Saturday, 19 December 2015

Madonna - #40NewThings

And so it begins!
This weekend I ticked off with a mighty WHOOOPAH numbers 2 and 3 off my 40 New Things list:
  • Travel abroad to see a gig
  • See Madonna in concert

 The whole weekend was full of new experiences, new people, new emotions and new idiocy. It was a whirlwind of hard core Madonna fan madness, with my noob bumbling presence in amongst it all  and I just loved it all!

We set off on Saturday morning at 4:30am to get to Edinburgh airport for a 7am flight. We land in Amsterdam at 9:30am local time and stumble around Schipol airport looking for food and sustenance. 

After a large coffee and some breakfast snacks we decide to investigate the train or bus options and head over to the Train Tickets information desk. The beautiful smiley Dutch lady listens to our various explanations and quickly clarifies that as our flight out is early the next day, we will not be able to use the train but, she informs us, that the bus runs back from the Ziggodome arena every 6 mins. Perfect. She nods towards the exit and tells us the bus is at either stand 6B or 7B and is the number 300. We are delighted with her help.
“two tickets to the arena please!” we excitedly request.
Upon which the lovely, slightly bemused Dutch lady, points straight up and says “Zis is Train Tickets desk?” hilarity and stupidity ensue across our faces and we gather our bags and trundle off. Shaking our heads at each other as we meander towards the exit sign. Instantly forgetting what she told us but too embarrassed to go back and check.

As we step outside there are indeed rows and rows of bus stands with a variety of numbers. We immediately dispute what bus stand number she said, as well as the number of the bus being potentially 300, 500 or 900. My friend heads for a timetable board and I decide to find the correct bus stand. But I have no luck.

I head back to my friend and declare “we need to find alternative bus stands because all these are for Bushalte.” She bursts out into loud in your face laughter. You know...the kind of laughter when you know you've just said / done something monumentally stupid...

“That’s the Dutch word for bus stop…” Oh.

We quickly agree that between us both we don’t even make one adult.

The bus turns up and is indeed number 300. We hope on and then off at our stop in no time. The arena complex is vast and windy. We wander through, I’m looking for the hotel and my friend is looking for the Ziggodome arena. We find a location map and then both descend into a bleary eyed incompetence as we can’t find our location. Then my friend disputes the map, stating that the stadium (which I can see clearly right beside her) isn’t represented in the right direction on the map. She proceeds to tell me this over and over while standing beside the stadium yet pointing at where the stadium should be. Too funny.

No, not one of us is adulating today.

We find another map a short distance away and as we run towards it, disregarding the current ‘wrong one’, we also notice a queue end peeking out from under a pass way. Deciding that this must be the Madonna queue we give up on the maps and head in the direction of lined up people. I persuade my friend to pop into the last bar before the queue so I can acquire a warming nip. I suspect I am going to be in this queue for a very long time. And alcohol is a good way to start a long day!

A shot of Tia Maria down, another Dutch service lady bemused by our behaviour, we head over to join the queue.

Upon arrival we are hustled into a line and told in no circumstances should we move or leave our position. A number is drawn on our hand. Our number. The number. An EE number (Early Entry).

We are numbers 219 and 220 in the Early Entry Madonna Mad fan queue. I am regarded through slanted eyes by some as a Madonna virgin, who is clearly above her station to be going in early but I am brazen and polite with it, as I don’t care. I have waited a lifetime to afford this experience and I wont let any hard core diva’s put me off enjoying every moment.

My friend is super popular as she delivers Scottish whiskey to other Madonna fans she knows and is also super popular as she has had up close and personal experiences with Madonna, with plenty marvellous stories to tell that I enjoy hearing. Her devotion, animation and excitement is joyful to behold.

For now I am content to have found my 220nd place in a cold breezy queue. Out hotel is literally just there, overlooking the Ziggodome and this queue. We are surrounded by people in silver rescue blankets or thick coats and I amusingly peruse the arrangement of stools, chairs and wind and rain proof equipment that people are using just now but are going to abandon as soon as the doors open to collect your VIP swag and wrist pass. There are even big fat sleeping bags, layers of blankets and seating that I personally just could not dump, but that is their karma.  I am happily to sit on my squishy bag, not thinking at all about the bottle of water slowly splitting inside it or the bananas I purchased earlier slowly oozing all over my toiletries. I’m not bothered because I am comfortable. For about 10 minutes.

