After a 23 year wait, Madonna returned to Australia for the final leg of her Rebel Heart world tour, bringing with her the controversy that has surrounded much of her three decade-plus career.
Epic late starts, reports of drunken behaviour onstage, emotional break downs due to a custody battle and being accused of sexually assaulting a minor dominated the headlines during the Material Girl’s almost two week stint Down Under.
After taking Melbourne and Brisbane by storm, the 57-year-old pop culture icon hit Sydney for the last two shows of her 82 date tour.
The Australian press went into overdrive when Madonna turned up on stage in Brisbane for her first Queensland show of the tour at 11.18pm, almost two hours past her expected start time.
For her final show on Sunday night, the second of two nights at Sydney’s Allphones Arena, Madonna once again took no notice of the backlash, finally appearing on stage at a very tardy 11.30pm – the latest of the entire world tour - before proceeding to begin an almost three hour set - the longest of the tour.
Expectation and anticipation went into overdrive for the Harbour City fans, who appeared to keep a calm albeit weary vigil as they awaited the pop diva to finally appear on stage.
A rousing reception after a video introduction featuring Mike Tyson heralded her long awaited arrival.
Madonna’s 12th studio album Rebel Heart dominated the early proceedings before Burning Up, her first ever Australian hit in 1983, upped the ante with Madonna rocking out while playing a Flying V guitar.
The show’s spectacular highlight came early on when Madonna performed Holy Water, her Kanye West produced ode to oral sex, mashed up with Vogue while pole dancing alongside scantily clad dancers dressed as nuns, one of which she sensationally body surfed on much to the crowd’s jaw-dropping glee.
Somewhat apathetically, Madonna apologised for her late start explaining that she was filming the Sydney show for a future DVD release and that she wanted everything to be perfect.
She then pulled out the almost forgotten 1980s hit True Blue, which was remixed into a sweet acoustic love song performed while she strummed on the ukulele.
The momentum continued as Madonna worked her way through a string of exceptional pop performances, proving why she is still at the top of her game in a live arena after so long and with so much detrition.
Deeper and Deeper, from 1992’s Erotica, was in its high energy original form, HeartBreakCity leading into Love Don’t Live Here Anymore showcased her vocal prowess and an electro dance version of Like a Virgin brought the house down as she danced without abandon, solo on the cross shaped catwalk like it was the 1984 MTV Music Video Awards all over again.
It might have been the last show of a gruelling world tour, but there was no signs of exhaustion as Madonna worked her way through the mammoth 160 minute show that peaked at the end of its third act with the 1989 monster hit Like a Prayer that saw the packed arena almost shake to its core.
The well-publicised potty mouth was evident throughout, with Detroit-raised entertainer teaching the crowd to use her favoured catchcry (“f... f... f... yeah”) whenever she addressed them.
But there was no emotional breakdown, no mention of her 'missing' 15-year-old son Rocco, no drunken slurring and no falling off tricycles.
For the final show, she gave a heartfelt thank you to her loyal dancers, crew and band before allowing them to spank her (all 19 of them) while playfully making light of the scandal where she exposed a 17-year-old fan’s breast onstage last week in Brisbane.
'I am 18. I am old enough to know better and young enough to want to anyway,' she joked while being bent over as her crew waited their turn to spank her behind.
The 'sexual assault scandal', as it has been referred to in the press internationally, was again referenced when said teenager Josephine Georgiou and her mum Toni were in the crowd in VIP seats and were singled out by Madonna when she did her nightly bridal bouquet toss into the crowd.
A master media manipulator, Madonna used the moment to ask Josephine to marry her before deciding it wouldn’t work because they both can’t cook and the Gold Coast model is a vegan.
As the clock hit 2am, an exhausted and satisfied crowd put their hands collectively in the air as Madonna finished her show, and tour, with a faithful, upbeat performance of Holiday before she strapped on a harness and disappeared behind the video screens.
She said she would be back, but Australians have heard that many times over the years.
It might have been 23 years, but Madonna did not disappoint or make her presence in Australia unnoticed, and for a 57-year-old woman to still create such a buzz – for good or bad – against the social media pop starlets of the modern world that is no easy task.
From The West Australian