IN BED WITH MADONNA : Hong Kong gets ready for her sold-out concerts

klein-2015Ahead of her long-awaited Hong Kong and Macau debuts, Madonna speaks about fame, inspiration and rebellion

“I’d prefer if people talk about my work as opposed to my personal life,” Madonna told this interviewer during a session at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles after the release of her 2003 album American Life. “I like talking about my work.”

During interview sessions over the course of several years and albums in Miami, Los Angeles and London, it’s a mantra you hear a lot. And there’s no arguing with the global impact Madonna’s work has had since she burst into the public consciousness in the 1980s. To cite just a few figures, she’s sold over 300 million albums worldwide, is the top touring female artist of all time and has had the most Billboard number one singles, period.

And despite what you may have heard about the singer’s personal life lately, Madonna and her 180-strong crew have racked up some impressive numbers since her “Rebel Heart” tour – which calls in at Hong Kong and Macau next month – was launched in Montreal, Canada on September 9. The shows utilise 63 tonnes of equipment. The 1,000 costumes for the performer and her 20 dancers took fashion houses such as Prada, Miu Miu, Alexander Wang and Moschino more than 10,000 hours to create. There are 22 videos played on the rear screens and the 23 songs, give or take some rotations, range from Holiday from her 1983 debut album to several from her latest, Rebel Heart.

All indications are that Madonna will put on a memorable show when she finally makes her Hong Kong debut at AsiaWorld-Arena on February 17 and 18, and her Macau debut at Studio City on February 20 and 21.

Continue reading “IN BED WITH MADONNA : Hong Kong gets ready for her sold-out concerts”

MADONNA GIVES MIAMI FANS SOMETHING TO REMEMBER

Miami (33).jpgWhen an artist embarks on the tenth concert of a career that spans over 30 years, one may think that it would be nothing new or innovative. One may think that she’d be up to the same old tricks, sing (or lip sync in the case of some) the same mega-hits the way they sound on her greatest hits compilation and simply go through the motions to cash in on all that concert cash. One does not know Madonna.

Madonna stopped for the first of two nights at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, on the third leg of her Rebel Heart Tour which has been traveling the world since last September (and continues until March). This trek felt pretty different than a lot of Madonna’s past tours–yes, the intricate choreography and intense precision were there, but there was a warmth to Madonna this time around that hasn’t been present as much on stage before. She broke character, one might say, having moments with audience members, cracking jokes and spanking her dancer as punishment for not catching a maraca. She seemed to be genuinely having fun.

That’s not to say Madonna wasn’t Madonna. After so many years of performing, she still managed to find new ways to shock, inspire and make a statement: she had pole dancing nuns followed by a recreation of The Last Supper, she “played” La Cucaracha on her crotch (“It’s a rare talent to be able to play your pussy like that,” she said) and dressed her dancers in religious garb for her song “Devil Pray.” She also gave a touching speech on what it’s like being different and not fitting in before playing the title track of the tour. Nevertheless, the show had just as many (if not more) lighter moments as well that included some line dancing, some bull fighting (well, minotaur fighting) and a patriotic finale that found Madonna soaring high above the stage.

While no one really goes to a Madonna concert just for the vocals, her voice was strong and nothing was lip synced (although a handful of songs had a very loud backing track). The Material Girl’s strong and crisp vocals were especially apparent during her many acoustic songs (on which she played the guitar herself), including a ukulele renditions of “True Blue” and a cover of “La Vie En Rose.” Miami fans got an extra special treat with an acoustic version of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” which was the first time she’s played it on The Rebel Heart Tour (Madonna mentioned that Miami was the perfect city for it too).

Another unique experience for Miami attendees was during “Unapologetic Bitch,” when Madonna brings an audience member on stage. Miami’s audience member was none other than Madonna’s own daughter Mercy whose birthday it was (instead of the usual “gift” Madonna gives the ‘unapologetic bitch,’ which is a banana, Madonna gave Mercy a cupcake and sang happy birthday to her). It’s noteworthy that while other celebrities boast about their famous “squads,” Madonna chose to bring her daughter on stage rather than any of the countless A-List celebrities in the audience (which included Naomi Campbell, Gloria Estefan, Sam Smith and Madonna’s long time pal Rosie O’Donnell).

As far as the set list, about half were songs off of “Rebel Heart” (the tour is called The Rebel Heart Tour, after all) and half were some of Madonna’s biggest hits (mostly those from the early and mid-80s). Some of the oldies stayed pretty true to their original compositions, such as “La Isla Bonita,” “Deeper and Deeper” and the closer, “Holiday,” while others were reinvented, including a flamenco-themed medley of “Dress You Up,” “Into The Groove” and “Lucky Star.”