I could not help my entrepreneurial brain thinking…why isnt someone following these people around selling hot food and drinks, temporary shelter loans and picking up all the crap they dump for charitable donations? A whole livelihood could be made out of these fans!

So time check, its now 1pm and we have until 3pm to wait for the Early Entry door to open. But that is only stage one in this series of events that will hopefully get us to the front of this Rebel Heart Tour stage. Once Early Entry passes are acquired it is straight over to another queue to actually queue to get into the arena. At this point we cannot leave the queue as our spots will be lost and the Madonna bitches can (apparently) be harsh in not letting you back even with a pass. I am not intimidated – much!!

The next stage of getting in to pick up our passes, I am told, can get heated and frantic as people jostle for the front. The numbering system which is scrawled across my hand is something set up by the hard core Madonna fans to ensure that people who turned up in an order get in, through the same order. Fair enough. I like this!
But others still try and work round the system or push ahead of their allotted number.

 So while we wait we pass on amusing stories of Madonna gigs, travelling antics and showing off Madonna Tattoos…well my friend does all this as I have nothing to share and nothing to show. But I do get to interject occasionally, with appropriate nods, hmms and affirming, ‘yes that is right, we did’. Actually it was really wonderful listening to her in her freaky Scottish fan number one zone and hearing all the other people’s stories; how obsessive they were with the number of gigs they had been to and the lengths they have gone to cross the globe and be at the front. Who had / hadn’t ever touched Madonna. It was great banter.

My friend checked into our hotel at almost 2pm while I held our position in the line. Literally turning as cold as stone as soon as she left. I had some wonderful conversations with those around me and gradually I was able to edge nearer for general mass group protection from the bitter wind. We all felt like penguins, slowly edging around, our backs to the wind protecting the smaller people in the middle.

As my friend was so keen to get checked in and back into the line, I was concerned by her absence after 15 minutes. After 30 I was positively worried. I knew she would not have fallen asleep, as suggested by the others around me, but I also knew that if she had just bumped into friends she would have hurried them along so she could get back into line. Eventually I tried calling her but the phone went to voicemail. However she soon phoned me right back. It turns out that her credit card kept getting declined as she hadn’t informed her bank she was travelling and spending abroad. Although I laughed, neither had I! So it had taken considerably longer to get all of that cleared up, with phone calls to the bank and hotel staff being slow but helpful.

Never mind, the outcome was successful and we were checked into a very swanky hotel with an executive room overlooking the canal. Beautiful.

Once my friend returned to the queue and we got over the hilarity and drama of the credit card issues, again wondering why there wasn’t a sensible and organised adult on standby to keep us in order, it was my turn to head to the room to freshen up and dump my bag.

The Jazz hotel was very cool indeed. 

Dark shiny interior contrasted with simple chip board walls, that were covered in lots of music related pictures and spray work. The bright red runner carpets to the rooms had graphics depicting ‘Lead singer’, ‘Band support stage’ and such like with arrows pointing at your room door. The room was large with an impressive ensuite, although the fancy sink and pipes in bright orange put me in mind of Easy Jet. The wall behind the ridiculously huge bed was spray painted rough wood, cool as.

So I perked up my hair a little, the victory rolls more like victory swhirls having taken a beating in the windy conditions. And then I discovered all my clothes were wet through from the slowly leaking water in my bag. My make up, which was thankfully still in the airport customs clear bag was smeared with banana. At least it left a fruity smell over the entire contents. I was just relieved that my beautiful adventurers note book, which had been a gift, and my passport had escaped damage.

I threw on my clothes anyway, blasted myself with the hairdryer and touched up my make up. I was standing considering if I should put on my new blue feather eyelashes when my phone rang and an excited friend shrieked down the phone at me ‘we are moving!’

