As soon as word got out that the Material Girl was making a stop in Abu Dhabi, several of my friends began making plans to see her… without me. June is the month that I sit standby (for you non-airline crew people, the whole month is called a Reserve month, and each day is either rostered a flight the night before or with short notice, or you sit “hot” as they say in the US or standby, either in the airport dressed and ready to go, or at home with a little bit more notice to prepare) so for me, I figured I would have to pass the chance to go see her. But when the roster Gods put me in Dubai for the night of her second concert on the 4th, my fast little fingers searched good ol’ Dubizzle.com (Dubai and UAE ads) to find a ticket, and within about 20 mins I was popping into the nearest metro station with 200AED ($55USD) in hand ready to receive that golden ticket. Early bird tickets for MDNA were only 250AED, and after that the price jumped for 495AED for the rest of the non-elite. My flatmate and a few of her friends were going via car, so I even scored a free trip down to Abu Dhabi. It’s like I was meant to see Madonna!
I’d heard about the show from the previous night – Madonna arrived onstage one and a half hours late, and in most cases this is just not cool, but in this case it was absurd. When the temperature, even at night, is staggering in the UAE, along with high percentages of humidity, the crowd gets irritable and exhausted. But at least no riots – can’t say the same if this happened anywhere else. So with the hopes that she would make up for last night but still preparing for another possible disappointment, we set out for Abu Dhabi well after doors opening just in time to catch the amazing Benny Benassi open with his awesome set and down a few beers and a cheeseburger.
And, as if she was just trying to one-up Abu Dhabi from last night, she appeared onstage even 15 minutes later than she had before, probably responding to the constant boos coming from the crowd. Hey, I get it; it’s the legendary Madonna, she can make the masses wait hours for her if she wants. But in hot and humid Abu Dhabi it was just beyond ridiculous. And you know this happens often at big concerts and you end up wanting to strangle the crowd because they cheer every time a sweeper or a stagehand crosses the stage that you are too far from, making you think it’s Madonna but it’s most definitely not. Although it’s inevitable; the moment she takes the stage the crowd goes wild. We instantly forgive her.
And fair enough: her show did not disappoint. From her typical attempts at pushing the boundaries with her religious statements to an amazing suspended marching drumline (well, they didn’t march in mid air) and of course, stripping down to a bra with questionable cutouts in it, good ol’ Madge served it up hot with a lovely light breeze that came with the desire to dance along to her new songs, like Girl Gone Wild, to remixes of her old classics. And while I absolutely love her video, Give Me All Your Luvin’, with fellow wild girls MIA and Nicki Minaj, I appreciated her throwback to high school marching bands and spirited cheerleaders (always brings out the former band geek in me) but I still think Gwen Stefani did it better. The addition of vintage propaganda and Lichtenstein-style art backdrops were definitely a plus, though.
But leave it up to Madonna to push the limits even further, even in conservative UAE: during one interlude, images of same-sex couples emblazoned on the big screen (both kissing in public and homosexuality is illegal in the UAE) and male dancers strutting their stuff in stilettos and bondage wear. The crowd only ate it up, as of course, any real Madonna fan would, and I fully appreciated the standard uncensored Material Girl. Add in crazy dancecrews reminiscent of those from one of my favorite MTV shows, America’s Best Dance Crew, and it was a fairly well-rounded show. In fact, I realized that the masked hip hop crew wasn’t the famous Jabberwockeez (the crew that won the first season of ABDC), but speculated that the dudes with the dislocating dance moves was the NYC crew from Season 3, the Ringmasters. But upon further Googling, I discovered that there was a crew from the show on tour – just not the ones I thought. Fanny Pak, a high energy, 80’s inspired dance crew eliminated in the second season, choreographed much of the MDNA tour and appeared onstage during one of the numbers. Amazeballs.