delighted to be back in a venue where she could not just reach out and touch the audience, she could descend from the stage and sit in their laps. “It’s so intimate. It’s gorgeous and a thrill for me to be able to see all your faces.”

David Smyth of the Evening Standard gave the show 4 STARS (out of 5): Madame X is tireless, imaginative and powerfully intimate.

Such drama before Madonna could even take to the stage for her first theatre tour since 1985! Would she arrive drastically late? Would she cancel at the last minute? Tenterhooks all round.

Monday was supposed to be the first of a planned 15 nights at the Palladium, cancelled on doctor’s orders. It was the 10th dropped concert of the Madame X Tour, which began in New York in September and gathered complaints for its late start times.

But tonight at 8.45pm, there she was, dressed as a bloodstained, eyepatch-wearing revolutionary soldier. She was also a spy, a protest marcher and a Portuguese fado singer in the course of a tireless, imaginative show that was far from shrunken arena pop. Thanks especially to an extraordinary troupe of dancers, it was a spectacle that felt more powerful up close.

Like Bruce Springsteen, who showed a different side of himself in his recent Broadway run, and Kate Bush, whose live comeback was more theatre than concert, the 61-year-old has unearthed something new late in her career. The Madame X album may have plummeted out of the charts in an instant, but here its songs dominated and found their purpose.

Batuka, tuneless on record, was euphoric when performed with a mass of smiling, rump-shaking Batuque drummers from Cape Verde. I Rise was far more powerful when backed by footage of anti-gun protests and gay pride marches.

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, also gave the show 4 STARS (out of 5) and noted: London residency short on hits but big on British banter.

She sings the bare minimum of big hits – Vogue, Like a Prayer, Human Nature – with Express Yourself and La Isla Bonita reduced to interstitial roles (the former performed as a sweet, but brief a cappella duet with her daughter Mercy), and American Life performed in full.

Still, it occasionally serves to remind you that some of Madame X is better than its relatively muted commercial response might suggest – Medellín sounds like the hit single it wasn’t, as does the gorgeous album track Crazy. This is presumably part of the point – the other part being a certain screw-you intransigence designed to underline that we are in the presence of an artiste, not a pop star.

And the BBC had a few fun notes to add in their review:

The audience were required to store mobile phones in sealed pouches as “an intervention for us all”. However, Madonna admitted that even she was getting anxious without a phone nearby.

“I’m having little panic attacks,” she joked. “I’m like, ‘Why is no-one taking my picture?'”

But the gambit worked: Freed from distractions, the audience gave the concert their undiluted attention; while Madonna seemed to relax and have fun without a phalanx of tiny cameras recording her every move.

At one point, she slipped into a British accent and recalled how she’d been ridiculed for developing similarly plummy vowels during her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

“I didn’t know what anyone was talking about until I heard old interviews of myself,” she said. “And then I was horrified and flabbergasted. Why did you let me do that to myself? I’m from Michigan!”

“It’s all Guy Ritchie’s fault,” she decided. “He made me to it.”

Today in Madonna History: October 17, 2019

On October 17 2019, The Chicago Tribune published Britt Julious’ review of Madonna’s first Madame X Tour show at the Chicago Theatre (the first of seven shows):

Madonna fears no one at the Chicago Theatre in a late-night, cellphone-free clash between old and new
Madonna does what she wants, when she wants, for whatever reason she wants. In fact, the Madonna of today may be more stubborn. Yes, she has amassed a trove of hits from each decade of her career. But the hits matter less to the artist than the intention behind her music.

Known as something of a chameleon, Madonna made a case for the interconnectedness of her total body of work during the first night of the Chicago leg of her intimate, cellphone-free Madame X tour. A small number of older songs were carefully intertwined with a heavy selection of tracks off her latest album, “Madame X,” to tell the story of this new character. And who is Madame X?

