Madonna news - May 2024

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The nerve of Madonna to pull it off, again

Source: New York Times - 16 May 2024

Eighteen years ago, Madonna observed: “Once you pass 35, your age becomes part of the first sentence of anything written. It’s a form of limiting your options and almost putting you in your place. For women, naturally.” She was 47 when she said that and intent on challenging the cultural script that suggested women, especially female performers, had a use-by date.

“Why is that acceptable?” she asked the music writer Brian Hiatt nearly 10 years later, still battling critics who told her to dress her age, act her age — in short, pack it in and retreat from the spotlight because she was past her prime. “Women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they’re not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don’t follow the rules.”

To the question “Is she still relevant?” her Celebration Tour, which concluded this month, is proof that she is. Madonna performed before the largest audience ever gathered to watch a female artist and staged the single biggest free stand-alone concert in history: 1.6 million people turned Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach into a dance floor on May 4. According to Billboard, her six-month, 80-show tour grossed $225.4 million, making her the only woman in history to gross more than $100 million during each of six concert tours. (The only solo male in that category is Bruce Springsteen.)

Madonna performs Nothing Really Matters on her Celebration Tour. Pablo Porciuncula/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But there’s so much more to her triumph than numbers. That a 65-year-old female pop star pulled off this tour and, despite our increasingly intolerant times, the performance was her most relentlessly and delightfully queer since 1990’s groundbreaking Blond Ambition Tour would be unimaginable, except that it was Madonna. The Celebration Tour proved that Madonna wasn’t afraid of drawing attention to her long career; she owned it proudly.

All of her past selves showed up, in role and in costume, to help celebrate the many ways she has evolved and the many ways she and her collaborators have explored and expressed gender throughout the years. It was a beautifully inclusive, encouraging spectacle. If history is a guide, the social and artistic ramifications of her performance will extend long after her tour.

Madonna’s 1985 Virgin Tour, her debut, included only 40 shows in North America and grossed about $5 million. But its impact on young lives is immeasurable. The young women and girls in her audience were on the cusp of unleashing their sexual selves and embracing their independence, which is what made them so terrifying to a broader society intent on keeping them polite, passive and manageable.

Madonna’s message to her young audience was: Embrace your power, dream big and dare to be your own damned self. That message would resonate through a generation and across the globe, as aspiring Madonnas grew up to be politicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, members of the armed forces, Third Wave feminists, riot grrrls and pop stars themselves.

Madonna was, in fact, the lead author of the female pop star playbook, and she continues to write the unexplored and perilous back end of it while artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish adapt the front end and more established stars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift refine what’s possible in the middle. Madonna’s continuous career represents a universe of possibility for their own, despite the entertainment industry’s willingness to jettison midcareer women in favor of artists with younger faces and bodies.

But for women not named Madonna (or Beyoncé or Taylor Swift), growing older and maturing in public is much more fraught. Older men are considered wise, but older women are often ignored or discounted. Thanks to the intervention of the pharmaceutical industry, men are encouraged to have an active sex life into their 80s. The idea of older women having sex remains, for many, repellent.

Madonna has challenged our notions of what a woman should do and be on all those counts: She chooses to age as she sees fit, she says what she believes loudly and forcefully, and she is as proudly sexual as she was in 1985.

With her Celebration Tour, Madonna demonstrated night after night for six months that an older woman can exhibit power and strength — joyfully, generously and defiantly. Her glorious performance was perhaps even sweeter when we recall that hip and knee injuries disrupted her Madame X tour four years ago and a bacterial infection threatened not only the Celebration Tour but also Madonna’s life.

Forty years ago, Madonna showed audiences, particularly girls and women, that they could mute the killjoy chorus keeping them from self-realization. On the Celebration Tour, Madonna doubled down on this idea, encouraging fans to follow their hearts, minds and inner freaks by both being herself onstage and employing diverse and talented dancers to carry that message in their own convincing and resonant ways.

If this were the last tour of Madonna’s career — and we sincerely hope it was not — she would retire as the most influential female pop star of all time, a legitimate legend who wowed audiences, defied expectations and broke records. Having served more than 40 years in the public eye, she could take a holiday, take some time to celebrate. It would be, it would be so nice.

