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An estimated 25,000 fans cheered and screamed as the Material Girl finally appeared on stage more than two hours late, wearing a skin-tight black outfit from her “Girl Gone Wild” album.
Sunday’s concert was the first of two Abu Dhabi performances. The second, announced after tickets for Sunday’s event sold out in hours, will be on Monday.
Brandishing an assault rifle during her hit Revolver, the superstar saluted the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the second stop in her MDNA world tour.
“Ladies and gentlemen… It’s too damn hot!” Madonna later told the audience who braved temperatures exceeding 30 degrees in the desert nation.
Tala and Omar Zaru, fans from Jordan, were also celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary and Omar’s 41st birthday.
“Celebrating our two special occasions with Madonna can’t be bettered,” said Tala.
Madonna began her much anticipated tour in Tel Aviv last week, calling from the stage for Middle East peace.
“As you know, the Middle East and all the conflict that occurs here and have been occurring for thousands of years, they have to stop,” she said. “You can’t be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world.”
“So start today — every single one of you, if there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world.”
In Abu Dhabi, Omar Zaru was unimpressed.
“I wish I had the freedom to go there and see her. But I can’t because I am Palestinian and there is an occupation,” said Omar who comes from Ramallah in the West Bank.
Others appeared not bothered that she had performed in Israel, considered by most Arabs to be an arch-enemy.
“We are a peaceful people,” said Lebanese Patricia Chebli, 37.
“Culture is for everybody, so I don’t mind” that she went to Tel Aviv.
The tour — Madonna’s first since her wildly successful “Sticky and Sweet” outing in 2008 and 2009 — will move on to Europe and the Americas, with concerts planned in a total of 80 countries.
It is expected to end in early 2013 in Australia.
And yes, she played a fair few ‘old ones’. Ten of 22 to be exact, spanning ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, ‘Express Yourself (feat. Born This Way and She’s Not Me)’ – a five-inch-heel-high dig at Lady Gaga’s familiar-sounding track – ‘Open Your Heart’ ,’Justify My Love’, ‘Vogue’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Like A Virgin’ – albeit a stripped-down, maudlin, take on the chirpy ’80s original – and ‘Like A Prayer.’ ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Erotica’ were also played, mixed in to newer tracks.
And yes, of course Madonna shocked us. After opening with religious chants and an incense pot that swung above some of the crowd, she proceeded to run about with an AK47 during ‘Revolver’, before shooting a man in a Kill Bill-style motel room during the clearly-shock-tactic-motivated ‘Gang Bang’. Of course, other gasp-inducing moments included her stripping down to her underwear and inviting everyone to ‘act dangerously’, flirting with girls (as well as her current squeeze, 24-year-old Brahim Zaibat, during a flash of ‘Erotica’), and men dressed as women – in corsets. Indeed, moments of ‘I’m a Sinner’, particularly the religious-references included in the dance routine, played precariously with local boundaries.
But then, there were also plenty of surprises we couldn’t have predicted (at least, those of us who’d avoided reading the tour’s first night reviews). There was the flying marching band during ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’, that drifted high above the lucky few in the stage’s triangle pit area. Indeed, there was the stage itself, and how far the two catwalks stretched out into the Golden Circle. And finally, there was the appearance of her 11-year-old son Rocco, and his – very focussed! – participation in several dance routines.
Yes: she kept us waiting for an hour and 40 minutes. But she certainly kept us all enthralled for an hour and 50. While the energy of the set may have been a bit patchy for some towards the back of the arena (that ‘Like a Virgin’ rendition…), for only the second date of a production of this scale, the show was spectacularly polished (we spotted just one accidental drop of the mic. And we’re guessing the dancer that passed it to her knew about it afterwards…).
And, most importantly of all on a school night – the traffic wasn’t too bad at all on the way out. Panic not, those heading to Yas Island tonight!