A freedom fighter, for one. Dance is politics. Music is politics. Madonna laid plain the intentions of each “Madame X” show from the start. On stage was very little in the beginning, just a silhouette of a woman at a typewriter, a large black screen, and a fit young dancer jerking his limbs to the rhythm of each keystroke. Behind him, a 1961 quote by James Baldwin splashed across the screen: “Artists are here to disturb the peace.” Get the picture? This is not a moment of nostalgia for Madonna. But if you’re interested in “waking up,” in getting uncomfortable, then stick around.

The first half of the set blended a mix of old and new tunes, starting with “Dark Ballet” from “Madame X.” Dancers clad in white gowns and riot gear clashed on stage. Behind a brutalist pyramid staircase were projected images of marches for gun control. Clashing — of old and new, of right and wrong, of fun and seriousness — became a theme throughout the set.

During a slowed-down rendition of “Human Nature,” her twin daughters, Estere and Stella, joined the singer and her backup dancers on stage. She asked each girl to make a statement, with one saying “Hashtag time’s up!” in reference to the social movement. Moments later, Madonna fittingly transitioned into an a-cappella sing-a-long to her smash ’90s hit “Express Yourself,” before asking the audience, “This revolution is bloody. Is there a doctor in the house?” Sometimes the fight to be heard can be jarring, just as it was on stage.

For Madge, art is the medium by which she fights for the freedom of others. It is the medium delivering the message, whether audiences understand or like it at all. “Are you good with me not keeping my baby?” she asked the audience halfway through her set after a spirited rendition of “Papa Don’t Preach.” An audience member in the front row expressed his displeasure and she was not afraid to confront him about reproductive rights. “It is my choice. It’s everybody’s choice,” she uttered. The room erupted in applause. She fears no one. The easy choice would be to next play something light, but Madonna chose “American Life,” an oft-forgotten yet underrated single from the aughts. Back then, it was an awkward song, but here, its mashup of genres and conflicted lyrics make sense. It was perfect.

The latter half of the show was packed with guest artists from across the globe as she performed Latin-inspired selections — including “Medellin” and “Come Alive” — from the new album. A group of Cape Verde batuque singers walked through the aisles and joined Madonna on stage for the “Madame X” cut “Batuka.” During her numerous chat breaks, Madge talked about her move to Lisbon to “become a soccer mom,” and the depression and loneliness that soon set in. It was not until she began frequenting fado clubs that she found herself again. It made sense then that the stage was transformed into a colorful recreation of a fado club. “Get out of your comfort zone!” she cried to the audience. Most people were on board.

The “Madame X” show is not a concert as much as it is performance art and dance theater. This explains some of 10:30 p.m. start time, to the surprise and consternation of some fans worried about a late night (the show ended around 1:30 a.m.). This was also a cellphone-free show, where attendees had to secure their phones. The entry process was smooth, but expect a post-show bottleneck.

Storytelling framed the evening. Madge is a shifting and growing human urging her audience to do the same, but she’s not afraid to get playful, like when she took a Polaroid selfie of herself and auctioned it off to the audience. The winning bid was $3600, to a man who said he was a writer. “Writer? Bull—- artist is more like it,” Madonna said, in reference to him having that much cash.

“Not everyone is coming to the future because not everyone is learning from the past,” she said before playing the “Madame X” single “Future.” It was a coded message. Casual fans looking for an intimate dance party should stay away. Madonna chose small theater settings for a reason — she is interested in touching and seeing and communicating her message with her audience. Theater breeds emotional risks; the fire of each moment is palpable. Madonna knows this. An arena won’t start revolutions, but a musical confrontation a half-foot away will.

Today in Madonna History: September 18, 2019

On September 18 2019, the New York Times published a review (Jon Pareles) of Madonna’s opening Madame X Tour show held the night before at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn:

Madonna Is Still Taking Chances

Her Madame X show reimagines pop spectacle for a theater stage, merging her newest music and calls for political awareness with striking intimacy.

“I’m not here to be popular. I’m here to be free,” Madonna declared to a packed, adoring audience on Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. It was the premiere of her Madame X Tour, named after the album she released in June that she has said was influenced by the music in Lisbon, her adopted home. The show follows her decades of arena spectacles by scaling the same kind of razzle-dazzle — dancers! costumes! video! choir! — for a theater stage.