I dashed out of the room and down the lifts back to our position to find that actually, movement was a little over stated. Everyone had stood up. They were more squished together as the doors were about to open (in 15 minutes time). However it did mean that the queue had moved up a little past the end of the nearest building, so we were now better protected from the wind. Staff appeared and moved barriers around, herding us closer together in a funnel towards the imminently opening doors.
Over the course of the next hour and a half we squished tighter like sardines and shuffled slowly like penguins towards our goal. Its a weird thing knowing there are exactly 218 people in front of you when you are gagging to be next! But at around the 70 left mark it became apparent we needed ID to evidence our tickets and of course I had just left mine in the room. So I left the shelter of the waddle and raced back to my room, grabbed my passport and slipped back into the queue again, cursing this missing elusive competent adult.

Getting back into the queue was not as difficult as I thought as everyone we had been standing with recognised me and in fact let me in with a small ya!
But as people pushed and shoved, even though there was nowhere to go, my friend and I were split up by tall male shoulders shoving in. However she didn’t let me down, as soon as she was next she told the doorman she was a group of two and he waved for me to push through to the front.
I believe while this was happening some queen commented to the doorman and my friend ‘that’s not fair’, to which she barked  “Er.. we are numbered & we are next! Where’s your number then pal?”

Not so flaky now are we? Clearly having her adult moment of the day. Hooray!

Inside we are briefly warm as our numbers are checked, our tickets are beeped and we are provided with a nifty wristband (which I still have on three weeks later) and our VIP swag bag. Then we are harangued straight back into the cold! Where we dash to the next queue which is for entry to the actual arena and doesn’t happen until 6pm. Well...

By now I needed a sit down and another warming nip. My back is killing me and I am chilly. I am going to dare to leave the final line and take our swag bags and new items back to the hotel room. I can handle this!

So off I trundle, purchasing a G&T on the way to the room and finding all my anti inflammatory pills and painkillers to take. I load up my strap on pockets with more for later, generally prepare myself for the night ahead and am greatly surprised that my hair is easily renewed into huge obedient victory rolls, my topped up make up goes well and my eyelashes stick on first time. Well that’s a first!! A sprinkle of glitter and I am good to go meet Madonna.

All in all I am actuality back down stairs in the queue in just over half an hour, much to the amusement of everyone we were with who look astonished at the transformative makeover!

Now it is dark. The tension is mounting as we can see the security people lined up inside. The queue is wider so it will move quicker. There are more staff and more doors. As they are swung open and we surge forward we are careful not to get split up by the barriers manoeuvring people into lines. The beep beep of the ticket scanner gets louder as we edge forward. We are ecstatic! Until I realise I have left my ticket in the hotel room, in my swag bag. I try to blag it with the door man. After all I have the wrist band on and the EE lanyard around my neck– but no.
So I curse the elusive adult skills again and run, again, back to the hotel for my ticket and back to the final depletion of the EE line.
This time I am furious with myself. All day long queuing and standing, aching and stiffness to be left at the back of the queue, no further forward than general admission. Who are eagerly watching this queue dissipate with wide eyed anticipation. I am so not worthy right now...

But amazingly even though staff are shouting at people to stay in line and sit in lines of two by two, I spot my friend and scoot over, doing the invisible half run, that we all do when trying to get somewhere we don’t want to be noticed getting, or crossing roads. The oops I’m not here, I’m invisible run.

So lady luck puts me back in my 220nd position for the next hour of...yes you’ve guessed it, more ...WAITING

I mean really this story...already 2,570 words long and we aint even inside the standing area of the arena yet!!! WTF?

I suppose I could have written, we turned up early and waited for ages, then we got in. But thats not really telling you a story or reviewing the finer points of such a wonderful day is it?

Madonna’s entourage take over the final organising of the entry and we are shouted at like disobedient children. They finally let us into the actual arena in groups of 50 people while the rest of us are shouted at some more and told to remain sitting.