As Ahlan! reder Rupal Kamat posted on our Facebook page, “There are concerts.. And then there’s MADONNA.. Dance..Drama..Music at its Absolute Crazy Best! The Woman is INCREDIBLE.. SCANDALOUS, yet oh-so-completely FABULOUS! Best Concert Experience… EVER!”
Madonna got on stage over two hours later than scheduled but the fans didn’t mind waiting and greeted the iconic diva with the loudest cheers ever!
Madge made her entrance wearing a skintight black ensemble topped with a crown and started grooving to Girl Gone Wild from her new album MDNA, also the name of the tour. Topless male dancers wearing high heels joined her.
“It’s too damn hot,” Madonna told the audience at one point. “But we’re going to have fun anyway.”
Fun was a bit of an understatement as the crowd erupted with every move she made. At one point, the superstar asked the crowd if they were having fun. “You better be because we’re sweating our a**** off!” she said.
The show also featured the debut of Madonna’s 11-year-old son Rocco, from her marriage to Brit director Guy Ritchie. Madge’s boyfriend Brahim Zaibat, 24, also made several appearances and danced with her alone for a version of Erotica.
But the singer’s 15-year-old daughter Lourdes, expected to join the dancers, did not make an appearance during the two-hour show.
Madonna is due to perform the second of her shows at the Du Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi tonight, after coming on stage at about 10.35 – 90 minutes after she was expected to come out and just 25 minutes before the show was due to end.
One insider said that Madonna was concerned about the heat for herself and her dancers and decided to wait, although the Flash spokeswoman said she could not give a reason for the delay.
Although tonight’s show will start an hour late, it will still be an improvement on Saturday’s timing and the company is hoping to ensure that the show runs on a tighter schedule.
And five minutes into the opening sequence, it quickly became clear the controversial entertainer was in no mood to tone down her routine.
With gates opened at 7pm, the lights on stage finally dimmed at 10.40pm to the sound of chiming church bells as a large censer swung in the middle of the stage.
Dancers dressed in monk cloaks then appeared against the backdrop of a giant crucifix.
adonna, 53, made her entrance in black tights wearing a crown and broke into Girl Gone Wild from her new album MDNA, also the name of the tour. Topless male dancers wearing high heels then joined her.
“It’s too damn hot,” she shouted at one point. “But we’re going to have fun any way.”
With temperatures touching 36° Celsius inside the newly refurbished arena, Madonna’s late arrival led to a few rounds of boos earlier in the evening as fans became impatient and as the crowd swelled around the stage. This reporter witnessed three different fights break out with fisticuffs being exchanged in one case.
She didn’t acknowledge the lateness, but asked the crowd if they were having fun. “You better be because we’re sweating our a**** off,” she joked.
Featuring a major production, with a massive transforming stage, the show was undoubtedly the biggest and most extravagant organiser Flash Entertainment has ever hosted.
tabloid! had earlier asked the company if Madonna would tone down her performance to suit cultural sensitivities in the Emirates. Flash did not want to comment.
It addressed the delay on Monday: “Like all major shows, door times and artist performances are carefully coordinated but in some cases, delays can occur that are beyond our control,” a spokesperson said. “Flash Entertainment acknowledges that there was a longer waiting time between the support act Benny Benassi and Madonna’s performance last night. [We] never published a time for Madonna’s performance.”
Besides featuring violent images of blood splattered on the screen during a performance of Revolver and Gang Bang, there were lots of religious iconographies, sexy dance moves and potentially contentious audio-visual content never before seen in a UAE public performance.
For many, the show exceeded all expectations.
“Amazing how I woke up this morning pretty fresh. Madonna gives me energy,” said Puerto Rican-American Adela Aveco. “The production was amazing, wish I’d splurged on [a] Golden Circle [ticket].”
American Abu Dhabi resident Sarah Omolewu said the show was great. “She had phenomenal energy and kept the crowds rocking the whole time. Looked fantastic for her age. I loved how she incorporated both old and new songs into the show. Flash also did a good job of organising and crowd control.”