The Grandest Grand Finale: Madonna celebrates record-setting touring career

Source: Pollstar - 13 May 2024

If one wanted to get a bead on Madonna's illustrious, 40-year career, a good to place to start would be last Saturday (May 4) in Rio de Janeiro. There, the Queen of Pop, and likely all else, performed a free concert before a massive swath of humanity blanketing the city's stunning Copacabana Beach. A two-and-a-half mile stretch of sand nestled between the South Atlantic and the city's famed promenade was transformed into the world's largest and most banging dance floor. The show, like the entirety of "The Celebration Tour," was a tribute to Madge's groundbreaking career, but this was the run's grand finale and so it wrapped in even more spectacular head-exploding maximalist Madonna fashion: With a record-setting 1.6 million attendees — the highest ever for a stand-alone concert — making it the grandest grand finale ever.

"It was unbelievable," says Arthur Fogel, Madonna's promoter since 2001 and head of Global Touring for Live Nation. He knows a thing or two about great performances, having promoted historic tours by the likes of David Bowie, Beyoncé, U2, Lady Gaga and The Police among many others. "It was an incredible experience and pretty flawless pulling it off in the end. It wasn't easy to get there, as you can imagine, there was a lot to deal with …"

That would be a vast understatement. For starters, try 18 massive sound and video towers, an 8,700-square foot stage, cargo planes carrying a reported 270 tons of production, 4,000 workers, the construction of a foot bridge from the Copacabana Palace Hotel to the beach stage for rehearsals and then, of course, the Brazilian military.

An aerial view of the record-setting 1.6 million crowd gathered on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach to see Madonna perform the grand finale of her Celebration Tour.Photo by Daniel Ramalho / AFP / Getty Images.

"The navy was even there protecting the beach," Fogel says. "Seriously, there were Navy destroyers just a few hundred yards off the beach controlling the boat action and access. It was amazing."

And then there was something unexpected and utterly terrifying that not only could have derailed her record-setting Rio show, but her entire tour and so much else: a serious life-threatening medical emergency. Thankfully, she fully recovered and the affliction only deepened the meaning and scope of "The Celebration Tour," enhancing her team's and fans' deep love and appreciation for Madonna.

"For me, every day with [Madonna] in it is a blessing," says longtime manger Guy Oseary from Rio, the day before the tour's grand finale. It's such an important point that he called back after our initial interview to clarify. "The tour is called 'The Celebration Tour,' so we're celebrating her career, but we’re also celebrating her life. It’s perfect that it aligned already with celebrating her 40 years and then something like this happens. It isn’t like you had to shift anything; it just added extra meaning. It didn’t change the run of the show necessarily, it just brought more emotion to it. Everything is already a blessing, but it’s an even more meaningful blessing after what she endured and came back from."

To The Nines: Madonna and longtime manager Guy Oseary attend the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2011 in New York City. (Kevin Mazur/Wireimage/GettyO

"I forgot five days of my life or my death," Madonna said from the stage of London’s 02 Arena on what became 'Celebration’s first show back on October 14, 2023 after landing in the ICU. "If you want to know my secret, and you want to know how I pull through and how I survive, I thought, 'I’ve got to be there for my children. I have to survive for them.’" Madonna, of course, meant her six children, Lourdes, Rocco, David, Mercy and twins Estere and Stella, some of whom turned up on stage for this tour.

But in a larger sense, too, Madonna is the grand matriarch to millions upon millions of fans whom over the last four decades she’s empowered, elevated and provided a safe party space for them to commune, vamp and thrive.

This Madonna’s done with a stone cold classic catalog of hits multiple generations grew up with; her brilliant and wildly creative artistic expressions and collaborations with and/or inspired by some of the greatest artists of our time; her enlightened messages of feminism, equality, inclusivity, liberation and joy, which were radical and exploded minds upon first impact and over time have become even more important; and her amazing capacity for philanthropy and walking the walk as much, if not more than, talking the talk . And it’s in the live space, with her 12 major tours, where these expressions take full flight.

Madonna performing on 1985’s Virgin Tour sporting fashions she collaborated with Maripol on. Here performing on May 25, 1985, at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. Photo by Ross Marino / Icon and Image / Getty Images

"Madonna’s live performances have been crucial in terms of her career and have helped her to take her artistic vision to a whole new level and bring forth an opportunity to share her music with her fans," says Dr. Matthew Donahue, professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University. "Her tours have always been this combination of music with visual and performance art as a way to treat her fans to a spectacular show and also a way to bring fans together. Her live shows themselves are works of art and the 'Celebration Tour’ is no exception, with highly choreographed performances set to her empowering lyrics, intense music, along with a massive multimedia production reaching both her older fans, who have followed her over the years, and also her newer fans, who know her music but might not have had the chance to see her perform."