SIT! SIT DOWN! ANYONE CAUGHT RUNNING WILL RESULT IN THE DOORS BEING OPENED AND EVERYONE BEING CHUCKED OUT. ABSOLUTELY NO RUNNING. There are humorous murmurs and tittering mumbles about possibly cantering but we just didn’t think the time was right. We were so close to inside. Humour had no place right now.

And then it really was us. And we were at the front of queue. We were the pace setters. And in we go! Its on! We take our space on the right hand side of the enormous protruding stage, just below the right hand corner of the cross, between the runway and the bulbous heart shaped end. The stage backdrop has the Rebel Heart cover on it in a glowing brazen and exciting red. There is absolutely nothing else on show to give the show away.



And now its just another 4 hours wait!!!

And the worst hour of that wait? When the support act came on. Tunice or Lunice or something. Nothing nice about anything other than the second half of the spelling of his name. Shame.

But as soon as he was over we knew it wouldn’t be long before the Queen would adorn her mighty stage.
And then...eventually... after just a little more waiting – BOOM. On came Madonna.

Pic courtesy of James Pearson

I was beside myself. There was Madonna. 
THE Madonna. 
A long-awaited dream come true.
The Queen of pop.
The stage Queen of all shows.
A tick off the old bucket list.
A life time of wishing.
The one and only.
There in front of me...
Madonna.

Her entry through the stage ceiling in her large cage. The dancers in their futuristic fierce tribal inspired black and gold matador style outfits. And the opening routine with Madonna in her magnificent red and black outfit to the same style. The dancers manoeuvres with their huge golden crosses, the way she sat upon one, keenly balanced as she sung, strong, iconic and beautiful. Then she swooped down, quite taking my breath away and hung from her knees as two dancers held the cross and turned it with her on it, still singing.

Pic courtesy of James Pearson

I was just aghast with awe as she swooped and stomped so blooming close to me! Every time she came by I was just beside myself with her masterful presence and impressive energy.

There is just so much about the show that I enjoyed and too much to literally detail here. And if I am really honest with you, I have no idea of the order of things, due to my over excitement and inability to now recall the memories of the show in the precise order.

For instance, when she strutted her stuff down the runway with her dancers, all dressed in kinky nun outfits, it was early in the show, but I’m not exactly sure when. But I don’t care, it’s more important that the memory is there.

So I will describe a few of my favourite things.
There was the large sloped stage which sat centre back of the main stage. At the beginning of the show it was used in a scene with individual dancers sliding down and across it. 

Not only were their moves daring and amazing but the sloped stage danced to their feet with reactive splash effects, making it look as though their dancing feet were splashing colourful liquid all about the place. At the end of the show, three dancers bounced up and down off it on safety bungees while it flashed through every flag of the world.

Then there was the best scene of all when three iron beds appeared centre stage writhing with six dancers. At first you would be forgiven for thinking they were all male on female couples, the male in the centre bed no different from the others in performing the impressive lifts, the thrusting gyrations and the raw brut sexual intention being portrayed. Until the dancer in question whipped off her dinner jacket and revealed her delicious bare naked chest, nipple-tastic, fit female brace laden body. She was fine, divine and showing us a really good time. She danced with the same vitality skill and strength as the men. And boy did she carry out the same hetero-sex moves as the men. Phewy! Surely made me hot under the collar!


My favourite down tempo piece of the whole show, was technically marvellous and poetically beautiful. A full scale metal spiral staircase was lowered onto the heart shaped end of the runway. Just Madonna and one dancer throughout the whole piece and yet it was so striking it moved me to tears. Four songs all depicting the trials of finding and keeping love and the harshness of love lost.

I could not believe the skills and stunts the lone male dancer carried out as Madonna moved up and down the twirling stair case. He parkoured all over it, jumped through the banisters over the top of Madonna and straight through the banisters on the other side. He walked up it on the underneath as she walked up it above. He was pushed down it, slid down in, danced down it. It really was a beautiful piece of choreography.

Another favourite sequence had to be with the now Iconic long bull fighter cape. Which was even longer than the version she wore at the Brits which famously didn’t come off, and was utterly stunning in all its finely embroidered monographic glory.  She came up from the middle of the front of the stage and it draped far behind her in her long march to centre stage. It was Magnificent.

