IF you believe some of what you’ve heard in the past week, Madonna’s first Australian tour in 23 years has been a trainwreck.
But reports of her wild and erratic behaviour have been greatly exaggerated. She’s not been drunk on stage — she sipped a cocktail. Yes, she’s kept fans waiting as she takes her time starting the show — but for better or worse, elastic concert times are as intrinsically Madonna at this stage as Like A Prayer and her conical bra.
And remember, those who waited for hours to see her Melbourne Forum show Tears Of A Clown last week were given their tickets for free — and rewarded with a two-hour show in an intimate setting.
Australians are notoriously hard to please concert-goers, particularly when it comes to the big touring acts who visit us infrequently – so expectations are high. Britney Spears has toured Australia just once, and attracted a fan backlash due to the fact she mimed her entire show. Whitney Houston’s 2010 final Australian tour was touted as a triumphant comeback, but met with audience walk outs and bad reviews as the toll her lifestyle had taken on her voice was laid bare.
In contrast, reviews for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour have been glowing, with fans agreeing it’s been worth the 23-year wait to have the Queen of Pop back on our shores.
The tour leans heavily on Madonna’s most recent album, Rebel Heart, which is in itself an odd beast. Weighing in at a bloated 20 tracks, it combines classic Madonna balladry (Ghost Town, Joan of Arc), with flimsy party jams (Unapologetic Bitch, Bitch, I’m Madonna). It has sold 650,000 copies worldwide, a fraction of the multi-million sales figures she commanded only a few years ago (2005’s polishedConfessions On A Dance Floor sold 12 million worldwide).
Those sales figures don’t paint the whole picture, though: nowadays, Madonna makes music to tour it, with her worldwide jaunts raking in staggering box office figures (thanks in no small part to her eye-watering ticket prices). The real question is: What kind of music does Madonna want to make now?