Forget religion, rebel Madonna plays it raunchy
Pop queen Madonna leaves out religious controversy at first concert here, but keeps risque factor
To borrow the title of Madonna's own song, "causing a commotion" was clearly what the US pop queen set out to do during her first-ever concert in Singapore yesterday at the National Stadium.
Sure, the 57-year-old got off to a safe start when she kept to her end of the bargain, removing the contentious Holy Water segment from her set.
But Madonna is Madonna, and the pop star, who is on a world tour to promote her 13th album Rebel Heart, had other provocative shockers for her fans.
Plenty of expletives peppered her interaction with the audience, as she encouraged them to call her "b****".
At one point, she asked if she could use the four-letter word here.
"All night long I've been trying not to swear and it's f****** killing me," she said, to much cheer and applause.
Kicking off her performance with the upbeat Bitch I'm Madonna after she was lowered to the stage in a gold steel cage, the Queen of Pop zipped through the two-hour set as she belted out hit after hit, from early ones like Like A Virgin and La Isla Bonita to recent ones like Living For Love and Rebel Heart.
And the Material Girl took every opportunity to remind the 25,000-strong crowd of how tough and bad she was.
Like how she turned one break between songs into a lesson on how to enunciate an expletive.
In a show of rebelliousness, the star also had no qualms about downing shots on stage.
"Can I have a drink with you guys? Sometimes alcohol helps you make the right decisions," she said before knocking back her second shot of the night.
It didn't stop there, of course.
A topless dancer's breasts were on full display when she performed Music during a burlesque flapper-themed segment.
Ever so playful, Madonna didn't hold back from teasing her fans with crass, cheeky jokes, especially one which involved a certain part of the female anatomy and which can't be repeated here.
"I am a whore for applause," she defiantly declared.
The pop star also gave fans another reason to scream when she pulled an audience member named Hamzah, who was wearing thigh-high stiletto boots, onto the stage to dance provocatively.
In return for his enthusiasm, she offered him a diamond-encrusted banana, and suggested various things he could do with it, besides eating it.
Still, hardcore Madonna fans might think her Singapore set was relatively mild for an R18 rating.
But the pop star tried her best to keep everyone - probably including two of her own children who she said were at the venue -
entertained from start to finish, thanks to her boundless energy and brash antics that defied her age.
She eventually whipped the crowd into fever pitch at the end of the show and got almost everyone to abandon all inhibitions to stand and dance to her hit, Holiday.
But ever the true professional, Madonna did something else.
Instead of draping herself with the flag of the country she was performing in - as she had done on her other stops - she unfurled one with a peace sign instead.
It was perhaps another conciliatory gesture following the uproar over the Philippines national flag when she performed there, but it was a welcome one nevertheless.
Addressing the religious controversy that had threatened the concert prior to the show, concert goers were quick to point out after the gig that they were there just to have a good time.
Housewife Nina Dalton, 40, who is Catholic, said: "I didn't feel like I had to wrestle with my faith before deciding whether I wanted to buy a ticket for the concert. I am just here to enjoy the music.
"And a Madonna concert without sexual references and nudity will not be a real Madonna concert. I expected all of these elements and I enjoyed the concert because of it. And it was a really good time."
Ms Joyce Tang, 34, a housewife, agreed: "I am a very staunch Christian but this didn't affect me at all.
"And honestly, I expected more of the controversial segments just based on the ratings and hype prior to the show."
Educator Randall Ong, 49, said: "One's faith should be larger than a singular concert that has good and bad.
"What matters more is the good things we do in life. We should be able to discern for ourselves."
- Additional reporting by Jennifer Dhanaraj
Cheers...and jeers, for ticket upgrades
FANS: (From left) Secretary Denise Ang, 29, and civil servant Verity Low, 29, at the concert yesterday. TNP PHOTOS: PHYLLICIA WANG
On the day of the concert, some lucky fans were informed that they had received a surprise upgrade for the show.
Most of such fans The New Paper spoke to had bought the Category 5 and 6 tickets, priced at $288 and $188 respectively.
The eight categories of tickets were priced from $108 for Cat 7 to $1,288 for a VIP ticket.
Mr Alvin Chua woke up at 9am to a text message from Singapore Sports Hub telling him he had been "selected for an upgrade due to technical set-up".
He had bought a $288 Category 5 ticket with a friend because the Category 1 ticket, priced at $688, was too expensive.
The 39-year-old marketing and communications executive was told to go to the National Stadium Gate 1 from 5pm onwards yesterday and to produce his old tickets in exchange for the new ones.
He called to check if it was a prank, but was assured that it was the real deal. He was told that the staff was unable to confirm his new seats over the phone.
Later, he found out that he had been upgraded to Category 2 seats, priced at $588.
"I was happy and surprised. I have watched her before in Taipei so this is my second time and I treat this a bonus. I guess I got lucky," he said.
Miss Denise Ang, 29, a secretary, and her friend, civil servant Verity Low, also received last-minute upgrades. The two had bought $288 tickets.
Miss Ang said: "I guess this means that seats were available in that category. It is an unexpected surprise for me, but a relief after all the grief the website gave me during purchase."
She had experienced problems trying to book her tickets because her seats kept getting released when she got the payment page. This happened several times.
Civil servants Kelly Gui, 45, and Michelle Tham, 43, who bought $188 tickets, were also lucky.
Ms Gui said: "It's like winning a lucky draw. I do feel a bit bad for those who purchased the $588 tickets."
Fans who had bought more expensive tickets thought it unfair.
Malaysian businessman Ahmad Zaharul Zainal Abidin, 50, said: "I am a little angry and feel a bit cheated, but there's nothing I can do about it. This is not just an upgrade to the next best category. I guess that category was too expensive, with a slow take-up rate, so they wanted to fill it up."
He had bought the $688 tickets for him and his wife, who had flown in from Kuala Lumpur.
Project manager Yit Lai, 31, said: "To be fair, we should then get upgrades as well. I got the $688 tickets so perhaps I should be upgraded to VIP seats."
A senior official of Kinglun International Holdings, an investor in the concert, was quoted in a report saying the organisers decided to move up some of the seats of those who bought tickets in the higher-priced categories to avoid them blocking the view of some $188 ticket holders.