A bit over a year ago, on March 2nd 2015, Madonna announced her Rebel Heart Tour. Since then, we've all been on a rollercoaster for several months.
A tour setlist is always a source of discussion, among fans and among critics. With such a large range of hits and classics to choose from, it's difficult to please everyone. And we all know Madonna always wants to focus on her new material.
Many agreed that this setlist was a good blend of new and old songs. Madonna chose 12 songs from her new Rebel Heart album. The setlist also contained 16 older tracks, though some only in snippets. It was striking that most of these older songs came from the first 3 studio albums.
Unlike previous tours, Madonna decided to change her setlist for every show. In the third segment there was the Dress You Up/Into The Groove/Lucky Star medley, which was played on 56 of the 82 shows. In 39 shows, there was Who's That Girl. And before Rebel Heart, she played a song that changed every show, ranging from Like A Prayer and Don't Tell Me to Take A Bow and many others. This way, she touched most of her back catalogue.
Take A Bow and Love Don't Live Here Anymore were performed on tour for the first time. Several other songs made a comeback after many years of absence: True Blue, Who's That Girl, Deeper And Deeper, Burning Up and Material Girl.
The tour schedule
The tour consisted of 82 shows, performed in 56 cities, 23 countries, 4 continents over the course of 7 months.
It was Madonna's first time visiting Southeast Asia (previously she had only visited Japan), where the tour was a huge success. It was also her first time in New Zealand. She finally made it back to Australia after 23 years.
It's worth noting that no show needed to be cancelled. Some got rescheduled: the first 5 shows (in Miami, Atlanta & San Juan) were rescheduled to January, because the tour production wasn't finished in time. The show in Henning, Denmark was moved up one day because of scheduling conflicts. The shows in Brisbane, Australia were moved 10 days forward, shortening the entire tour.
The special moments
Madonna performed in Stockholm the night after Paris suffered severe terrorist attacks. She gave an emotional speech that night.
For a long time, it was uncertain whether the two shows in Paris a few weeks after would be able to happen. Fortunately Madonna went through and performed as scheduled. As a tribute to the victims of the attack, she performed With her son David on stage.
But a very special and unique moment was the night after the first Paris show, when Madonna went to Place de la République, together with David and her guitarist Monte. As this wasn't announced beforehand, only a crowd of 40 lucky rebel hearts (among who yours truly :) ) got to stand up close and personal with M, singing Ghosttown, Imagine and Like A Prayer.
Madonna performed in Houston, Texas right after the news broke that David Bowie had passed away. She spoke about how Bowie had changed her life and influenced her music. As a tribute, she performed - of course - Rebel Rebel.
One of the most unexpected highlights of the tour was Tears of a Clown, an intimate show in Melbourne, especially for her Australian fans. The show had little to do with her Rebel Heart Tour and instead was an experimental show in which Madonna combined music with cabaret and comedy. She performed some very rare songs, many from her American Life album, all of which had a special meaning to her and her emotional state of mind. Especially the tribute to her son Rocco was much talked about, given the current custody battle they're in.
The reactions & controversies
While the previous two tours seemed to divide the fans, it seems this tour was a favourite for more fans. The song choices, the costumes, the choreographies got mostly positive reactions among the fans.
But for the first time since the Confessions Tour, the press reviews were almost all raving. On both sides of the Atlantic, she was praised for this show. The thing that was most appreciated by both fans and critics, and an element that appeared in many reviews, was that Madonna seemed so relaxed and happy. There was a lot more audience interaction than on her previous tours.
The Unapologetic Bitch moment was agood example of that. Never did so many fans get the chance to get up on stage and dance with Madonna. Often the bitch was a celebrity, including Katy Perry, Ariane Grande, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Nelly Furtado. Also lots of muscle hunks, drag queens and lookalikes got their chance to receive a banana from the hands of the Queen herself.
The choreography with the nuns to Holy Water caused a bit of controversy (though less than it would've a few years ago). The Singapore show only got permitted if the song was dropped. Iconic and Devil Pray underwent the same fate.
The one negative thing that was often heard and that angered many was the late start of many of her shows. Especially in the US and Australia this was a source of frustration. It was especially in those countries that the tabloid press tried to click-bait on sensational headlines that blew everything out of proportion.
There was the lie that Madonna appeared drunk on stage, fueled by pictures of her taking tequila shots during the flamenco segment, or the moment where she fell off her tricycle during Tears of a Clown. Obviously this was part of the act, but it was an easy target for the tabloids to exploit this lie.
Others spoke of an "emotional meltdown" when Madonna mentioned Rocco in her speeches, referring to the custody battle. She later commented on those reports: "God forbid a mother should miss her son".
It's very unfortunate and sad that the tabloid press feels the need to bring an artist down, only because she's a female artist of 57 years old, who after 33 years still manages to perform fantastic shows to sold-out arenas. It's sexist, it's ageist and frankly a quite pathetic excuse of journalism. Fortunately all rebel hearts know better.