And perform and celebrate they have. "The Celebration Tour" grossed an astronomical $227.2 million and sold 1.1 million tickets over the course of 80 shows between Oct. 14, 2023 and May 4, 2024, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports (her final Rio date was not included because it was a free show). It was also No. 3 on Pollstar’s 2024 Q1 Worldwide Top 100 Artist Grosses chart.

"The Celebration Tour" is just the latest feather in Madonna’s plumage-festooned hall of fame live hat. She is one of the greatest touring acts of all time and her data bears this out. She’s mounted 12 major tours over the course of her long career and grossed a jaw-dropping $1.61 billion selling more than 12.6 million tickets over 650 shows, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, with six tours grossing over $100 million.

Her record-setting 2008-09 "Sticky & Sweet Tour," which ran from Aug. 23, 2008 – Sept. 2, 2009, was the highest-grossing tour by a woman for more than 15 years. That historic run grossed $419 million, which when adjusted for inflation comes out to $592.7 million, made it the second- highest-grossing tour by a female artist. Adding to that tally is 2012’s "MDNA Tour," which grossed $301 million; 2006’s "Confessions Tour," which cleared $194 million and 2015-16’s "Rebel Heart Tour" which earned $169.8 million. And her "Re-Invention Tour grossed $125.3 million. When combined with "The Celebration Tour" that’s a total of six tours over $100 million gross.

Beyond Madonna’s preternatural talent, intellect and brilliant performances are her collaborators and influences, which include legions of brilliant artists of vastly different stripes. What do Nile Rodgers, Martha Graham, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Herb Riits, Donatella Versace, Maluma, Jean Michelle Basquiat, George Harrison, Steven Meisel, Anitta, Abel Ferrera, Nicki MInaj, Frida Kahlo, Jellybean Benitez, David Mamet, Andy Warhol, Patricia Arquette, Sofi Coppala, J. G. Ballard, Keith Haring, Stella McCartney, Johnny Dynell, David Bowie, William Orbit, Mirwais, Tamara de Lempicka, Edward Hopper, The Beastie Boys and Cesária Évora have in common? We’re not sure, but these are artists Madonna has either collaborated or worked with and/or been inspired by—and that’s just a sliver of the many this is true of.

Madonna on her ‘Rebel Heart’ Tour at Allphones Arena on March 19, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

Despite her massive success, seemingly there are always detractors. Like clockwork they crawl out of the woodwork with each Madonna tour, proclaiming it a disaster and citing erroneous ticket prices only seen on the bizarro-world secondary market and ignoring every revenue and ticketing metric meticulously reported for the last 30 years by Madonna’s team. Mind you, it’s often other female artists, including Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, who erroneously get tagged with this lack of sales trope despite these three amazing and powerful women leading the live industry to its greatest heights. One can’t help but think it’s media and misogyny at its worst.

"All that she’s had to endure, she’s a target, right? And that comes with the territory for a lot of celebrities and certainly artists get that," says Fogel, who promoted Madonna’s first 1985 "The Virgin Tour" at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Garden Arena. "She’s had to endure a lot as that target because she takes so many risks in her career, is upfront about it and doesn’t shy away from a lot of the things that people react strongly to one way or the other. But on this tour and show you realize her catalog of hits, apart from everything else, the actual hit after hit after hit, that Madonna is such a strong musical force in the pop world for so long that it’s just awe-inspiring."

The "Celebration Tour" show is a phantasmagorical journey through her stunning career with some 30 songs over the course of a two-and-a-half hour house party with some 20 dancers, five choreographers, a Macy’s store worth of costuming, hi-tech production, special guests, her children, a "Vogue" dance-off and so much more.

"Honestly, Madonna is unbelievable, no one could have done what she’s done," says Sarah Zambreno, who co-manages Madonna and has worked with her since 2006’s "Confessions Tour" (and whom Oseary recently called "an angel sent from the heavens above Chicago"). Minutes earlier, Zambreno returned home from Rio where she oversaw the spectacular finale as well as the entire "Celebration Tour." It’s kept her on the road for the past six months and she gives all credit to one very hands-on artist.

