I have read with much happiness, the joy that most Filipinos felt when they saw Madonna perform here in Manila last week.
Their happiness reminded me of this series of e-mails I sent my grade school friends ten years ago when we watched Madonna's Confessions tour in London.
The e-mails essentially capture the same joy and happiness that I have read in many of the reactions from her fans. It's amazing that ten years later, Madonna is still capable of giving that same kind of love to her fans in her most recent tour.
This was the third Madonna concert Vic and I saw so at the time these e-mails were written, you can say we were already Madonna concert "veterans", but still, our excitement to watch her was still very apparent.
As usual, my e-mails ARE VERY LONG - and as my friends say - "parang andun din daw sila" kasi I'm so detailed daw with my descriptions.
It's only one hour and 15 minutes to go before Madonna's Confession starts at Wembley Arena. I am leaving in about 15 minutes for the venue. Should take us an hour to get there, as we learned that the venue is in Zone 4. Anyway, the weather here in London has turned nippy and cool, so I brought a jacket just in case.
Just came from Madonna's Confessions show just an hour ago, and I'm still catching my breath! I am so tired and sleepy already, as the unavailibility of any airconditioning at the Wembley Arena has sapped all my energy. More details of the show tomorrow.
"You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Pay somewhere between 80 pounds (8T pesos) and 160 pounds (16T pesos), however, and you get horses."
- David Smyth, Evening Standard
And Madonna, of course. Writhing, dangling herself, shimmying like crazy and coming up with the goods to make sure her harem of lapdogs are pleased and satisfied. And very satisfied were Vic and I, giddy, excited, very pleased that Madonna paid us back very well!
Well, we had two major bloopers though. First, Vic forgot to bring cash, enough cash to buy lots of souvenirs of the show. It turned out that none of the cash ATMs at Wembley Arena read "foreign" cards. So be warned! If you are catching a show at Wembley, their ATMs and credit card readers don't accept "foreign" cards, maybe unless it's AMX (if you're American). Oh well, we were only able to buy a few shirts, posters and souvenir program with the cash we got. I had to clean out my wallet just to get all of them, only to find I had extra cash but in US dollars - and no money changer in sight. Oh well, next concert, I'll make sure we have enough money to buy the souvenirs. Second, Vic's camera had almost full memory. It turned out he left the blank cartridges in the hotel. There goes my videos!! Anyway, we were able to get some pictures of the show and got videos of the opening number and her song "Sorry" which our cousin requested. Otherwise, we could've taken more if the cartridge was empty. Lesson, bring an extra camera with EMPTY cartridges. Oh well, maybe it was destined to happen.
Other than those mishaps, it was wonderful to watch her perform again. This time, our seats were fabulous! We were able to get side tickets very near the stage. Also, as we were walking to our seats, we bumped into Duncan James (the cute guy in Blue). Apparently, we were in the same section, and Vic, after seeing him, couldn't contain himself and since we whisked past their group, he mumbled, feeling bad we did not stop and ask for pictures. Oh well, I should've taken the courage because Vic never does. I have to do the dirty work always, LOL! "Excuse me Mr. James, can we have a picture of you?" - imagine a big old bloke like me, asking a 20-something heartthrob, along with his four strapping mates, asking for a picture with him! Oh well, deep inside me just says, who cares, just say, "I'm Japanese!" and go clicking away! Anyway, as Edina of Absolutely Fabulous says, "Nobody here knows you anyway, and you'll most likely never see them again for the rest of your life!"
There were two big surprises, logistically. One, Wembley Arena is smaller than Araneta Coliseum. It is even smaller than the Asiaworld Arena here in HK. It was packed though, and even with those expensive tickets, Madonna had enough well-heeled fans crazy enough to use their credit to pay to watch her show! Second surprise, the arena had NO airconditioning! It's the height of summer in London, and no airconditioning inside. Madonna commented later on in the show, "I knew I was already in London when I go asking for airconditioning and they say, we have none." She later apologized for the heat, "I'm hot too!". Well, the heat did not dampen the spirits of her fans though, as professional as she is, hot or not, the show went on grandly.
