Madonna treated tens of thousands of ecstatic people in Israel to the inaugural show of her “MDNA” world tour on Thursday night (5/31/12), performing in a country where she has long claimed a special bond. She rocked and controlled the stage and arena in top form.
She landed in Israel last week, arriving with her children, her boyfriend, Brahim Zaibat and a 70-person entourage. She spent the days leading up to the performance rehearsing for the sold out powerhouse show and visiting Kabbalah centers.
Her spiritual serenity may have been challenged by Israel’s aggressive paparazzi, who have been camped outside her beachfront hotel and near the stadium where she performed.
For years, violence kept musicians away from Israeli stages. Now, with the ebb of the Palestinian uprising over the last decade, performers planning concerts have faced pressure from activists to cancel their appearances in Israel as political punishment. This did not stop Madonna.
She revealed that the production of her tour has “a lot of violence,” explaining, “The first section in the show is a little bit violent, I’m working out a lot of aggression, before I get to the happy bit.”
Madonna emerged on stage in a confessional, breaking through its glass window using a rifle, which she then aimed at the audience. She wore a skin-tight black outfit to sing her first song, “Girl Gone Wild,” accompanied by dancers dressed as monks.
Madonna also shared that the show would have “a dramatic arc,” and that the first part of the show is called “Transgression.” She explained that she was putting together a set list by reaching “back into my catalog and think[ing] what songs fall into that category.” She noted, “There’s quite a few!”
“It’s a real journey from the first act to the fourth, and the way she constructs her shows is like a theatre piece,” said costume designer and stylist Arianne Phillips, who oversaw the entire wardrobe design for Madonna, her backup singers, musicians and 22 backup dancers.
Madonna has donated 600 tickets to her concert in Israel to Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. She had announced her show as a peace concert and said she would invite activists, saying in a statement: “Music is so universal, and if there’s any chance that through my performance I can bring further attention and enlightenment to honor the peace efforts in the Middle East and help people come together, it would be an honor for me. It is my way of thanking those who are making so much effort toward bringing peace to the Middle East.”
The tour’s promoter has estimated that the MDNA tour will ultimately be ranked, money-wise, among the top 10 tours of all time. It’s expected she will rake in as much as $300 million in ticket sales, as well as another $75 million in merchandise sales, while on the road.
Dark Catholic imagery was spliced with blood, guts and guns as Madonna burst onto the stage at Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan stadium late on Thursday to kick off her hotly-anticipated MDNA world tour of some 30 countries.
The portentous tolling of a church bell opens the first set with bare-chested monks in burgundy robes swinging a giant golden censer in front of a giant red cross.
A plainchant melody turns into a Hebrew prayer as monks rise out of the floor, mixing Jewish and Catholic imagery as the Material Girl rises in silhoutte, shattering the backscreen as she launches into “Girl Gone Wild.”
Guns feature heavily in the next two numbers, “Revolver” and “Gang Bang” with the Queen of Pop and her dangers repeatedly ‘firing’ into the audience with a variety of guns, as huge images of empty bullet casings fall to the ground.
“Bang bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head,” she sings as brains splat onto the back screen behind her in a number which ends with her shooting down one of the dangers and flinging the gun onto the floor.
“If there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world.”
I’m a rocker and the only show I’ll see by a pop artist ever is Madonna. I’ve seen her live before and it’s always entertaining. She is after all an entertainer and a very good one.
Sample of the opening of the show:
Full Peace statement to Israelis by Madonna:
“The Middle East and all the conflicts that have been occurring here for thousands of years – they have to stop. You might have noticed the signs over here. There are several brave and important NGO’s that are representing Palestine and Israel. I know everyone here tonight, you can’t be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world.
There are people from all walks of life here. And even in my show we are all on different paths but we are all sons and daughters of the universe and we are all human beings. And whether we are Muslim or Jew, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, gay, straight, black, white or Asian, we are all human beings. Okay.
We all bleed the same color. We all want to love and be loved. It’s easy to say I want peace in the world, but it’s another thing to do it. And if we can all rise above our egos and our titles and the names of our countries and the names of our religions. If we can rise above ll of that and treat everyone around us, every human being with dignity and respect then we are on the road to peace.
So no matter how many laws we change, no matter how many percentages of land we give back, no matter how many talks, no matter how many wars, if we don’t treat every human being with dignity and respect we will never have peace.
So start today. Start now. Each and every one of you. Okay. You are the future. We are the future. And if there is peace here in the Middle East then there can be peace in the whole world. Okay. Please remember this.”
MADONNA and SON
Here’s the set list for the show, according to the fan site Madonnalicious:
“Girl Gone Wild”
“Papa Don’t Preach”
“I Don’t Give A”
“Best Friend/Heartbeat” (Interlude)
“Express Yourself” (Ft. “Born This Way”)
“Give Me All Your Luvin’”
“Turn Up the Radio”
“Open Your Heart”
“Justify My Love” (Interlude)
“Erotica / Human Nature”
“Like a Virgin”
“Nobody Knows Me” (Interlude)
“I’m a Sinner”
“Like a Prayer”
Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton described the epic performance as an exploration into the duality of romance.
“The MDNA tour is a love story,” he wrote in his review. “A story of love gone wrong! An exploration of the many sides of love. But especially the dark side.
“The MDNA show is dark. Very dark. And those rays of light she sprinkles throughout the show come as some much needed relief.”
The celebrity blogger said the anger all stemmed from the ups and downs of her split with ex-husband Guy Ritchie.
“Madonna is exorcising the demon of Guy Ritchie from her spirit,” Hilton said. “Quite literally! This show is ALL ABOUT HIM, just as the MDNA album is all about her failed marriage.”
Madonna’s MDNA tour takes her to Europe from May to August, North America from August to November, followed by a Christmas-New Year break, before coming to Australia.
It is her ninth world tour and the first since her Sticky and Sweet outing in 2008/2009.