"Madonna leads the charge," she says. "She picks the creatives that she wants to get together with and gets them all in a room and everyone starts creating together. 'I like this, I don’t like that. More of this, less of that.’ It’s her leading it all, which is why it works. There’s a strong voice that’s giving a very strong opinion. It’s a great process and she’s involved in every part of that process."

The conception of "The Celebration Tour," Oseary explains, happened very organically. "We just get together and talk and go, 'What do we do next? You know it’s the 40-year anniversary’ So it’s like, 'Do we or don’t we?’ It just made sense to go out there and celebrate 40 years of an incredible career."

One challenge of chronicling Madonna’s action-packed, hit-filled career is that there’s just way too much of a good thing. "At one point we were in meetings and saying we could just do the '80s as a tour and then come back another year and just do the '90s," says Zambreno. "It was an embarrassment of riches, of songs and visuals and costumes and videos to choose from. And how do you pick? Everyone’s going to have a different opinion on what makes the most sense to put on screen. At the end of the day the best solve was just her voice, her narrative, her story and how she wanted to tell it."

The not-so-secret weapon to Madonna’s incredible success is Madonna, who is part creative director, tour manager and dedicated collaborationist with a legendary work ethic who takes nothing for granted.

"She’s the most organized person you will ever meet," Zambreno says. "She gives people the opportunity to really shine. When you talk about the costumes, you have Eyob Yohannes, who did costumes on "Madame X," and came together with Rita Melssen, who, on the last tour was her assistant and is now a full blown costume designer and stylist. They worked nonstop, seven days a week to get everything done. I would say that’s one (career) through-line She really does take a chance and uplift people to find their own craft]

Zambreno goes on to credit some of her other collaborators. "Jamie King, the tour director, is amazing," she says. "He’s been with her for so many tours. They speak the same vocabulary and he’s really excellent at translating things to the stage. And then Louis James came in and also helped as creative director and his sketches and some of his ideas, like the idea for the doppelganger, came out of a meeting with Madonna. There’s quite a few people. Ric Lipson, our stage architect, was there from the first date, sketching out ideas and showing how to make New York look like a stage and the cake from "Like a Virgin" be in the middle of the stage. And then he brought in Rob Sinclair, our lighting designer, who has literally been working on this since, I think, October 2022."

And then Madonna brought in Sasha Kasiuha to be her content director, who she first met when she was editing "Madame X." And Sasha just learned how to edit to work on that project and now he did the content for all those screens and put together "Live to Tell" with the AIDS memorial. It’s quite an amazing, amazing team that Jamie oversees, but it's people who really have their own spaces and work directly with Madonna to bring it to life."

By late June of last year, after rehearsals that first began in New York City in April and then moved to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, just a few weeks out from the tour’s launch date, life got in the way. It happens to mice, men, women, cultural icons.

"On Saturday June 24, Madonna developed a serious bacterial infection which [led] to a several day stay in the ICU," Oseary wrote on Instagram on June 28, 2023. "Her health is improving, however, she is still under medical care. A full recovery is expected." He also announced "The Celebration Tour," which was set to kick off in three weeks on July 15 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, would be postponed.

Madonna performs “Live To Tell” with a screen paying tribute to lives lost to AIDS on the opening night of The Celebration Tour at The O2 Arena on October 14, 2023 in London. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Live Nation)

Twenty-three North American arena dates in all would be postponed or canceled. This included two Madison Square Garden plays, one at Chicago’s United Center, a night at, and with the tour now kicking off in Euope in mid-October.

In December, at her show at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center, Madonna, in her hold-nothing- back pathology, revealed how very serious her condition was and thanked the person who saved her life. "There’s one very important woman who dragged me to the hospital. I don’t even remember. I passed out on my bathroom floor," she said from the arena stage. "I woke up in the ICU. Thank you Shavawn. She saved my life … I was in an induced coma for 48 hours…"

The severity of Madonna’s health scare not only deepened the meaning and scope of the trek for her team, but it of course deeply impacted Madonna.

