Wednesday, 23 September 2009

My concert experience: Madonna

I can't believe it took me that much time to gather my thoughts and give a full review on probably the best concert I have ever been! I guess I am going to be a bit too biased having in mind my affection towards Madonna and her music, which in no way makes me blind for the rather blunt and lacking originality Sticky & Sweet Tour. After the completion of the tour Madonna announced a total gross revenue of over $400 million, making it the second highest grossing tour in the history of music (topped only by A Bigger Bang Tour by The Rolling Stones).

With 85 gigs in two consecutive years Sticky & Sweet is Madonna's most extensive tour, which was highlighted by concerts in countries Madge visited for the very first time like Bulgaria, Romania, Finland and Sweden. According to Billboard Boxscore the tour was seen by over 3,5 million people in 30 countries. In Bulgaria alone the concert was attended by roughly 55,000 people putting it in the top 3 most successful concerts in the country.
According to Billboard Boxscore Madonna put almost $5 million in her pocket, which to me is quite a surprise knowing that we had the cheapest tickets. I guess we were really very enthusiastic as the price of 100 euros per Golden Circle ticket (average salary is around 250-300 euros) turned to be absolutely no obstacle for fans.

Luckily Madonna is still among the most popular musicians in Bulgaria, a fact that secured a full stadium and a passionate audience (to some extent). A few enthusiasts started gathering in front of Vasil Levski Stadium the day before, but the real hysteria was the very day when nationalities mixed and you could easily hear broken English flowing in the air. Although I consider myself a Madonna fan I decided to skip the part with spending my whole day under the blazing sun and went just half an hour before the doors were opened. Despite my fan-laziness I ended up a couple of rows from the stage. As a friend of mine said "If I knew we were going to be really that close, I'd have given my whole salary if it were necessary." Agree!

The support act was Paul Oakenfold, although if it were up to me I'd have kept Robyn for the second leg of the tour too. Anyways, I guess he was chosen as producing Madonna's latest hit single "Celebration" taken out from the eponymous Best Hits collection (released September 2009). Bulgarian media spent quite the time and efforts to report on the preparations for the concert: building of the stage, arrival of construction workers and crew, management of the event and highlighting fans' expectations. After all Madonna's concert was and still is one of the biggest events for 2009, despite all the baseless criticism Madge garnered.

At 10 pm what I have been waiting for over a decade came true: Madonna live in concert! Until the very last seconds, even when the opening tune began I still doubted that she is ever going to come on stage. But she did! Alright, I have to admit that I took me some 20 minutes to realize it. It may sound silly to you, but sometimes you just feel as if this person is a double and real Madonna is somewhere in The States having Margarita's and enjoying the company of her new criminally young boy-toy. But it was Madonna in flesh, just a few meters away from me and she looked so different from all the photos, videos, concerts and fan stuff I have ever seen. Probably, cause she was there just for me (OK, and the other 54,999 people) and I could see her face, the wrinkles, her flaming eyes and athletic body. I dare say she's beautiful in her unique way and has this charisma that I had only heard of.

Although I am really fond of Madonna and all she has done I cannot hide the fact that to me "Hard Candy" is a pile of crap, probably her weakest album for the last 20 years. Poor promotion, hideous style, boring photo shoots and tasteless songs with absolutely no message. Still, faith is cruel and it had me watch this very tour, I guess it was a punishment for dissing this album. "Candy Shop" was the first slap in my face, followed by "Beat Goes On". Luckily Madonna's career extend in almost three decades, hence the setlist diversity. Let's say that some of the Sticky & Sweet song arrangements made my ears bleed (check "Music" and "La Isla Bonita"). I wonder if Madonna feels insecure about some of her best known songs, as my mind still can't bear the fact that she chose "Rain" and "Die Another Day" to be backdrops (concert interludes), but gave a free spot to such a ridiculous song as "Dress You Up". It should go without mentioning that the audience kept absolutely silent during this very performance.

My personal favourite performance would be of "Miles Away". There was just this unique connection that made me feel everywhere and nowhere just gazing in Madonna's eyes. Another amazing moment was "You Must Love Me" when people around me started shouting out loud "We love you". I guess the whole we-love-you-hysteria startled her and for a dew seconds she was just smiling with her eyes supposedly filling up with tears. Of course, Madonna is such a stage-expert that you could never tell whether her reactions are ironic.

The audience blasted out at "Like A Prayer" and to some extent at "Vogue", clearly being her best known songs in Bulgaria. I cannot be very judgmental about the audience as I was in a sea of fans and I had the impression that everyone was having a great time. In reality lots of people were there just to see Madonna, but didn't show any enthusiasm and many spent the whole concert drinking beer and discussing personal problems. According to some spectators the whole concert was on a playback, but being a few meters away from Madonna I can assure you that for most of the time she sang live. Whoever doesn't like her singing can take a flight to Mariah Carey's nearest concert and spend two hours listening to impossible octaves.

I can keep on going telling more and more about my concert experience, but some emotions can never take the form of words. Sadly, the concert came to an end in no time and we had to say Goodbye. Of course, until next time!