The performance also featured Madonna’s 11-year-old son Rocco, from her marriage with British director Guy Ritchie. Her boyfriend Brahim Zaibat, 24, also made several appearances and danced with her alone for a version of her 1992 song Erotica. Madonna’s 15-year-old daughter, Lourdes, highly anticipated to join the dancers, did not make an appearance during the almost two-hour show.
“When I bought the album, it made me question if Madonna was still at the forefront. But this concert really proved she was. And the Lady Gaga bit was the icing on the cake,” said Bruce Jones, a Dubai resident from Canada.
Jones was referring to Madonna’s rendition of the Lady Gaga hit Born This Way, which she incorporated into her song Express Yourself. Critics have noted the similarities between the two songs and accused Gaga of copying. Madonna followed the mash-up with She’s Not Me, as an apparent dig at the much younger star.
“She kept us waiting, but it was worth the wait,” said Armando Raoul, 28, from Brazil. “But I think for those not familiar with the new album, MDNA, you wouldn’t know a lot of the songs.”
This was a popular opinion, especially among older guests who waited patiently for the classics.
Julia Stellington, 39, was with her four girlfriends at the show. “I was just expecting a few more of the really recognisable songs,” she said. “We wanted to have a Madonna sing-a-long. But she was still great and we wouldn’t have missed it.”
Mandii Atterman, 56, snapped up tickets in the seated grandstand but left before the show started. “It’s just getting a bit late,” she said. “I’m with my 78-year-old mother and we thought the show would start at 9pm, which is reasonable. It’s a bit late for us,” she laughed.
Penny Fee, an Australian, was with her friend Susie Wright, from the UK. “From 6.45pm we were queuing outside. Got in at nearly 8pm. It was dangerous because of the fences. How can you even enjoy it now? We’ve still got to get back to Dubai. It’s disorganised. From arrival to now it’s been fairly disastrous.”
Jayesh Vijay, a Dubai resident, was with two friends and was determined not to let the delays get him down. “I’m sure we’ll enjoy it when she’s on,” he said. “We’ve been to all the Flash concerts, Guns N’ Roses etc. This is the first time it’s so bad, and on a hot summer [night] too. From 6pm we’ve been here, and the queue for food and drink — never seen it like that. Still excited to see her.”
Reem, who only offered one name, said the performance was obviously targeted at a different crowd: “I think it was mostly for the younger audience she wants. And I think a lot of the older fans might have felt a little short-changed.”
Juliana Navaro, from the Philippines, was impressed with the costumes. “All the clothes were really nice, except maybe the last one, Celebration, where it looked a bit like a Beats headphone advertisement,” she said.
For Indian fan Anjana Deepak, who paid Dh1,095 to see the concert, it was worth every dirham.
“Her Drowned World tour is one of my favourite concerts ever and I would definitely tie tonight’s with that. It’s one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.”
An estimated 25,000 fans cheered and screamed as the ‘Material Girl’ finally appeared on stage more than two hours late, wearing a skin-tight black outfit from her ‘Girl Gone Wild’ album.
Sunday’s concert was the first of two Abu Dhabi performances. The second, announced after tickets for Sunday’s event sold out within hours, will be on Monday.
Brandishing an assault rifle for her hit ‘Revolver,’ the superstar saluted the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the second stop in her MDNA world tour. “Ladies and gentlemen… It’s too damn hot!” Madonna later told the audience, which braved temperatures exceeding 30 degrees.
Tala and Omar Zaru, fans from Jordan, were also celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary and Omar’s 41st birthday. “Celebrating our two special occasions with Madonna can’t be bettered,” said Tala.
Madonna began her much anticipated tour in Tel Aviv last week, calling from the stage for Middle East peace. “As you know, the Middle East and all the conflict that occurs here and have been occurring for thousands of years, they have to stop,” she said. “You can’t be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world.”
