"So we paid a lot of money to be frightened, bored and alienated", says G to me this morning. "it was disgusting." And that from a long-time Madonna fan.
We went to the concert at Yankee stadium last night, after booking it months ago. We wanted to do it partially because we couldn't afford to back in the 80s or early 90s. Her music has been a background soundtrack for much of our lives, and who knows if she'd tour again. So we happily found ourselves having a beer in our seats and enjoying a perfect late summer evening before the show started.
The opening act, a Swedish DJ, was fun. Then there was an endless boring interval, delay, a void that sucked all the atmosphere out of the stadium.
The crowd grew restless. People behind us started yelling at any sign of activity. We wondered if the show had been cancelled for some reason. There's going to be trouble if this is off, G said to me. A lot of people have had a lot to drink, and they are not going to be happy.
Then, at 10.15 (the ticket said show starts at 8) Madonna finally deigned to take the stage. People were bored and irritated by this time, but relieved something was happening. The first act was visually stunning, with a video of a cathedral as backdrop.
Then the whole thing turned crude and repulsive. An appalling "I shot my lover in the head" segment repeatedly sprayed blood and brains across the screen, as she brandished a gun. The stadium thundered with the crack of gunshots. Shock and splatter. Violent. Sick.
G was visibly upset. It utterly destroyed the mood. Madonna followed it with a segment dominated by death and graveyards. Her new material fell flat, and there were too few of the older big hits.
At one point she shouted out from the stage, "let me hear you New York! Is this what 40,000 people sound like?" Well, no, it isn't. There was no electricity in the air. People stayed firmly in their seats, apart from the few big hits like Cherish or Vogue, where they rose and swayed a bit, willing themselves to want to dance and enjoy themselves. The spirit never took flight, though.
If it was supposed to be art, it's in its baroque, decadent phase. There's no new ideas. She still obsessively tweaks the Catholic Church, and thinks the gay agenda has something to do with free speech. I'm all for tweaking powerful institutions. But free expression isn't under threat for gays or liberals when most of the mainstream media and Hollywood is firmly committed to their agenda. They are the powerful establishment institutions. The hypocrisy was breathtaking, as she complained about her self-expression to a packed Yankee Stadium.
Instead, I was thinking of the 12-year old Christian girl who is under threat of execution for blasphemy against Islam in Pakistan. Much of her community was so frightened they fled into the surrounding forest. Madonna offered a baffling backdrop of an Indian train in one long segment. She's a trainspotter but can't spot the real political problems.
Coptic Christians in Egypt are under threat from the mob, now the Muslim Brotherhood is in power. Christians are being killed in Nigeria.
These are not fashionable victims for Madonna. I've just grown tired of that.
She's done it for years, of course, and I'm not Catholic. But she's behaving like a stalker on this. She actually benefits from the tolerance of Catholics and others who let her mock their symbols. If one of them dared to mock gay martyrs or causes, she'd be the first to shriek "bigot" if her taboos were violated, and want them jailed. It would be like the Salem witch trials.
She's a parasite on tolerance. If she wants to be edgy, let her put a crescent up there to be mocked as well.
The whole thing was dark, and claustrophobic, and full of resentment and hate and violence. She is a sick puppy.
It just feels as if is a sign that something has ended, that something in the culture is just self-destructively collapsing under its own weight. We own the DVD of her last tour, which is great. This is very different. You go to a big stadium concert to be swept up in huge collective emotion, to feel elation and joy. Instead, we felt, with a few exceptions, bored, baffed or nauseated.
There was something rancid and rotten about the whole thing. It ended at 12.15 am. She's past closing time.