Pic courtesy of DJ McDowall

There was the sequence with four long black crosses fixed into the stage which all the girls polespan on her and gyrated on her. Truly epic and (I will say it again) iconic imagery. When I saw this image pre-concert I mistaken thought it was a male dancer, even when I spotted the huge high heals, this did not dissuade me. But no.

It was one of her female dancers. Something I have admired vocally since my return. Her dancers are hard as nails and totally equal in style, verve and strength.
danced around until one of them held the plank position on it while taking Madonna’s weight. Not only as Madonna stood on her and sang, but as she


There was the kinky glitzy 1920’s style section where Madonna wore a stunning flapper girl style
dress adorned with thousands of shimmering stones and frayed sparkling trim. She sung very slow versions of some of her old numbers and won cheers from the crowds for her long held notes and stylish renditions.

Pic courtesy of DJ McDowall
Then there was the part where she started with a long trailing wedding veil and ended up throwing about a bouquet and asking for someone to take her hand in a marriage. My dearest friend screamed out a proposal which Madonna promptly turned down, rendering my friend speechless with hands thrown on head for about 15 minutes. 
Or at least until Madonna was talking to the guy right NEXT TO US!! So close I could feel the heat off her. Madonna that is, not my friend.


The least likeable sequence had to be when she was dressed like a floral grand-mama from the wine orchards. The moves on her expert Spanish flamenco dancers were impressive and the feel of the section was very jovial and lovable. But the outfit, the spanking of her dancer for dropping the maracas and the understandable less focus on Madonna, more focus on the dancing team giving her a bit of a rest, made it the least memorable section of the whole show.

Pic courtesy of Rich Butler
There was the central circle of the stage which lifted and rose out of the centre of the cross part of the runway. That runway stage was really very epic. Madonna hardly spent any time on the main stage area at all really. It was mostly runway or no way. She sat on the edge of the raised central circle and sung with a little guitar. She posed in front of it playing a rock guitar. She stood on it with dancers. She danced and pranced off it too. Nothing less than you would expect.

I loved how her off stage transitions from outfit to oufit were filled with whole songs supported by troupes of dancers and excellent films shown on the screens behind the stage. (Like my favourite bed related sequence, the song was Sex but Madge was nowhere in sight).
You knew she was off getting changed but the theme was engaging, the dancers were terrific and it effortlessly linked the sections together. Unlike other performers I know who are quite blatant and thoughtless about their sectional transitions.

And then there was the utterly mind blowing use of sway sticks with no less than seven of them bending about on the runway, picking up and moving the other dancers, stealing hats off each other and generally looking stunning. One of them was this beautiful female, she was right above me and actually made eye contact and gave me a wink and a laugh as she swayed right down above me and making me slightly duck. All set to one of the tunes off Madonnas new album that I just knew would be stunning live – Illuminati. My smiling face had my smile shining like Illuminati I tell ya!

The finale was a rendition of Holiday and as I previously mentioned, there were guys bungee jumping down the sloped back stage, people dancing and exciting themselves all over the stage and everything generally going on. It was dramatic and climatic. The flags on the stage, the falling sparkles, the lyrics and it make me think what a great day this had been. And I agree with Madonna, You can turn this world around. You can bring back all of those happy days, put your troubles down, It is time to celebrate, let love shine, and we will find, a way to come together, to make things better.
Pic courtesy of James Pearson

Overall it was impressive and clever choreography throughout with innovative and impressive ideas excellently executed. Some of those ideas were taken directly from previous tours so I can understand why some people may have been disappointed. Some of the ideas were brand new and require recognition for the way Madonna and her dancing crew make it look so easy.

And yes she looked tired at times. And yes she danced wonkey after coming off some of the spinning moves. And yes she didn’t do as much hard core dancing as she has been known to do in the past, choosing to choreograph stunning effects to which she could merely meander through flicking nipples and pushing top hats and make it all look so complicated and detailed.