“So start today – every single one of you; if there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world.”
During her performance on Thursday in Tel Aviv, Madonna called for peace in the Middle East and raised awareness about the ongoing conflicts raging throughout the region. Saudi satellite news station Al-Arabiya, however, reported that the Tel Aviv show was criticised for presenting violent imagery.
The pop star was even criticised by some international newspapers. Al-Arabiya cited prominent US entertainment magazine the Hollywood Reporter, which wrote: “For a show originally billed as a ‘Concert for Peace,’ the opening night of Madonna’s world tour in Tel Aviv featured a disproportionate amount of violence,” including the use of weapons and religious imagery.
Furthermore, following Madonna’s Tel Aviv show, a small group of 170 members organised an anti-Madonna campaign on Facebook, calling to stop the pop star from visiting Abu Dhabi and cancel her show. Not many people, however, heeded the call.
According AFP, the concert received mixed reviews by audiences. The majority appeared not to mind that she kicked off her tour in the self-proclaimed Jewish state. “We’re a peaceful people,” said Lebanese fan Patricia Chebli, 37. “Culture is for everybody. I don’t mind that she went to Tel Aviv.”
The tour – Madonna’s first since her wildly successful ‘Sticky and Sweet’ tour in 2008/09 – is now expected to move on to Europe and the Americas, with concerts planned in some 80 countries. It is scheduled to wrap up in Australia early next year.
The Sunday night concert, attended by 22,000 fans who paid up to 300 dollars for their places, saw the 53-year-old star dress up as a cheerleader and appear among Christian imagery carrying a gun, among other displays.
After keeping the audience waiting for almost 90 minutes, the show opened with a scene of bell-ringing. With a cross in the background, the singer appeared dressed in black and holding a machine gun.
There had previously been calls on social networking sites for the concert to be cancelled out of solidarity with the victims of violence in Syria.
Most of those attending the concert were US and European residents in the Gulf state.
Although the singer’s costumes were not provocative, some aspects of the show were described by attendees as “too daring to be suitable for Gulf society’s customs and traditions.”
Doors opened at 7:30pm, we entered and waited until Benny Benassi entered, he definitely had an interesting set of a Goatye remix, Adele and more pop hits, also his biggest hit ever, Satisfaction.
An hour and forty minutes passed after his show, which lasted for an hour. The stage was being prepared by experts and lighting professionals while we danced on Michael Jackson’s hits, and were sweating like hell. It was very hot in Abu Dhabi, not humid but literally hot. No wind whatsoever.
Suddenly, the lights went off and the show began with what looked like a church and some monks then called her name, Maaadonnnna! Madonna, shows as if she’s coming from heaven, only a silhouette of her holding a rifle. She then shoots, and goes out in some sort-of Aladdin style clothing/burqa takes it off, starts with a shot bang and starts singing Girl Gone Wild.
Great production and high quality screens can be easily noticed specially with the moving screens and blocks. It was impressive to the extreme! like a dream on stage. Madonna breaks the ice at the end of Girl Gone Wild with 20 seconds of Material Girl. Then, the revolver beat kicks in surprisingly with a video of Lil Wayne wearing a huge cross on the back screen.
After that, Police comes and suddenly a cheap motel room decoration comes on stage, as if Madonna is an outlaw hiding, a cold blooded criminal. Starts shooting others with huge blood splits on screen. Was really nice killing all these people while dancing, a lot of effort is indeed made. Next was the great hit, Poppa Don’t Preach not for long though, follow by a nice act by the skilled dancers – then, it is time for action. The slack-line that Madonna used for her Super Bowl performance is on stage, and Madonna uses it while singing Hung Up, a special performance where I almost felt like she was part of cirque de soliel… really amazing moves! Then it was followed up by Madonna on guitars performing one of my favorite songs, I Don’t Give A with Nicki Minaj on screens (where Nicki says in the end, the only Queen, Madonna!)
