Madonna’s ‘Madame X’ residency in New York: a colourful riot of rebellion, politics, and high camp theatrics
Madonna has always done what she wants. Roll around the VMAs stage in a wedding dress? Of course. Forego a traditional record deal and sign up with a promoter instead? Sure thing. Skip merrily from sound to sound, even when people tell her she’s “too old” to make whatever genre she dabbles in next? Absolutely. So when Madonna decides to not put herself out on a typical tour - a different arena every night, the whole thing done and dusted in a matter of weeks – you go right ahead and book her residencies in different venues across the globe, allowing her to perform for weeks on end, in one location, in rooms far smaller than anyone in 2019 has any legal right to witness her in.
Pop’s most rebellious star does just as she pleases during the first round of the ‘Madame X’ world tour at the plush Howard Gilman Opera House too. You might expect the world’s biggest pop stars to have their audience out the door by 11pm but, by the time the clock strikes that hour in Brooklyn, Madonna’s only just come on stage. Not that anyone minds - there are a few outbursts of impatient claps and cheers in the time leading up to her arrival but the overriding atmosphere in the venue is one of pure excitement as people - in their finest gowns, tuxes, and vintage Madonna merch - sip wine from plastic beakers and hover in the select zones were phone use is allowed (all mobiles are locked in pouches for the entirety of the show).
The late start is immediately worth it. The show is a mind-blowing riot of theatrics and powerful political messaging, opening with a quote from James Baldwin being banged out onto a screen laid over the stage by a silhouetted woman at a typewriter. Each key press thuds like a gunshot and is accompanied by a dancer jerking and flinching as if he’s been hit by a bullet. “Artists are here to disturb the peace” the message ends before the queen of pop emerges and launches straight into the autotune-heavy anti-gun anthem ‘God Control’.
Later, a man wearing a gas mask sits down to play a piano, from the top of which Madonna is dragged by two dancers dressed as truncheon-waving policemen while she screams “Death to the patriarchy!” Women’s rights are a constant theme throughout the show, from the moment she’s joined on stage by a host of women - including daughters Stella, Estere and Mercy James - to chant “I’m not your bitch” to her, changing the lyrics of ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ to “I’m not keeping my baby”.
Read the rest of the review at: www.nme.com/reviews/live/madonna