"Thank you for your positive energy, Prayers and words of healing and encouragement," began Madonna’s July 10 Instagram post. "I have felt your love. I’m on the road to recovery and incredibly grateful for all the blessings in my life… The current plan is to reschedule the North American leg of the tour and to begin in October in Europe. I couldn’t be more grateful for your care and support. Love, M"

Drag Race Winner; Bob the Drag Queen performs onstage during the free concert of US pop star Madonna at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 4, 2024. Madonna ended her The Celebration Tour with a performance attended by some 1.6 million enthusiastic fans. (Photo by PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP via Getty Images)

"She taught us how to dance! She taught us how to express ourselves, she taught us how to party and she taught us how to FUCK!," screamed the resplendent Bob The Drag Queen, the tour’s MC, winner of the eighth season of "RuPaul’s Drag Race" and the best hype person on the planet. Bob’s clad in Victorian frippery and screaming at the top of his powerful lungs: "And tonight I need you all to turnt up! Because this is not just a show, this is not just a concert, this is not just a parrrrrty, IT’S A CELEBRATION, BITCHES!!"

And so the "Celebration Tour" begins. Madonna appears at first as if an apparition, stunningly beautiful in a black gown and raised halo above her head, much like her holy namesake. She launches into what could be the show’s overarching narrative theme, a plaintive song from 1998’s Ray of Light’s "Nothing Really Matters." It’s a song with introspective and confessional lyrics expressing regret and vulnerability at how she lived "selfishly" and only to make "myself happy." Here, though, it is also a story of personal growth and wisdom with the resonant mantra of "Love is all there is." It’s an acknowledgement of her transformation, transcendence and perhaps submission to a higher power. It could also be the message of this entire tour.

"Madonna is a beloved icon and hosting her at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, her hometown, was unforgettable," says Howard Handler, president of the venue’s parent company 313 Presents, who was clearly touched by her performance. "Detroit fans are known for their passion and after waiting nine years for her return, the crowd’s anticipation and excitement was palpable. She delivered on every level, as a performer, as a storyteller and mostly with her rock n’ roll attitude. Madonna was also vulnerable, sharing her many Detroit memories including time spent at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, 'my first gay nightclub,’ and her first dance instructor, the late Christopher Flynn; she even shared personal moments, like a tribute to her 92-year-old father Tony Ciccone (who was in the audience) and how he inspired her amazing work ethic. Perhaps most moving among her personal stories was her wanting Detroit to be proud of her."

Madonna with dancers beneath a giant disco ball during Holiday, set at NYC’s Paradise Grange,during The Celebration Tour London opening on Oct. 14, 2023.
Courtesy Align PR

And that’s a typical review from just one of her 81 shows played over six months, which breaks down to a show on average nearly every two days. Madonna at 65 years young is indefatigable.

It’s fascinating to note how to some degree world has come full circle over the course of Madonna’s 40-year career. Last September, 34 years after it was filmed, Pepsi finally released the $5 million commercial filmed to her then-new smash hit, "Like a Prayer." The video for "Like a Prayer," however, created something of a needless shitstorm. Directed by Mary Lambert, the music video featured Madonna witnessing what seemed a racist murder, her kissing a Black saint, burning crosses, stigmata and a slip worn as outerwear (Gasp! Have they seen Cardi B.’s and Meghan The Stallion’s "WAP" video?). Whatever the public moral outcry, it led to the Vatican again calling for a boycott, which led Pepsi, her tour’s sponsor, to suddenly pull out.

"The commercial was immediately canceled when I refused to change any scenes in the video where I was kissing a Black saint or burning crosses," Madonna wrote on Instagram in September. "So began my illustrious career as an artist refusing to compromise my artistic integrity. "Thank you [Pepsi] for finally realizing the genius of our collaboration…Artists are here to disturb the peace." Maybe Madonna did lose some battles, but today it looks a lot like she’s won the war and thankfully continues to fight on.

Madonna is only woman to ever have 6 tours grossing more than $100M each

Source: Billboard - 9 May 2024

The Celebration Tour swept through sold-out arenas in Europe and North America, becoming her sixth tour to gross $100 million or more.

Madonna played the final shows of The Celebration Tour, closing her six-month trek with $225.4 million and 1.1 million tickets sold over 80 shows, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.

The Celebration Tour is Madonna's sixth trek to gross more than $100 million. The only other acts to achieve this are the EaglesThe Rolling StonesBruce Springsteen and U2, making her the sole woman in this elite group.

Madonna performs in Rio

The Queen of Pop first announced The Celebration Tour in January 2023, with a planned start date in July of last year. But a medical emergency delayed the North American leg by five months, instead starting in Europe in October. There, she played 27 shows in 10 countries, finishing with $77.5 million and 429,000 tickets.