Perhaps the most stunning reinvention was for “Like A Virgin.” Madonna modernized the song and gave it a brand new, incredibly catchy beat, as she danced her butt off all by herself, sans dancers, all over the stage, including rolling around on the floor in what was possibly a nod to her original “Like A Virgin” performance from the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards (although this time, 32 years later, she did it in a suit instead of a wedding dress).

Perhaps the only songs missing were some of her many hits from the 90s and 2000s. Sure, she performed an over two hour concert and there isn’t time for her to do every hit in her vast library, but with so many songs from the 80s and her most recent album in the set list, the years in between seemed a bit underrepresented. In fact, the only songs performed that were post-1990 and pre-2015 were “Deeper and Deeper” (1992), “Music” (2000) and “Candy Shop” (2008). Songs such as “Ray of Light,” “Hung Up” or “Take A Bow” may have been good additions/replacements, if for no other reason than to demonstrate how consistently Madonna has cranked out the hits over her 30 plus years.

One of the highlights of the show came while Madonna was off stage changing–her dancers, standing high atop poles, swung back and fourth Cirque du Soleil/”Mad Max” style right above the audience’s heads, grabbing other dancers from the stage below in the process. It was an incredible sight that just goes to show how incredible a Madonna concert is–it really isn’t just a concert at all, as she goes all out to bring the most state of the art and stunning visuals to entertain her fans.

I hesitated to bring up her age (so many other writers do that it’s become taboo at this point), but I thought it important to stress that at 57 years old, Madonna is still able to put on a two and a half hour show that found her pole dancing, vogueing and of course dancing her butt off all while singing live. Ever since her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990 when she essentially turned arena pop concerts into theatrical events with costumes, dancers, choreography and sets, younger pop stars have tried to use her formula for their own shows. Yet, at 57, Madonna still does it best (and that is the only reason I felt the need to mention her age). Madonna is a seasoned pro who shows no signs of slowing down, despite joking that her next tour will be all ballads and stand-up comedy (called The Tears of A Clown Tour she said). And if that ever does come to fruition, I’d still be first in line for tickets. Why? Because Bitch, she’s Madonna. There’s simply no one else like her.

Source : Examiner

REVIEW : MADONNA IN MIAMI

img_1625Thirty years after her first arena tour, a live performance by Madonna is still an event, a pilgrimmage for generations of the faithful.

And so on Saturday night, they came to Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena to worship, a parade of supplicants in search of transformation, regeneration and a party. They came in old Madonna tour T-shirts and new (“Bitch I’m Madonna), gray hair and gay hair, a parade of women defying the 56-degree chill in taut leather pants, and men in impossibly skinny jeans. There were nuns and cheerleaders, even a random Pagliacci. Everywhere the community documented its glee with the selfie.

And Madonna did not disappoint, her arrival (at a relatively punctual 10:25 p.m.) coming in a slow descent from the ceiling in a cage, landing among a menacing battalion of bare-chested soldiers. She exited her enclosure in flowing black and red robes to the tune of a new song, “Iconic,” as the video, featuring an angry Mike Tyson, unfurled on a massive video screen that ran the length of the stage.

It was a tone that would rule the evening: Plenty of theater, fashion and energy, and less skin than we are used to seeing from Madonna.

Accompanied by a guitarist, drummer, a keyboardist, DJ and as many as 20 dancers on a stage with a catwalk that ran the length of the arena floor, the 57-year-old singer performed for more than two hours in a set that balanced music from her 2015 album “Rebel Heart,” with medleys of old favorites and one only-in-Miami surprise.

“Illuminati” and “Holy Water,” the two Kanye West songs on “Rebel Heart,” were represented, the latter a signature performance with Madonna strutting the catwalk with a phalanx of dancers in incomplete nuns’ habits and white panties who soon mounted a line of stripper poles. During the song, Madonna herself proved that she can still quickly scale a stripper pole. A heartwarming moment.

The crowd lapped up the high-energy provocativeness of Diplo’s “Bitch I’m Madonna” and “Unapologetic Bitch,” with Madonna accompanied on the latter by her daughter Mercy James. After giving a shout-out to all the “unapologetic bitches” out there, Madonna led the audience in a singing of “Happy Birthday” to Mercy James, who turned 10 with an onstage cupcake. An odd moment.

Fans of her older music were well served by poignant readings of “La Isla Bonita” and “True Blue,” with the Madonna solo on acoustic guitar. These songs, and a charming version of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” displayed a sturdy, clear voice that is elsewhere obscured in layers of technology for the club-oriented songs.

