“I don’t want to be accused of having a meltdown”, confessed the Queen of Pop last night as she delivered a stellar show for her fans in Sydney’s packed-to-the-rafters Allphones Arena, before declaring to the many haters in the Australian media: “God forbid a mother should miss her son”, referencing her current custody battles with increasingly estranged son Rocco.
This was one of several moments throughout Madonna’s first of two Sydney performances and the final two shows of her current Rebel Heart world tour where the superstar appeared somewhat vulnerable in front of her fans – but at the same time, staunch and hard-hitting to those throwing shade toward the most successful female performer in history. However, the criticisms, which also included an accusation of alcoholism which the star also humorously brushed off, don’t appear to have deterred Madge from putting on a mind-blowing performance for fans that have waited a couple of decades for her majesty to return to Australian shores.
The Material Girl has been steadily making her way around Australasia this month with an opening date in Auckland before stepping onto Australian soil with shows in Melbourne and Brisbane before closing the tour with a pair of performances in Sydney. Long before Madonna announced her long-awaited Australian tour dates to the world, the undisputed, 4 decade reigning Queen of Pop promised fans down under something truly special and they were certainly dished up with something to remember.
Madonna’s last trek to Australia was during her infamous Erotica era so there was plenty of catching up to do – 23 years worth in fact and she was on a mission last night to turn it out for those fans who have been waiting so patiently for her arrival and return to the country.
The packed out Allphones Arena full of fans were in high spirits long before the show commenced; many wearing tour t-shirts while others went one step further by dressing up and sporting looks from many of the Ray of Light hitmakers ‘era’s’.
As the lights dimmed, the energy was electric and as her backing dancers, who were dressed in elaborate Samurai outfits, emerged from beneath the stage, everyone in the arena took to their feet and let out a roar of excitement as the Queen of Pop emerged from the ceiling of the arena in a cage performing the opening Iconic from her latest studio album.
As with each of the singers tours, no expense is spared when it came to the intricate stage design and visually orgasmic costumes that the singer and her entourage donned. Over the course of two solid hours fans are treated to a visual spectacle of impeccably choreographed routines by a 20+ dance troupe who complimented the musician’s 20+ song set. There were sexy, half-naked nuns for her performance of Holy Water and an ‘edge of your seat’ performance from several backing dancers atop circus-like poles that bent in all directions toward the fans who were sat close to the mid-section of the stage.
A performance of Heartbreak City commanded a spiral shaped stairwell to descend from the ceiling where the singer closed the Rebel Heart number with a nostalgic snippet of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, while her performance of one of her many signature early career hits, Material Girl, saw the singer casting sharply dressed male backing dancers from the top of the enormous moveable stage ramp and screen that frequently shifted positions throughout the show to suit the numbers delivered to her fans.
During the two hours that she dominated the Sydney stage, the Queen of Pop thanked her fans for their support and drew attention to various members of the crowd who caught her attention. Something that was confusing however was the Southern American accent that the singer wore during the concert when talking to the crowd which was quite distracting and seemed to go unacknowledged by the superstar entertainer.
Rebel Heart songs were out in full force last night with many of the records highlight numbers finding a nesting spot at some point within the lengthy set. Lead single Living For Love garnered a rapturous applause from fans as the singer unveiled the number through a performance on top of a circular makeshift bull fighting ring – much like the video for the track, while Bitch I’m Madonna and the acoustically delivered Devil Pray were also given the audience stamp of approval; the latter being performed atop a table set up to depict the Last Supper.
Although the set-list offered up many Rebel Heart hits, this came at a cost, with many of the superstars career defining hits being left at home. Unfortunately, many songs that we have come to expect at a Madonna show were omitted from the Rebel Heart tour set. The result saw some of the key spots filled by tracks that seasoned Madonna tour-goers have heard on many of her previous tours and haven’t really been showstoppers in the first place – Candy Shop, I’m looking directly at you. With the exception of the Hard Candy album track and a plethora of new album residents, several of her latter albums were also vacant from the show which was disappointing. There was no Ray of Light or Confessions on a Dance Floor contributions to be heard during the show at all and you couldn’t help but feel for the fans in the crowd who perhaps were seeing their idol for the very first time and haven’t had a chance to witness the performance of some of the musicians most iconic tracks like Ray of Light, Express Yourself, Open Your Heart, Hung Up, Frozen or Papa Don’t Preach. Even tracks like Vogue and Into The Groove appeared as very brief single chorus-only nods within the new numbers. Her performance of Like a Virgin also fell flat as the musicians rock re-imagination of the mega-hit proved more lacklustre than memorable, although early offerings of Erotica hit Deeper and Deeper and True Blue classic La Isla Bonita were performed with precision and gave the crowd ample opportunity to sing and dance along with their idol. There was also time to throw in some of her very early career notables including reimagined versions of Dress You Up, Burning Up and closing party anthem, Holiday. A sweet swaying performance of Take A Bow also proved a show stealing moment for fans who were positioned at the end of the heart shaped runway where the singer performed the stripped back hit before diving into a pitch perfect performance of big ballad hit, Like A Prayer.
Despite the set-list being a bit of a mixed bag, there were plenty of moments to admire during the course of the show; the decision to finally incorporate True Blue into a tour set was a golden moment and had many of her fans in the crowd eagerly awaiting the arrival of the rarely performed 80’s hit.
Having seen each of Madonna tours around the world since 2003’s Reinvention greatest hits extravaganza, personal expectations for the Queen of Pop to deliver is always high and as a Madonna fan who considers her London Confessions on a Dance Floor performances as my all-time favourite concerts of any artist, extra scrutiny is always applied to the musicians shows. Thankfully, despite the set being a bit of a selection hits and misses, the icons latest stage spectacle was a winner amongst both new and seasoned tour fans as she delivered yet another mammoth stage show on a level incomparable to any other performing artist. Lets just hope that Australian fans don’t have to wait another 23 years for the Queen of Pop to journey back down under.
Madonna performs her final Australian show and the final Rebel Heart World Tour show at tonight (March 20th) at Allphones Arena, Sydney. Final tickets available through Ticketek.com.au
Theme: Joan of Arc / Samurai
Revolution (video intro; with “Iconic” snippets)
Bitch I’m Madonna
Holy Water (with “Vogue” snippet)
Theme: Rockabilly Meets Tokyo
Messiah (video interlude)
Deeper and Deeper
HeartBreakCity (with “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” snippet)
Like a Virgin
Theme: Latin / Gypsy
S.E.X. (video interlude)
Living for Love
La Isla Bonita
Dress You Up (with “Into the Groove” and “Lucky Star” snippets)
Take a Bow
Like a Prayer
Theme: Party / Flapper
Illuminati (video interlude)
Music (with “Give It 2 Me”)
La vie en rose (Édith Piaf cover)
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend (Jule Styne cover) (a cappella snippet)
Unapologetic Bitch (joined onstage by Gwendoline Christie)
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