By year's end, Madonna played three shows in Brooklyn and two in Washington, D.C., before resuming the North American leg with 42 more shows from January through April. In the U.S. and Canada, she earned $133.1 million and sold 616,000 tickets, sending the tour's total figures beyond $200 million and 1 million tickets.

Finally, Madonna went to Latin America for the first time since 2016, as part of the Rebel Heart Tour. Five shows at Mexico City's Palacio de los Deportes grossed $14.8 million and sold 82,400 tickets.

In all, The Celebration Tour's $225 million finish marks Madonna's highest-grossing tour in over a decade. While in Europe, it surpassed her theater experiment on the Madame X Tour ($51.5 million in 2019-20). And during her North American leg, she partied past the Rebel Heart Tour's $169.8 million from 2015-16.

Madonna’s recent high dates back to 2012's MDNA Tour, which grossed $305.2 million and sold 2.2 million tickets. That trek played many of the same American arenas as The Celebration Tour, but took her to Europe's outsized outdoor stadiums, plus a lengthier stadium run throughout Latin America. Her biggest tour ever was the one before that, earning $407.7 million from 3.5 million tickets on the Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008-09).

The apples-to-apples improvement over the Rebel Heart Tour – Madonna’s most recent all-arena run – combines an uptick in ticket prices ($162.42 –> $199.93) with a 12% increase in average per-show attendance count (12,750 –> 14,274).

That average attendance is missing an obvious asterisk. After playing her final show in Mexico City, Madonna staged a free concert at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, marking her first stop in the city since a Dec. 2, 2012, performance on the MDNA Tour. The show's gargantuan success does not factor into her official Boxscore results because it was a free event, but it's plenty worth noting that she drew 1.6 million people – roughly 40% more than the combined attendance of her entire tour. According to concert promoter Live Nation, it's the largest audience ever for a stand-alone concert by any artist in history.

The Celebration Tour pushes Madonna's reported career total to $1.6 billion and – without accounting for the Brazil show – 12.8 million tickets.

Madonna's hits-filled Celebration Tour, dissected

Source: NY Times - 7 May 2024

Hear five standouts from the set, and six we wish she’d played.

Dear listeners,

Lindsay is desperately seeking some time off this week, so I am the first of your guest playlisters: Caryn, the pop music editor. I'm going to tell you a secret — you could consider it one of my confessions on a dance floor. I saw Madonna's Celebration Tour seven times; eight if you include the livestream from Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night, where the Queen of Pop wrapped her first-ever retrospective with a free show before an estimated 1.6 million people on Copacabana Beach.

Some have asked why, so a brief explanation: I believe Madonna is the most important and influential solo figure in pop history, and I don't skip opportunities to see her onstage, where she has innovated and thrilled throughout her four-decade career. (If you're wondering who was behind "60 Times Madonna Changed Our Culture," wonder no more.) I was too young to catch the Virgin or Who's That Girl tours — and nobody took me to Blond Ambition or the Girlie Show (ahem, parents) — so my live history begins with Drowned World in 2001 and I have done my best to catch up.

The Confessions Tour from 2006 is the best I've seen in person, the Tears of a Clown revival at Art Basel in 2016 was the zaniest, and Celebration is the first one I've reviewed (on its U.S. leg's opening night in October). Repeated viewings haven't changed my initial critical overview, though some parts of the show grew on me, some vocal performances sharpened up, and some of the extemporaneous speeches Madonna gave during the two breaks each night designed for them were stunningly raw and moving. (See Bonus Tracks below for more on that.)

But the point of today's playlist is to take a deeper (and deeper) look at the songs Madonna did — and didn't — select for the tour. The first five tracks are my favorites from the show, which has a lot to do with how she staged them. The second six are songs that were sorely missed, so should you ever do a Celebration 2, M, please consider them official requests.

Crazy for you,

1. "Like a Prayer"

The Celebration Tour stage encompassed 4,400 square feet, including a spinning circular platform that was the focal point for several songs — including this standout, performed on a carousel that rose into the air as shirtless dancers in loincloths and masks draped themselves in crucifixion-like poses. The entire show was set to backing tracks rather than a live band, and for this 1989 hit, it was a remix featuring booming bass and a few seconds of Sam Smith and Kim Petras's "Unholy" at the beginning and end. (The precise mix isn't available, but the "7" Remix" edit gets you close.) Chills, I tell you!

