Setting The Record Straight
Cameron Adams on The Daily Telegraph explains how in the throes of a “boozy meltdown” on stage, Madonna has somehow managed to perform for six hours over four days in Melbourne, Australia.
The real story behind Madonna’s ‘meltdown’.
Not bad for a reported (in the UK and US press anyway) drunk slurring her way through these concerts with “incoherent rambling” and making a “sad spectacle” of herself.
With no new Amy Winehouse, the latest narrative is that Madonna is so broken by the custody trial involving son Rocco that she’s hit the bottle, dressed as a sad clown and is degrading herself.
Her age, 57, must also be mentioned, with the implied ageist value judgment that she should have settled into retirement by now. In reality, Madonna and Cher are forging new territory for pop stars still at the top of their game, just as the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney are doing the same thing for rock.
Problem is, out of context sound bites from Madonna’s Australian shows have been twisted into nasty clickbait.
The headline ‘The world’s biggest pop star puts personal issues on hold to go on with the show’ just isn’t quite as exciting as “Madonna’s on stage meltdown”.
Firstly, you simply cannot be “drunk” at a precision pop concert like Madonna’s.
The two hour event is choreographed to the millisecond. Any wrong move or wrong cue could result in a serious accident. Madonna needs to be physically the right spot on the right cue to magically drop under the stage or swing over the crowd or — because it’s a Madonna concert — pole dance on a crucifix surrounded by nuns in lingerie.
Yes, she’s very relaxed on this Australian leg of the tour. Maybe she’s easing into our laid-back culture. Or maybe she’s just unwinding as this is the final leg of the whole world tour and she knows what she’s doing after six months and 70-something Rebel Heart shows. Not to mention, of course, after a few decades as the most successful female touring artist on the globe and the only woman to make over a billion dollars in concert ticket sales.
As a music reviewer I’ve seen many phoned-in concerts (non-singer Britney Spears was the weakest link in her Circus tour; the last One Direction tour was so half-hearted it was no surprise they split up rather than tour together again) but Rebel Heart demonstrates that Madonna remains the hardest working pop star on the planet. She didn’t get to where she is by accident; she’s not from the famous-for-being-famous generation.
A glimpse of the comments posted on my Madonna reviews? “Withered old hag”, “Look at her face!”, “Maybe act a little more her age instead of trying to be in her 20s again”, “Is this tart still around” and the charming “Now you know why Rocco wants to live with his dad!!”
Comments on a review of the Tears of a Clown show said it was a “disgrace” she would make fans who’d paid good money wait four hours. One problem: it was a free show. But then reading a story – or going to a concert – is never a requirement to leave a comment.
That “I need someone to look after me” quote the press has seized on as though she’s a lonely, single woman over 50? Maybe she does, although this comes from a woman travelling with a personal chef, a nutritionist, trainer, hair stylist, make-up artist, security team and two estheticians, whatever they are.
What she actually said was “I need someone to look after me’’ at the end of one of the most emotional moments in recent concert history. Madonna’s people contacted Molly Meldrum, her first champion in the media and, as she called him on stage, “the first man in Australia to fall in love with me”, offering him tickets to the show.
After looking after him backstage, Meldrum was ushered to strategic front row seats, surrounded by diehard Madonna fans who travel to every show around the globe.
Last Saturday she went off the setlist backstage to perform Take a Bow for Meldrum, a song she’s only done once before on the Rebel Heart tour.
“You’re standing in the middle of my biggest fans, you’re so lucky,” Madonna told Meldrum, who she knew had had a recent fall. “You take care of him, right? And you take care of yourself, you hear me? And will somebody please take care of me?”
That was it, a jokey aside. As was her “Someone please f— me” remark, one of many sexually-charged jokes during all her shows that follows moments where she gets ‘married’ on stage or comments on the phallic shape of her catwalk.
Madonna has referenced sex from the get-go, it’s nothing new. But in an era of beige popstars (whatever you want to call Madonna, she’s never been boring) it makes for easy, lazy headlines.
The hip flask she gave Meldrum? Here’s a spoiler Madonna haters: Molly said it contained water.
Imagine that – a performer using a prop in a concert.
There are tequila shots on stage, shared with her dancers, which may or may not be the real thing. Jimmy Barnes became a hero for polishing a bottle of vodka off during concerts. Female musicians are “drunks” if they have one shot. But rather than being a new addition to the show as she apparently publicly showcases the suffering over her estranged son, she’s done these shots in every show around the world, including when Rocco was on tour with her.
Sure, the clown stuff is odd. Seeing any A-list superstar doing something unexpected is strange. But as she told the Melbourne crowd on Saturday: “I had fun being a clown. I also had fun telling jokes.”
Who can begrudge Madonna having fun, especially when her private pain is public fodder right now?
Continue reading this (great!) article by Cameron Adams on The Daily Telegraph.