Dressed in colorful skirts and hats that vaguely suggested Frida Kahlo, Madonna and dancers did a spirited, flamenco-style medley of “Dress You Up (In My Love),” “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star,” which drew a long standing ovation. “Like a Virgin” later was offered in an industrial mix, in which she showed off the old dance moves and, once over-heated, finally revealed some cleavage.

The singer seemed to relish this first show in Miami, where the tour was to have opened last summer (it will be repeated at AmericanAirlines Arena Sunday night).

“Me and Miami, we go way back,” she said to an avalanche of applause. Looking down in the audience, she called out some celebrity friends from the old days: “I see you Rosie, and Ingrid, Gloria … and Emilio.”

After returning to her acoustic guitar for a version of “Who’s That Girl?” – filling the darkened arena with a galaxy of cell-phone lights – she brought the house down with the first few words of her surprise: “It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange …” The crowd stood and sang along throughout “Don’t Cry for Me, Agentina,” from her 1996 film about Eva Peron,“Evita.”

Madonna seemed genuinely touched by the response to a song that represents “a watershed moment in my life.”

“I’ve been dying to do that song for the entire tour, and that’s the first time I’ve done it,” she told the crowd, reminding them that Peron was “a woman of power, a woman who was controversial… Damn it, Eva Peron was a rebel heart!”

Source : SouthFlorida

MADONNA BRINGS A PERSONAL TOUCH TO HER MIAMI CONCERT

Madonna5.pngBy now, Madonna’s fans know what to expect from one of her concerts: plenty of high-energy dancing, clever thematic vignettes, impressive stage props, colorful costumes and an eclectic set list that draws from highlights throughout her entire career.
Such a production demands precision, above all, with every performer having to know exactly when and where to be. There is precious little room for either improvisation or spontaneity, except for during carefully scripted moments (which kind of comically defeats the whole purpose).

But on Saturday night at a packed AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, Madonna managed to deviate from the mostly rigid set list and staged theatrics of her Rebel Heart Tour to add a heartfelt, personal touch for her onetime hometown crowd.
The show – part of the global icon’s 10th major tour – was in support of Madonna’s 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart,” and the still-spry-at-57 megastar showed off her well-documented rebellious side from the start, opening with a salacious video of her in a sequined ball gown trapped in a cage while guards who looked like they were flown in straight from the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle marched onstage. Madonna then descended dramatically in a medieval-looking cage to perform her fun-loving new anthem “Bitch, I’m Madonna” while surrounded by sexed-up geisha girls.

It was just one of many tracks from “Rebel Heart” that Madonna would perform on the night. Ever the musical chameleon, the Queen of Pop’s new release features her most progressive sound yet, with almost half the album’s tracks produced by either dubstep king Diplo or EDM superstar Avicii, and the ones that aren’t are just as cutting-edge.
The performances were over-the-top as well. During “Holy Water,” which featured four dancers wearing nun’s habits on their heads and not much else, Madonna climbed up a stripper pole and actually stood on a fellow female dancer before integrating the rap from her classic hit “Vogue” into the song. Later, during “Rebel Heart,” several guys donning top hats and tails climbed 12-foot poles and swayed back and forth so severely that they could almost touch audience members, an amazing feat that any circus would covet.
“Living For Love” featured Madonna as toreador, fighting off dancers wearing bullhorns with red capes, while “Body Shop” re-created a ‘50s-style auto mechanics store, with stacked tires and a “West Side Story” theme, after which Madonna first addressed the crowd.
“We’re bringing the heat to Miami – it’s been a little chilly, right?” she said. “It’s all about the Miami heat – that’s why I used to live here. I don’t know why I don’t live here anymore, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. You know, me and Miami, we go way back. I got stories you would never believe.”
One of the best sequences featured Madonna’s beloved tune “La Isla Bonita” with her “gypsy” band, complete with accordion, acoustic guitar, castanets, bongos and flamenco-style dancing, followed by a sensual, slowed-down medley of “Dress You Up,” “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star,” all powered by the same groovy bassline.

Ironically, some of the biggest highlights of the night were the least-produced numbers: a sweet, romantic version of “True Blue,” featuring Madonna strumming a ukulele; a very stripped-down “Like a Virgin,” with just Madonna onstage, dancing alone, without even the keyboard riffs; an acoustic version of “Who’s That Girl” with only Madonna and her acoustic guitar (which showed her true talent as showman); and a charming take on Edith Piaf’s French classic “La vie en rose,” again with Madonna on ukulele and in fine vocal form.

But the real surprise of the night came when Madonna took on a true blast from the past: “I want to sing this song, and there aren’t too many cities I can sing it in,” she said before launching into a passionate rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar player, a song from her role as Eva Peron in the film “Evita.”

