It was a stressful few weeks leading up to this gig with Madonna plagued by a seemingly worsening knee injury, she had already cancelled ten shows on this tour, some with only hours before curtain up. Other shows had been so late starting it was nearly midnight before she showed her face.
So when she did make it on stage for the second night of her Madame X Tour residency at the London Palladium, I was glad to see Madonna…..kind of.
The first four songs were cut so we were catapulted into the world of Madame X midway through, causing confusion for those of us who knew the setlist. Madge stormed onto the stage to Vogue which was OK but no show opener in the calibre we’re used to from our hero. Then after a brief chat where she auctioned off a polaroid and a brilliant version of I Don’t Search from the new album and American Life we were straight into the Portugese section, technically the third act.
I love that Madonna has been so inspired by living in Portugal and here she seemed to wake up and really enjoy herself. Medellin is brilliant as was Crazy but Killers Who Are Partying and Extreme Occident just felt a bit flat.
Before you know it we’re into the final act with a sublime version of Frozen, Madonna behind a semi-transparent video screen with footage of her eldest daughter, Lourdes, dancing. A couple more album songs are followed by a storming version of Like A Prayer, then its lacklustre final song, I Rise for which Madonna marches out of the auditorium through the aisle so we can all get a good look at the top of her head as her five foot four frame is dwarfed by her security.
Before you think I am a Madonna hater, I definitely am not. I queued outside Wembley Stadium for 8 hours for Blond Ambition and The Girlie Show, I got a coach to Paris for the Drowned World Tour, suffered the “no air con” years of the Reinvention, Confessions and Sticky and Sweet tours, stood in the rain in Hyde Park for MDNA and sat for an hour in Manchester while they fixed her screens for the Rebel Heart tour. I’ve earnt my place as a Madonna fan.
But one difference this time is the price. I paid £450 for my ticket. Yes we were in an approximately 2000 seater theatre but Madonna was on fast forward and did not feel engaged. Six songs were cut from the original opening night set list which is significant.
The other difference is I left just feeling flat. Whenever I have left one of her shows, the euphoria is huge. To paraphrase our diva, she takes you on a journey. But with the lack of established songs and the flatter songs from the new album, the Madame X show is limping almost as much as the star.
It’s been a public relations nightmare for her and the day after my show, two more London shows were cut. Inevitably people are going to say it’s her age but she’s injured and realistically a torn ligament is not going to heal overnight what age you are but at 61, it’s got to play a part. A lot of people have asked me if she should just give up but I don’t think so. I saw Cher last year at 73 and Tina Turner when she was 70 so there is life in Madge yet.
I think she needs to accept that she isn’t current anymore and if she wants to present new music, there has to be more than a few nods to her back catalogue to draw people in. Her pricing too needs addressing, she cannot charge people up to £1k+ for tickets and provide this level of service. She would argue it costs a fortune for this level of show, then don’t do that level of show.
We would have been happy with a two hour set of her sat on a stool singing songs from the new album peppered with oldies and good interaction with the crowd. The show felt like one of her stadium barnstormers shrunk to theatre size. I think it’s time for Madonna to do an actual gig. She played piano in a song as well as her guitar, she could easily reinvent herself as a musician rather than showgirl and have us dancing in the aisles.
So in all not my best Madonna experience but I’m glad she’s still giving it some although I am sure she will be so relieved when this tour is over and she can get back to full health. I think a Greatest Hits tour in a couple of years is probably the only option she has now to get people back on board but I doubt anyone is brave enough to tell her this.