Heartbeat with dancers only goes on stage, great act as well… Then suddenly, Madonna comes in her white & red cheerleader outfit performing Express Yourself. (she did it with her top open on day 2, with a black bra saying: Sorry, Abu Dhabi it is too hot for me to keep it on, I might as well rip it open).
This was also the first moment in the show where she said: Sorry Abu Dhabi, the floor is too wet and fucked up, she seemed to be having fun though. Suddenly she mashes up the song with Lady GaGa‘s Born This Way and then goes back and says: Respect Yourself, I’m thinking as a clear message to Lady Gaga that Madonna is the one & only queen, where she also sings a small part of She’s Not Me. Then, more dancers suspended high banging the drums to her latest single, Give Me All Your Luvin. Yes, a flying march!
Next, was a video montage of Madonna’s famous singles and suddenly, cassette tapes and Madonna back in black on guitars singing Turn Up The Radio followed by a crazy remix of Open Your Heart, featuring Madonna’s son, Rocco with percussionists, the dance was amazing, it even felt like it was a russian/circassian performance! Madonna then grabbed the mic after a great dance addressing the fans saying: We are all human beings. Then, she performed Masterpiece after that, it was time for Vogue! Where Madonna was back in black and had her famous 80’s cone bra on her white shirt, where dancers took the stage with the most weird outfits, men dressed in women outfits looking weird, like no one would believe that happened here. Later was a remix of Candy Shop with a sense of Erotica. Suddenly, she does this wiping move that Michael Jackson used to do, wiping herself and singing Human Nature and kind of slowly stripping out of clothes to a certain level with many mirrors surrounding her and hands trying to touch her everywhere.
Then, she takes off her shirt for an almost nude version of Like A Virgin, with only a bra, with a temporary tattoo on her back saying “No Fear” & her formal pants with a pianist and a big black piano accompanying her in a dramatic performance, where at the end of the song one of the backup dancers comes hugging her from behind, putting a corset on her, fixing the zipper and pulling the strings until he sucks the air of her body, she was barely able to breath singing the last part of the song.
Then, she fades away and the best part of the show starts, the Nobody Knows Me video interlude showing hatred against gays, lesbians, blacks, arabs, nazis, Madonna’s face turning into a muhajjaba in an abaya, then half her face looking like Hitler, Bashar Al-Asad, Husni Mubarak and many shots of the Arab Women rights movements, equal rights, men kissing each other, women too, couples making out of all sorts, ending it with a tribute to many teens who either were killed or committed suicide like Tyler Clementi (cyberbulled gay by hidden webcams) That was bold & touching to everyone.
Madonna comes in a diamond robe with her name on the back and performs I’m Addicted then my personal favorite I’m A Sinner, where she addressed the audience asking them; “I’m a sinner, are you sinners too? are you enjoying this Abu Dhabi – you better do, because I’m sweating like a bitch in here.” Madonna was again on the guitar, wearing a garland of flowers with what looked like a camera-footage of a train track while the blocks she & the dancers were on looked like buses, very similar feeling to listening to Beautiful Stranger (days of Austin Power). Then, a group of singers joined her chanting and suddenly, a big choir was on stage performing Like A Prayer (with her son Rocco too) – This song never gets old. Never!
Last performance was the great dance single, Celebration, which made us all go on fire! The protection, the dancers, everyone was dancing and wanting the concert to never end. Unfortunately, it ended right here. Madonna said Goodbye and left the stage.
I loved MDNA! I enjoyed it 2 days on a row. I am still under shock, Madonna was in Abu Dhabi. Madonna didn’t censor her shoe, it had her dancing, the crosses, the monks, the forbidden hebrew and the attitude to call us whatever she wanted, she gave us back an unforgettable performance for the first time in the GCC & MENA region.
Madonna we love you, Oh and Think Flash. Thank you.
Thanks to everyone who shared their material!
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