2. "Live to Tell"

Much has been written about the stunning performance of this 1986 song, which Madonna staged as a tribute to victims of AIDS. She floated above the crowd in a rectangular box gazing at black-and-white portraits of those lost to the disease (including many of her friends and collaborators) on massive screens around her, which multiplied to demonstrate the scale of the epidemic. Each night I saw the show, she had a genuine emotional response and delivered her strongest vocals here.

3. "Nothing Really Matters"

Madonna started the show with this song from "Ray of Light" (1998), using it as a table setter before she went back in time and revisited the story of her career. It was a striking entrance: She held a few poses on the spinning platform at the base of the stage, and slowly rotated out toward the audience in a black kimono and halo headpiece. As a song choice, it was a pointed opening statement about maturing, life choices, different kinds of love, and beginnings and endings.

4. "Don't Tell Me"

The videos for "Don't Tell Me" and "Hung Up" feature my favorite Madonna choreography, and while I was extremely happy to get them both live on this tour, they were both abbreviated! (So were a lot of other songs, but these felt especially egregious.) Still: I love this one's stubborn message, and it was a blast to see the group number recreated on the Celebration stage — and a reminder that Madonna, always ahead of the curve, went cowboy chic back in 2000.

5. "Open Your Heart"

The section of the show dedicated to Madonna's early days in New York and her first hits underscored the grit it took to get noticed and the glee she took in escaping on the dance floor. "Everybody" and "Holiday" were delightful, but her live performance of "Open Your Heart" made me discover the song anew: beautifully constructed, simple and still dramatic in the best ways, a real piece of pop perfection.

6. "Music"

OK, now for the requests: This 2000 song joined the set list for the finale in Rio, but it should have been there the whole time! It's a statement of purpose that encapsulates Madonna's entire career. It is electrifying heard over the speakers of an arena — we know this, because it was the centerpiece of her Confessions Tour, when she performed it as an ecstatic roller disco in a crisp white suit.

7. "Secret"

Personally, I would have traded "Human Nature" for this "Bedtime Stories" single, which has one of the more unusual chord progressions in the Madonna catalog — a satisfying blend of major and minor that actually sounds mysterious and alluring.

8. "Oh Father"

Motherhood was the defining theme of the Celebration show, a thread that ran from the opener "Nother Really Matters" through the many moments featuring Madonna's children (four of them went on the road and appeared each night). She performed "Mother and Father," a song about loss from her 2003 album "American Life," with her son David, and it did grow on me as a result. (I would have preferred "Hollywood," but that's a whole other mood.) Still, I missed "Oh Father," the dramatic ballad from "Like a Prayer" that was a highlight of Blond Ambition.

9. "Material Girl"

We had a lot of early hits in the show, so I get why it didn't make the cut, but I will say this: Someone was playing this 1985 smash on a sound system outside of Barclays Center after the second show I saw in Brooklyn, and watching the crowd dance and shout along, I realized I missed this moment during the concert. Still a certified banger!

10. "Beautiful Stranger"

Some of Madonna's best songs have arrived on soundtracks (that's where we got "Vogue"!) and I have an enduring love of this kicky little tune from the 1999 album that accompanied "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

11. "Frozen"

Madonna performed "Frozen" a handful of times on Celebration, subbing it in for "Rain," but I got "Rain" all seven times and was thirsty for this "Ray of Light" track instead. It's a masterpiece of downtempo electro with a beautiful vocal and ear-tickling synth flourishes. It brings the drama we crave! Next time, Madonna, please?

Madonna makes history with 1.6M crowd in Rio on final night of tour

5 May 2024

Last night, Madonna has performed for a crowd of 1,6 million people on the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on the final stop of her Celebration Tour. The show, sponsored by Brazilian bank Itau, was broadcast live by Globo.

It marks the largest ever standalone concert for any artist. Previously, Madonna's largest audience was 130,000 people in Parc de Sceaux in Paris on her Who's That Girl Tour in 1987.

Madonna performs Nothing Really Matters in Rio

The show, which had to be adapted to the outside setting, went smoothly without any incidents. Since the frame lift for Live To Tell wasn't possible outdoors, Madonna instead appeared sitting on a park bench, just like in the In This Life lyrics. For Ray Of Light, she danced on top of the cube.