It takes a small army to move a Madonna Rebel Heart show between cities and countries. While the show is spectacular, it's just as amazing seeing what it takes to make it all happen.
Telstra Thanks were lucky enough to go backstage in Auckland and chat with Madonna's Dresser, Tour Director, Tour Operations, Production Manager, Supervising Choreographers and Ambiance Director to give us all a glimpse into a small slice of a very big production.
Behind the Scenes – The Journey
Telstra Thanks takes you behind the scenes of Madonna's Rebel Heart tour to meet some of the team on tour with the material girl.
Behind the Scenes – Planning The Tour
Telstra Thanks takes you behind the scenes of Madonna's Rebel Heart tour to find out what it takes to plan a tour of this magnitude.
Behind the Scenes – The Dancers
Supervising Choreographers Valeree and Jason on the dancers and how they prepare for the show.
Behind the Scenes – Choreography
Supervising choreographers Valeree Young and Jason Young talk choreography and how it comes together for the show.
Behind the Scenes – Home Away From Home
Ambience Director Jaime Laurita creates a perfect world for Madonna backstage.
Behind the Scenes – The Stage Build
Watch how the stage gets built with Production Manager Jason Danter.
Behind the Scenes - Moving a tour around the world
Tour Director - Tres Thomas and Tour Operations - Rick Sobkowiak chat number of countries, continents and how they move production equipment around the world.
Behind the Scenes with Madonna's Dresser Tony Villanueva
Find out how many costumes go on tour with the material girl.
Madonna performed her 82nd and final Rebel Heart show in Sydney. She started around 11.30pm. She addressed that later on "It's not that I wanna be late, but I wanna be perfect!"
The setlist was the same as yesterday, most probably to keep the DVD as consistent as possible. She performed the medley, Take A Bow and Like A Prayer. So those will be the songs we'll see on the DVD (no Who's That Girl unfortunately...)
During Music she joked around with some lines of Hanky Panky again. But during the maracas moment, it was her getting a spanky from her dancers. Marvin put her over his knee and all the others got their way of getting even with her.
She talked less about the media issues than yesterday. This time she spent more time saying good-bye.
"It's hard to say good-bye, not only to all the people, but also to all the creative ideas..."
At one point, she tapped into Sinatra's My Way: "And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain... I did it my way!"
She thanked her fans several times.
"I want to thank all my rebel heart fans and every other kind of fans, supporting me for over 3 decades. Fuck fuck fuck yeah, fuck fuck fuck thank you!"
The Unapologetic Bitch was not Kylie, as many had hoped, but drag queen and Live Nation VIP Party host Maxi Shield.
So that was it boys & girls... goodnight!
Madonna arrived in the 55th and last city of the Rebel Heart Tour. The last time Madonna visited Sydney was in november and december 1993. To compensate for the 23 years of absence, the final Rebel Heart shows are being recorded for the DVD release.
Madonna addressed everal of the false reports in the blood-thirsty tabloid media.
"I don't wannna be accused of having a meltdown... God forbid a mother should miss her son," she said.
She also spoke of the false accusations of her being drunk on stage: "Here's the thing: I don't even drink. But because I've been accused of being an alcoholic so many times, I'm gonna start drinking. So f**k you!"
When spanking one of her female dancers during the maracas moment, Madonna asked "How old are you? 15 or 16?"The girl replied "14!". "Good. I'm doin' good with minors these days," joked Madonna, referring to the controversy of Brisbane's Unapologetic Bitch.
After the show, Madonna also instagrammed a picture of the full Brisbane arena, to counter the false reports that she was playing for empty venues.
During the maracas moment, Madonna thanked her loyal fans for "being in her gang".
Game Of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie was the Unapologetic Bitch.
Madonna started her second show in Brisbane reasonably earlier than the first.
Madonna caused some controversy when she pulled down the top of the Unapologetic Bitch Josephine and exposed the girl's breast. The blood-thirsty Australian tabloids screamed "sexual harassment" afterwards, but the girl called out the media: "Why would I sue Madonna for the best moment of my life?"
Ever since Madonna has arrived Down Under, fans have been hoping for Kylie to be an Unapologetic Bitch or a surprise act on the tour. The rumour mill turned even faster when manager Guy Oseary tweeted a picture of him with the Australian pop princess, but so far she hasn't made any appearnces during Madonna's shows.
But there was a Kylie moment at the first Brisbane show, when Madonna sang a few lines of Can't Get You Out Of My Head.
"I love that song! I love Kylie! I wish she were here! Where are you Kylie? Come back Kylie, I didn't mean to scare you away."
Madonna mocked the foolish reports in the tabloid press: "Oh I'm so drunk on this water!"
The medley was not performed. The request song was Crazy For You.