Unlike jukebox musicals or “Springsteen on Broadway,” Madame X is a concert focusing on new songs and the present moment. In other words, Madonna is still taking chances. She will reach arena-size attendance in only a handful of venues on the eight-city tour, but with much longer engagements; the Gilman Opera House holds 2,098, and she booked 17 shows there, through Oct. 12. Onstage, “selling” a selfie Polaroid to an audience member who happened to be Rosie O’Donnell, she claimed, “I’m not making a dime on this show.”

Concertgoers arrived to what was billed as a phone-free experience. Cellphones and smart watches were locked into bags at the door, though quickly unlocked afterward. It helped prevent online spoilers; it certainly removed the distractions of waving screens. (No photography was permitted, including press.)

As both album and show, Madame X is Madonna’s latest declaration of a defiant, self-assured, flexible identity that’s entirely comfortable with dualities: attentive parent and sexual adventurer, lapsed Catholic and spiritual seeker, party girl and political voice, self-described “icon” and self-described “soccer mom,” an American and — more than ever — a world traveler.

Yes, she is 61, but her music remains determinedly contemporary, with the drum-machine sounds of trap, collaborations with hip-hop vocalists (Quavo and Swae Lee, shown on video) and the bilingual, reggaeton-flavored Latin pop sometimes called urbano (with the Colombian singer Maluma, also shown on video). The concert, with most of its music drawn from the Madame X album, was packed with pronouncements, symbols and enigmatic vignettes to frame the songs. Madonna often wore an eye patch with an X on it, no doubt a challenge to her depth perception as a dancer.

By the time Madonna had completed just the first two songs, she had already presented an epigraph from James Baldwin — “Artists are here to disturb the peace” — that was knocked out onstage by one of the concert’s recurring figures, a woman (sometimes Madonna herself) at a typewriter.

Gunshots introduced God Control, which moves from bitter mourning about gun deaths to happy memories of string-laden 1970s disco, while Madonna and dancers appeared in glittery versions of Revolutionary War finery, complete with feathered tricorn hats, only to be confronted by police with riot shields. Dark Ballet had Joan of Arc references, a montage of gothic cathedrals and scary priests, a synthesizer excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” and Madonna grappling with masked dancers, until cops pulled her off the piano she had been perched on. The signifiers were already piling up.

And there were more. Film-noir detectives pursued and interrogated Madonna in another disco-tinged song, I Don’t Search I Find; Crave, which warns, “My cravings get dangerous,” flaunted a full-sized disco ball. A pair of robotic but sinuous dancers, with red lights for eyes, flanked Madonna as she sat at a piano for the ominous Future, while the video screen filled with images of urban and environmental destruction. She surrounded herself with a choir of brightly robed women and geometric Arabic designs in Come Alive, which used the metal castanets and triplet rhythm of Moroccan gnawa music to back her as, once again, Madonna’s lyrics rejected unwanted opinions and restrictions.

The songs Madonna chose from her past were mostly exhortations and pushbacks, sometimes coupled with direct political statements. She sang part of Papa Don’t Preach, reversing its decision to “keep my baby,” then spoke directly about supporting abortion rights. Dancing while surrounded by video imagery of pointing fingers, she revived Human Nature, which already testified — a full 25 years ago — to Madonna’s tenacity and determination to express herself uncensored. When it ended, her daughters Mercy James, Estere and Stella were onstage, and the singers and a full-throated audience shared an a cappella Express Yourself.

The concert’s unquestioned showstopper was Frozen, a somber ballad from the 1998 album Ray Of Light that offers healing: “If I could melt your heart, we’d never be apart.” Madonna appeared as a tiny figure onstage, surrounded by giant video projections of a dancer moving from a self-protective clutch to a tentative, then joyful unfurling and back. It was her oldest daughter, Lourdes, affirming the family connection in movement.

Since 2017 Madonna has lived in Lisbon, where her son David plays soccer, and she spoke about savoring the city’s music: the Portuguese tradition of fado and music from Portugal’s former empire, particularly from the Cape Verde Islands near Senegal. One of the show’s most elaborate backdrops simulated a club in Lisbon.

