Kicking off the MDNA World Tour landed Madge in Tel Aviv… then here in Abu Dhabi where she was greeted with a very fair and acceptable 36 degrees for June. Opened by the high energy Benny Benassi the 22,000 plus audience had plenty of time to queue for beers and other boos for over an hour and a half before we were greeted by the Queen of Pop. Set to play at 9pm, the distant sounds of a Michael Jackson album entertained our ears until at 10:40pm when the chimes of church bells and thundering bass turned up the curiosity of fans. From being booed to cheered, no matter what the mix of attitudes towards her late arrival were, they were quickly adjusted into excitable intrigue as to how this controversial trendsetter was going to shape her show for the likes of the Muslim middle eastern country. But who were we kidding? This woman is a business woman and isn’t going to adjust her tune for no one and that is exactly what she did.
The first five minutes of the show was likely my favorite staged in a very religious setting with monks working in unison to hoist a bell back and forth across the stage accompanied by deep chimes and low mnemonic hymns. The holy cross appears and from then on in Madonna marks every aspect of displaying inappropriate and in some cases illegal scenery and messages for the remainder of the 2-hour show.
By the second song, Madonna’s prop included a rather large gun where she happily “shot” her stage members dead as the high definition graphics of blood splattering across the stage screen grabbed my confusion. Perhaps maybe because her message in the middle east was focused on educating her fans to love and stop war, left me lost on the weaponry and violent outcomes from a seemingly playful massacre.
But aside from the bloodshed performance, array of crucifixes, the 53 year old mother of four seemed to love using her ‘describing words’ which were in line with the profane four letter words we love when we have a bad day or seem angry at something.
Queen of pop? Yes! However, after many accusations of Lady Gaga ‘copying’ her music, Madonna’s mashups of hits intertwining each other which to me, sounded more like noise, contradicted the fact even her own pop music sounds just like everything else pop. Personally, I am sure the Gaga/Mo fuel is fired by the pair raising their ratings given the fact Madonna performed a wee bit of ‘Born this way’ and lightly insulted the younger pop artists’ style.
If you have the new album, MDNA, and liked it, you would probably have loved the pre-recorded mix of “songs” which I never thought IN MY LIFE I would say this but I frankly would have preferred for the entire show rather than her attempts at singing the chorus during her I’ve-still-got-the-dance-moves performance. A very very… very sad attempt at ‘Like A Virgin’ left me feeling a bit awkward as I wished hoped and prayed the likes of a Simon Cowell would have showed up to provide his half-smiling-what-the-H&%l-were-you-thinking-and-seriously-are-you-kidding?! critiques. From then on in, I simply couldn’t handle the live performance of anything other than her plethora of gawjus dancers and skin tight clothing, looked around and could see I was joined in my thought process. About an hour and 10 minutes into the show, the space in the crowd slowly began to open up making it more comfortable for those who chose to stick out the remainder of the show. My pals and I lasted until the third last song which moved into ‘Like a Prayer’, one of my favorites from her and quoted as ‘the’ crowd pleaser for the night… but… I couldn’t bare anymore. So, onward to the taxi line up to head back to the hotel seemed like a much better idea… on a school night anyway.
‘Masterpiece’, which is an ironic soundtrack title for the flop of her movie, was probably the best performed song where she held a nice note and managed to sing the entire song without interjecting heaps of other titles into it. The original ‘Vogue’ was performed which was one of the few songs that joined the generation gaps of fans at the show and performed very well.
We know she is not ‘PC’ nor does the Queen of Pop display much care for creating a little controversy especially when she knows it’s going to make headlines, raise the ratings and put her in a higher tax bracket with more and more sales, however, I am amazed this particular show was welcomed in the UAE and perhaps more surprised she opted to tick off every box in the ‘Things that will get you arrested in the UAE’ list for expatriates. Now, here’s the question, If I was anywhere other than in the UAE or any country for that matter that requires a little sensitivity to the culture and customs, would I have enjoyed the highly anticipated and elaborately priced show? Likely, no. But slap “Cirque du Soleil Productions” on the ‘MDNA’ tour, enjoy the costumes, amazing set changes and choreography (dancers for that matter)… absolutely!