There was quite some criticism for starting the show only at 11.15pm, the latest she's started a show on this tour. "I'm hardly ever late. It's you people that get here early that's the problem," she joked after singing Body Shop. "Stay home, do your hair and make up, have a tequila. Roll yourself a fat one... no, I don't believe in that shit. Just come late and I won't have to come early. We've got three more shows and we want to fix the problem."
Nicole, from Madonna Australia, was the Unapologetic Bitch. She got one of the rhinestone-encrusted bananas.
Nicole was the Unapologetic Bitch! (Matt)Posted by Madonna Australia on Wednesday, 16 March 2016
At the second Melbourne show, there were no more references to 'Tears of a Clown', except for a few jokes.
Madonna performed part of Fever...
... followed by Like A Prayer.
After her 'Tears of a Clown' adventure, Madonna has resumed her Rebel Heart Tour, playing her first Australian show in 23 years. But both projects intertwined, as she incorporated some elements of the clown show into her Rebel Heart concert.
The medley was left out once again. Instead she rode her tricycle on stage (wearing the matador outfit), throwing peanuts in the audience and falling over.
Later on she told a few jokes to the audience too. During Music, she performed part of 'Send In The Clowns'.
Take A Bow was back as the request song. Madonna dedicated the song to Molly Meldrum, "the first man in Australia to fall in love with me'.
Drag queen Courtney Act was the first Australian Unapologetic Bitch.
This might be the version of the show that we might end up seeing on the DVD, since it's rumoured that both Melbourne shows are being filmed.
Madonna started with a disclaimer, saying people shouldn't expect a fully prepared show. It's all work in progress. She said she had the idea for this kind of show for a long time.
Madonna arrived on stage on a small tricycle.
She then sang Send In The Clowns, a cover of Stephen Sondheim.
This was followed by Drowned World.
After two clowns served her a Cosmopolitan, Madonna revisited an album that she largely ignored on her tours: American Life. She gave a beautiful rendition of X-Static Process. After a few bars she fucked up the lyrics so she started over again. "I told you it's a fucking work in progress."
She followed it up with Between The Bars, the cover of Elliot Smith. This might have been a first of many references to her son Rocco, who danced when Madonna performed this song during the Secret Project Revolution in 2013.
Nobody's Perfect made a comeback after 15 years. She taught the crowd to accept that nobody's perfect, and that you need to learn two words, especially in a relationship: "sorry" and "you're right".
Easy Ride was performed for the first time ever (this one too had to be started over again). She referred to her dad, who was a workaholic ("I might have inherited that from him") and who taught her the importance of hard work.
She spoke about her son Rocco before dedicating the song Intervention to him. In the background the screen showed pictures of him.
The only recent song was Joan of Arc. Though she spoke of her admiration for Joan of Arc, it was yet another song about her vulnerability, especially in these emotional times for her.
Madonna talked about the many times when people ask her why she keeps doing it, why keep making records and going on tour. They ask "Haven't you done everything already?" and she replies "That seems like the weirdest question to ask. Which human being ever did everything?" More than fitting, she sang Don't Tell Me, to say noone should ever tell her to stop. She also laughed that a Vegas residency is not on her mind "I'll die before I do Vegas!"
She told another story of her dad and how she bought him a vineyard after his retirement. Once she visited and went for a run. She ended up visitng the graveyard where her mother is buried. To the surprise of the audience, she continued with Mer Girl.
<3 Borderline <3 - Tears of a Clown Special, Melbourne [Thur March 10th 2016] FULL SONG HDPosted by Madonna Minute on Friday, 11 March 2016
As the show was nearing its end (by the, it was close to 3am), it was time to Take A Bow and say good-bye. The performance was close to the Rebel Heart Tour and about the only reference to her current tour.
After leaving the stage, she came back for an encore: naturally it was Holiday.
There were several celebrities spotted in the audience, including Dawn French.
There were also signs at the entrance saying the performance was being recorded for future broadcast, which is great news for the many fans who couldn't attend this exclusive fan show.
Madonna performed her special "Tears of a Clown" fan show in the Forum Theatre in Melbourne. She come up past midnight and performed a very unconventional setlist of gems that had a special meaning to her.
The most striking is the inclusion of 4 songs from American Life, an album that has been ignored since the Re-Invention Tour. Another 5 songs came from Ray Of Light and Music, albums that were hardly represented on the Rebel Heart Tour.
It had been a while since Madonna had an Unapologetic Bitch strip off on stage, so hunky Fernando from Brazil was more than happy to oblige. The banana-shaped, diamond-encrusted flask was back.
"Auckland, are you with me?"
Madonna just finished her first ever show in Auckland, New Zealand.
Madonna had some emotional moments, dedicating La Vie en Rose to Rocco with tears in her eyes: "I hope he sees this somewhere and he knows how much I miss him." Other moments, her spirit was up again and she seemed in a good mood, with the crowd responding very well.
She invited Kiwi fan Shaki on stage during Unapologetic Bitch, and "shared" the banana with her... basically French kissing her. She ordered on of her security guards Shane to come on stage and witness it, asking him if he was aroused by it.