It was safe to say that one-third of the audience was gay (or lesbian), mostly the ones who knew her in the 80's. Just like her last show, it was like one big high school reunion! Of course, there were many pretty young things too, like Duncan James, who were familiar with her new material, which consisted about 70% of her show. It was like the Confessions on a Dance Floor CD, played live! Beside me was a gay Brazilian, complete with their country's flag. (I always notice that the Brazilians here in London are brazenly patriotic, either carrying a Brazilian flag, or wearing a flag patch on their shirt. Guys, the World Cup ended last month, it's time to blend in now!) And beside Vic, was a gay couple speaking a Nordic language. Of course, there were the straight women, bringing their husbands along, making sure their hubbies were dressed appropriately for the occasion. Two seats away from me was this guy who was wearing white pants, a beautiful belt, a tucked in neat shirt, and if he were not snogging the chick beside him, I would've thought he was gay! Maybe his girlfriend said to him, "Honey, you have to look neat and fabulous tonight, to blend in. This is not a football game, ok?" And he looked fabulous! Oh well, kisses to these sweet straight men who tagged along with their wifeys, and although I noticed most of them did not know Madonna's new material, they did stand on their feet for old hits like "Like A Virgin", "Live to Tell", "La Isla Bonita" and "Lucky Star". Such troopers, you fellas! I should know, the row above us were all straight couples, and I was observing the blokes throughout the show. They got kisses from their wifeys when they showed they were having a good time too. (Sigh!) - Treading the intricacies of the relationships tightrope!
Madonna was also kind to her fans that night. Kind, because she made sure, many in the audience can see her closely. Aside from the main stage, she fashioned out a long catwalk that ended in a mini-stage, halfway across the front section. And our seats were near the end of that mini-stage, allowing us to see Madonna up close during most of the show. She also extended the stage on both the left and right side, and put it on the same level as the risers on both sides, making sure, those who paid on the left and right, can get good pictures and videos of her performance. Also, the entrance was magnificent. If you are still going to watch the show, skip this part. Anyhow, there is a big orb at the ceiling at the beginning of the show, and as the show starts, it slowly descends. As it reaches the bottom, this big dancing-lights orb, opens to reveal a flower, and inside that flower, is, Madonna, as she sings her first song amidst the wild cheers! We got it on video and I can't stop playing it. Grand entrances are a must for pop shows, and Madonna her own very well.
I wouldn't describe the whole show anymore as you will soon get it on DVD anyway, soon, but there were three numbers which I particularly loved. Obviously, the opening number was amazing, to say the least. Second, was when she rested, after dancing with abandon, Like It Or Not. During that rest period, she sang Drowned World which to me, is my most favorite song of hers. It was arranged sparingly this time, which made it more beautiful and poignant to hear. The performance of that song actually made it for me for that show. I didn't mind all the special effects. It was expected, after paying US$300 for each ticket. But it was the slow, simple rendition of that song that moved me, ironically. Of course, nothing beats the performance of the last song, Hung Up. I don't actually quite like this song, but interestingly, that night, maybe because of the incredible energy from the audience, and the expected 70's motif and choreography, I enjoyed dancing to it, as it was remixed appropriate for a grand exit. Madonna does not do encores anymore, and as the last note was played, the phrase "Have you confessed lately" came on the screen.
Oh, about the controversy about the cross and the cruficixion - I think it's old hat and an old trick from her. That trick is so 80's and does not shock me anymore. What shocks me now is that many gay boys here wear rosaries on their neck - as a fashion accessory! I couldn't quite get myself to snog someone who is wearing that on his neck. There's something about the Virgin Mary that can totally take out your libido down the drain. "I know you're real hot and cute but I can't think of dirty thoughts with that around your neck. Can you not wear that anymore please, especially when Catholics are around." Oh well, I heard it also became hip in Manila because Manny Pacquiao wore it. I think Manny's reason for wearing it was more of a talisman-like motivation. Here in London, it is just a fashion accessory. That's why it disturbs me a bit.
Also, another shocking revelation - not related to Madonna's show. Many of the white guys were afraid to hit on Vic and I, because they thought we were Muslims. Many Asians in the UK are from Malaysia, which is largely Muslim, so they see the color of our skin, and automatically, they think we're Muslim. This, from a cute American guy, who stripped on stage. We cornered him after the show for some dancing. Oh well, maybe next time, I should wear an "I'm a Catholic" shirt. That should effectively drive everyone away!
Political images were plenty in the show. Madonna even said "I go to Texas to suck George Bush's dick" - in her I Love New York song. Well, Madonna, middle, rural America doesn't hear or listen to you, so the US will always be at war for the next few years, and more of this rural boys will die, vainly, in my opinion, fighting an enemy that will continue to hate the US and what it stands for, much to consternation of peace-loving Americans. A wish for peace was a recurrent theme in her last show, when she sang John Lennon's Imagine. Sadly, two years onwards, nothing has changed.
But Corporation Madonna moves on, always on the lookout for her next reinvention.
Madonna is turning 48 this month! Are we, her fans, that old? And Rocco Ritchie turned 6 last month. Whew! How time flies!