I can see when you have been following Madonna for years why her show might not be as daring, as or as inventive any more. But they are still a marvel to behold. She is still tenacious, stunning and a master of her work. She is 57 for fucks sake and wouldn’t you want to be taking it a little easier at 57? I’m surprised that by now she isn’t just sat on a chair singing along while she barks orders at everyone else to make the effort. Christ knows she deserves it.

Pic Courtesy of DJ McDowall
But she is a showman. A hard core bitch. A rebel heart. And this show, reminds us of that in all her glory. Rehashed, reshaped or not. She has still got it. She is the queen. And I bow to her superiority.

The lights went up. The crowds rushed for the door. And I held onto my friend, speechless apart from the sound of the racking sobs coursing out of my body. The exhilaration with nowhere to go, turned into sobbing tears of joy. Ridiculous! Even I was shocked to find every time I tried to explain myself, I sounded like a choir boy and further tears burst from my eye lids.

My friend found this utterly amusing and told people this for the next hour or two. I told nobody nothing. Other than my speechless smile and listened to the internal whirring of my brain.

We sat with friends for a couple of hours as I listened to them digest and discuss the show. Most of it I tuned out as I wanted to savour my impression as long as I could. And when we finally head to our hotel room we open our swag bags and enjoy looking through all the memorabilia.

Unfortunately my friend then realises she has lost her jacket and wallet and a search of our seating area and room ensures, but we are confident one of her friends has picked it up by mistake from the sofa we were sat on downstairs. A few texts are sent back from our room and we fall off to sleep.

We have 2 hours sleep before we jump up to catch our bus and flight home. At the airport my friend receives a text confirming someone she will see again at another Madonna gig has her wallet and jacket. We ask them to text us a picture of the car park ticket which is the only thing we can think that we will need in the next hours. Mission accomplished (clearly during another adult moment) we head off for the wrong airport departure gate.

Why would you ahve two flights to the same airport just 20 minutes apart anyway?

Thankfully we realise our mistake before the planes boarding is closed and head to the right gate!

The rest of the journey flys by (ahem sorry) as we both snooze our way back to Scottish ground. King about 10 minutes before landing, our bodies and minds recharged enough to give us another burst of post adventure perspective and we begin to talk excitedly of future plans to write about Madonna and watch Madonnna Tour DVDs over Christmas and in particular my friend is telling me more about what Madonna means to her and we both float off the plane in a heightened state of appreciation for each other’s life stories and of this time we have spent together.

We have one more drama to go though. I discover as I get to the front of the customs queue that I have left my passport on the plane...twazzock! The appropriate staff are notified and we are told to sit (like naughty children again) on some chairs in front of the customs control box while the whole plane of travellers filter past us and out towards their onwards journeys. Event the customs control staff head away into an office and it is quite a while before a man in a high vis-jacket arrives and gathers a member of staff to check us through.
The final realisation that even with our feet on home ground, we have not regained our ability to adult.

Final piece of magic for the weekend was explaining our situation to the car park assistant in his booth. We show him the image of our ticket which allows him to work out our entry time. He is surprised that we have been just a little over 24 hours and he explains that the cost is £38. However seeing as it is Christmas, just ask for Collin at the barrier and I will let you through. OMG! What a nice man. We nearly brake his wrist trying to pull it through the small slot to kiss it with thanks. And we don’t sound dodgy at all when we announce at the barrier that we are the two girls from Amsterdam and Collin said to just let us through!

We drive back, buzzing, chatting and smiling. Magic from end to end. Either keeping us safe, generally pointing in the right direction, and watching over us. The M-agical M-adnness of Madonna.

I look back now and I had known for years that finally seeing Madonna had to be done in style. Not sure what style that is exactly, apart from epic. It was worth the wait. And this experience is most certainly up there in my overall top ten life experiences. And an impressive way to begin my #40newthings count down.
What a hard act to follow!
M-arvellous.

Thanks to my friend for making it happen, and making it M-ental.
Thanks M-ate. X

What a M-omentous and M-onumental M-emory.
And that was the whole point really wasn’t it?

#40NewThingsS


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