But appreciation doesn’t equal mastery. Madonna was backed by the Portuguese guitarra player Gaspar Varela, the grandson of the fado singer Celeste Rodrigues, in an earnest, awkward fado-rooted song, Killers Who Are Partying from the Madame X album; she also performed a Cape Verdean classic, Sodade, made famous by Cesária Évora.

Reminding the audience that she had sung in Cape Verdean Creole and other languages, Madonna boasted, “This is a girl who gets around. This is a girl who does her homework.” But in the songs themselves, she only sounded like a well-meaning tourist.

Madonna was more suited to the harder beat of Batuka a song based on the matriarchal, call-and-response Cape Verdean tradition of batuque. Backed by more than a dozen batuque drummers and singers — Orquestra Batukadeiras — and doing some hip-shimmying batuque moves, Madonna conveyed the delight of her discovery, even as the hand-played beat gave way to electronic percussion.

Forty-one musicians, dancers and singers appeared throughout the two-hour-plus show, which came with the same wardrobe changes as any of Madonna’s large-scale extravaganzas (one, before Vogue, was executed before the audience, shielded by a dressing table). The singer wasn’t onstage for one of the most powerful dance moments, a break between acts when a row of performers convulsed gracefully at the lip of the stage to irregular breaths, set to a recording of Madonna intoning lyrics from Rescue Me.

Madonna spoke to and with the audience repeatedly, taking advantage of the intimacy of the room to tell bawdy jokes, apologize for starting the show late and sip a fan’s beer. But in songs and stage patter, she sometimes conflated self-realization and self-absorption with social progress. Contrasting freedom and slavery after Come Alive, she announced that slavery “begins with ourselves,” forgetting that the slave trade was not the same as being “slaves to our phones.”

Yet with Madonna, the spirit is more about sounds and images than literalism. I Rise, which ends both the album and the concert, samples a speech by Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. then goes on to some clumsy lyrics. But in a small theater, with a gospelly beat, raised fists, images of protests worldwide, a rainbow flag, and Madonna and her troupe parading up the aisle — close enough for fans to touch — there was no denying the conviction.

Set List: 

  • God Control
  • Dark Ballet
  • Human Nature
  • Express Yourself
  • Madame X Manifesto (video interlude)
  • Vogue
  • I Don’t Search I Find
  • Papa Don’t Preach / American Life
  • Coffin (video interlude)
  • Batuka
  • Fado Pechincha (with Gasper Varela)
  • Killers Who Are Partying
  • Crazy
  • Welcome to My Fado Club / La Isla Bonita
  • Sodade
  • Medellín
  • Extreme Occident
  • Rescue Me” (video interlude)
  • Frozen
  • Come Alive
  • Future
  • Crave
  • Like a Prayer
  • I Rise

Today in Madonna History: May 6, 2019

On May 6 2019, Madonna officially announced the Madame X Tour. The tour includes  intimate theatre performances in the following cities (additional dates and venues to be announced):

  • Brooklyn Academy of Music (New York – 12 shows) – September 12/14/15/17/19/21/22/24/25/26/28 and October 1
  • The Chicago Theatre (Chicago – 4 shows) – October 15/16/17 and 21
  • The Wiltern (Los Angeles – 9 shows) – November 12/13/14/16/17/21/23/24 and 25
  • The Colosseum at Caesars Palace (Las Vegas) – dates to be announced
  • Boch Center Wang Theatre (Boston) – dates to be announced
  • Metropolitan Opera House (Philadelphia) – dates to be announced
  • Jackie Gleason Theatre (Miami) – dates to be announced

The tour will continue in 2020 with performances at the Coliseum in Lisbon, the Palladium in London and at the Grand Rex in Paris.

Go to madonna.livenation.com to request/get your tickets!

Today in Madonna History: May 4, 2019

On May 4 2019, a Live Nation web page promoting Madonna’s forthcoming Madame X Tour appeared online.

Additional details to be revealed on Monday May 6 at 9am Eastern Daylight Time.

Jay’s Note: Woo! And get your credit cards ready!

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