After the cheers died down, Madonna said, “I’ve been dying to sing that song the entire tour – that’s the first time.”
The fitting finale featured Madonna draped in an American flag and red top hat singing one of her early club hits, “Holiday,” along with 20 or so festively dressed dancers, a feel-good ending to a decidedly feel-good show.

Source : MiamiHerald

EIGHT REASONS TO SEE MADONNA LIVE

 SINGAPORE — It has been a long time coming, and for many here, Madonna’s debut Singapore concert at the National Stadium on Feb 28 is akin to lightning in a bottle. You know, the kind of show you won’t get to see again; not that we’re saying this is possibly the Queen Of Pop’s final tour.

Still, there are those who are asking: Is it a show worth watching? The answer, of course, is yes. Fact is, her Rebel Heart Tour has already proven rather successful: At the end of 2015, it earned a No 11 spot on Pollstar’s 2015 Year-End Top 100 Worldwide Tours list, after grossing US$88.4 million (S$127 million) from 49 shows with a total attendance of 693,061. (And to paraphrase that Elvis album, 693,061 fans can’t be wrong.)

But we understand if you need a bit more convincing, so here are a few key reasons why the show is a must-watch.

SHE’S IN SINGAPORE FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME

Madonna is the most successful female artiste of all-time with more than 300 million records sold worldwide, and she has scored 57 Billboard hits, which include 38 Top 10s. She is also the all-time top touring female artiste, with 10 world tours grossing more than US$1 billion to date. Yet, in a stellar career that spans 34 years, her Feb 28 date in Singapore marks the pop icon’s first performance here. And not because The Girlie Show was banned in 1993, but the Rebel Heart Tour is arguably the sultry provocateur’s least controversial tour to date. Still, that does not guarantee she will make a return trip any time soon.

a VISUAL SPECTACLE

To say that every Madonna concert is a spectacle is to generalise what is, in fact, a pulsating pop concert jam-packed with trend-setting theatrics — take her iconic Blond Ambition Tour from the 1990s, with its Metropolis-influenced sets, corsets designed by Jean Paul Gautier and use of headset microphones. From evolving sets to riveting video backdrops, enthralling choreography to glitzy costumes, a Madonna concert is almost always sheer entertainment and never short of surprises. The Rebel Heart Tour, with its Samurai/Rockabilly/Gypsy/Cabaret themes, carries on in the same vein.

Continue reading “EIGHT REASONS TO SEE MADONNA LIVE”

ATLANTA SHOW REVIEW

atlantafans (7).jpgThirty seconds.

That’s all it took for a sold-out crowd at Philips Arena to forgive Madonna for finally gracing us with her presence at 10:54 p.m.

In the hour prior, fans grumbled and groused, asking out loud, “Is she always this late?”

The answer: Yes, more or less. My review of her Nov. 17, 2012 concert at Philips noted that it began at 10:30 p.m. Still inexcusable, but since it was a Saturday, it was treated more as a party night.

And reviews of her other shows this week in Nashville and Louisville, Ky., pointedly castigated her for start times after 10:30 p.m. (even Reba McEntire, an attendee in Nashville, hit Twitter to call Madonna out for this unnecessary rudeness).

But in the seconds when Madonna descended in a cage for the opening “Iconic,” the grumbles turned to roars of approval and, until about 12:45 a.m. when many fans had to flee to ensure a ride on the last MARTA train at 1:15 a.m., the crowd stayed solid and standing, basking in the glow of their queen.

Good luck, Miami. You might see her by 11:30 p.m. for her show there on Saturday.

But hey, as long as this behavior is accepted and forgiven, Madonna will continue to disregard the fans – the very people who have turned her into a pop culture icon – without apology.

So, anyway… about the show.

Here are some things we learned:

Madonna thinks calling the city “Hotlanta” is endearing. OK, it served a purpose as a lead-in to “Burning Up,” complete with Madonna on black Flying V guitar, but the other times, not so much. No one likes the term. It’s stupid. Also, it was 40 degrees outside Wednesday night.

Madonna should know better than to call the city “Hotlanta” because, as she reminded the crowd halfway through her 2-hour-plus show, she wrote her 1994 hit, “Secret,” here with Dallas Austin. “We wrote it in the basement of a house on Peachtree,” she recalled. “It was a wonderful experience for me.” She played the song about a dozen times during the first leg of this “Rebel Heart” tour last fall, but it isn’t a set staple, so Atlanta did receive its special moment. Madonna also sounded terrific as she launched the song on acoustic guitar before her four-piece band broke in to guide its gentle thump.

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