In Vogue, Madonna revealed a new corset custom made for Rio, in the colours of the Brazilian flag. She brought out Anitta as guest judge for the Ballroom scene. There was also the surprise addition of Music - replacing Don't Cry For Me Argentina and Mother and Father in the setlist - in a special rendition with Brazilian samba players. Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar joined her on stage for this performance too.

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Madonna rehearses while wearing balaclava as disguise

Source: NY Post - 3 May 2024

The "Queen of Pop," Madonna, rehearses at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 2, 2024, ahead of her free mega-concert on Saturday, May 4th, to conclude her Celebration Tour. Hundreds of fans were given a sneak peek before the historic event, marking Madonna's return to Brazil since 2012. Madonna tried to hide a few secrets during rehearsals, wearing various colored balaclavas.

Madonna rehearses for her show in Rio, while wearing a balaclava as disguise

Madonna rehearses for her show in Rio, while wearing a balaclava as disguise

Madonna rehearses for her show in Rio, while wearing a balaclava as disguise

Madonna rehearses for her show in Rio, while wearing a balaclava as disguise

Madonna rehearses for her show in Rio, while wearing a balaclava as disguise

Madonna in Rio: Behind the scenes of the negotiation for one of the biggest shows in history

Source: Billboard - 3 May 2024

Imagine the scene: One of the greatest pop artists in history is in the middle of the Palais Garnier, the imposing house of the Paris Opera. Then, with her blue eyes fixed on the camera, she says an entirely off-script phrase: "Brazil, I'm coming."

But back then, in November 2023, there was nothing certain, not even close, for Madonna to take her Celebration Tour to Brazil. On the contrary, it was rumored that this would be an almost impossible mission due to technical reasons.

"At the time, we thought: Why don't we ask her to record the phrase 'Brazil, I'm coming soon' as an extra for the commercial?" says Pedro Smith, head of Strategic Brand Relations at Itaú, the biggest bank in Latin America, whose centenary campaign stars Madonna. "She would express a reciprocal interest in making the show happen if she agreed. Well, she recorded that speech, but we still didn't have a way to use it!"

It was up to the bank to pull strings to make it happen. But they were running out of time.

"The day after the shoot, we watched her show in Paris and realized that the structure would be complicated to adapt to a large crowd like the one we wanted. Because of this, Guy Oseary [the singer's manager] poured cold water on us," Smith says.

The following week, legendary businessman Luiz Oscar Niemeyer from Bonus Track, a "key player" in the process, appeared on the scene. Niemeyer is a pioneer in the international concert market in Brazil, responsible for Paul McCartney's record attendance at Maracanã in 1993 (and for all of McCartney's subsequent visits to Brazil) and the performance by The Rolling Stones on Copacabana Beach, among many other historic events.

So there were two players: the biggest bank in Latin America that already had a close relationship with Madonna, and an experienced producer used to dealing with the biggest names in showbiz. But destiny sometimes plays tricks.

"I had already tried to bring Madonna in 2006, without success, and I had already been talking to Live Nation, responsible for the Celebration Tour, but Madonna had that health problem last year, and the tour was postponed," explains Niemeyer, or "LON" for those closest to him.

Madonna in the commercial for Itau

At the end of 2023, Madonna returned to action, recorded the commercial and sold out dates in Europe, but Niemeyer, who had gone on vacation at the beginning of the year, also had to deal with his own health. The producer suffered a severe accident, was hospitalized and was out of action. "I broke down completely," he laughs.

In mid-February (just over two months before the show date), negotiations intensified with Niemeyer back on track. "We became very close [to Niemeyer] and exchanged lots of info, like a task force to make this show possible, because Itaú had a contract with Madonna and Bonus Track, with Live Nation," says Smith. "It was Saturday, Sunday, sometimes 3 am, and Luiz Oscar and I were in meetings with teams from outside Brazil."

And the teams for everything related to Madonna, of course, are quite rigorous. "We have to deliver a show complying with the level of production that it presents around the world, naturally adapted for a much larger space. Only when we had the resizing of this structure, sponsorships, television broadcasting and technical issues approved was the deal finally closed," explains Niemeyer, stressing that leaks about the show that took over the Internet in the weeks before the official announcement did not interfere in the negotiations.

According to him, from the beginning, the idea was that the show at Princesinha do Mar would close the Celebration Tour as "a great gift for Brazilian fans." "It was a great choice – a Saturday, we have a holiday in the middle of the week, and more people can visit the city," says Niemeyer.

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