This entry is 2 months late. You can imagine our EIC spanking me for this. :P
Last June, I jetted off to Dubai+Abu Dhabi, UAE to watch my FIRST-EVER concert (at 26) and rightly giving the honor to the Queen of Pop, the most iconic woman in the history of music, you got it: Madonna.
I've been a fan since the early 90s. Kids my age had a high probability of being dressed about by their mothers in Madonna-inspired fashion, ala-Like A Virgin music video, complete with the excessive bangles, the leather jacket and a bow tied up their hair. As a teenager, I succumbed to the boy band mania and even to the rock n' roll genre, but Madonna was always there. Churning out hits like 'Frozen' and 'Music', with each song/album presenting her always-reinvented self. And I was always amazed at how she was able to do it.
When I read that she was going on tour and that she had a tour date in the Middle East for the first time, I really thought that this was my chance! Lucky for me, I had friends who were Madonna fans too and when I shared the news with them, they were as excited as I was to attend this once-in-alifetime concert!
Mind you, we bought our tickets as early as February during the pre-selling period (Official sales was at March and the concert was slated waaay over to June). We had to pay extra to get membership to the Madonna Fan Club website so that we can get the code for the pre-sold tickets. When the March public selling date opened, the tickets were ALL SOLD OUT in less than two hours! This prompted the tour to later on add a Day 2 Concert.
The venue was set for Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and my friends and I had originally planned to get the Golden Circle tickets (the one that comes after the VIP status), but even when we were able to get through the pre-selling period, by the time I was able to log in, the Golden Circle pre-selling tickets were already sold out, and we were stuck with General Admission. Deep breaths I thought. It's better to buy them now than to fight and wrestle through the internet connection during the public selling. So there, at 495AED, we got our MDNA concert tickets via email:
|The event was promoted by ThinkFlash UAE.|
The big day finally arrived and I was in the UAE for five days (Dubai for strolling and Abu Dhabi for the concert, entry on that to follow). I arrived with my concert buddies Ate Czes and Doc D. We had a jam-packed itinerary and upon arriving at Abu Dhabi, we were supposed to do certain things, like go to Ferrari World first before going to the concert. However, when we arrived there, we realized that the lines at Ferrari World could take forever and since our concert tickets were only General Admission, I didn't want to risk losing my chance to be in the front row of the line to the gates. I didn't want to be all the waaaay back of the stadium only to see Madge from the big screen! if that were the case, then I would be better off watching her on Youtube, in the comfort of my own house, right?
Even if my friends were reluctant, they agreed to sit it out til 7PM, which was the official opening of the gates. So, that made it four (almost five, actually) hours of sitting outside, on the grass, under the sun, heat+humidity et al.
|We inquired if we could still upgrade our tickets, but no, totally SOLD OUT.|
|The entrance grounds.|
Now what you should know about a Madonna concert (or any pop music goddess, for that matter) is that it is sure to be a well-attended congregation of the fashionable and fabulous. There were those who really dressed the part, donning Madonna fashion statements from Material Girl to Vogue to as simple as "I Love Madonna" t-shirts. The international attendance was massive. I met concert goers from Europe, Japan and Africa! It was an invigorating experience on how an artist can bring such a group of people altogether.
|A Vogue-inspired outfit from one of the concert goers.|
Seven o'clock finally came and we were all starting to get giddy for the gates to open. Naturally, they let the VIP and Golden Circle ticket-holders in first and it took a while for them to do so. Thus, the crowd of the GA got a bit irate. I remained calm and patient and strategically positioned myself where I thought the guards would open the lines first. Which was from where I took this photo:
|Eager Madonna fans wrestle the wait.|
Finally, they let us in and I believe I was with the first ten people to enter the GA grounds! Lucky for me and my friends, we secured a spot right in the front of the GA row...so we were only three steps away from the Golden Circle and thus, all that four-hour wait was well worth it! Although it meant that I wouldn't be able to get some drinks or take a bathroom break because if I left my spot, I'm sure somebody would steal it right away!
|That's the Golden Circle area, right there.|
|As the crowd piled up, all 25,000 in full attendance!|
The opening act was international DJ, Benny Benassi who lifted our spirits up for about 45 minutes. It was one big rave party and everyone was dancing around me. The lights were awesome along with the digital graphics that flashed on to the screen.
|During the Benny Benassi number.|
After the DJ's slot was done, we were all expecting the Madonna show to finally start. Unfortunately, the gap lagged on for almost another hour, with the stage just playing old Madonna hits and even at one point, playing Michael Jackson tracks. Obviously, the crowd got upset over the long wait and boos already started coming from the crowd. I don't understand as well why the production started late, but when Madonna's opening numbers started, it was obvious that she was giving us the middle finger for booing her because frankly, her opening first three production numbers were massively OFF THA HOOK! I mean, to have pulled off a Catholic-resembling set-up to 'Girls Gone Wild', followed by a very violent, gory and action-packed segment for 'Revolver'/'Gang Bang' in a Middle Eastern country nonetheless was nothing short of controversial and dangerous!
Believe me, I think I was acting all Saudi-like during the opening number worrying that maybe muttawas will arrive and shut the whole thing down. Ikaw ba naman ang mag opening act na puro "Oh my God...10x", depicting her kneeling in front of an altar and then saying a prayer before the song began. And then the second number had her gulping down a bottle of Jack Daniels with what looked like an AK-47 on her hand (Kumusta naman ang terrorist depiction diba?).
|The opening number: Girls Gone Wild|
Despite all that, I hands-down LOVED her guts to have done all that! I mean, I can literally see that this woman has got balls. Like man-balls I tell you. Her production numbers were an assault to your eyes, ears and mind. Believe me, it's not for the faint of heart.
And at her age, yeah, she doesn't look like the way I remember her in the 90s, but mahn, this woman can kick my ass on the dance floor. Seriously. She was all out in her numbers, even when she was sweating like a crazy person (her sweat was really dripping off of her elbows, and you can see it with your own eyes). I was very, very glad that I was standing where I was and in those first three numbers, my mouth was agape probably the whole time.
|Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj were present via pre-recorded video.|
|I could see her face!|
I was also happy to hear her sing a lot of her old hits like, "Express Yourself," which was mashed up with Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," and "Like A Virgin," which she sang in a very Goth-like version and prompting her to do a little striptease just as well. The crowd thought she was really going to take her pants off, but I believe she saved her nudity for more tolerable countries, like Turkey and the rest of Europe.
|With Doc D and Ate Czes. Apologies for my 'duck face'.|
She also sang "Vogue" which prompted the mosh pit to transform into an orgy of dance moves from all the concert goers. My favorite song (and performance) was "Like A Prayer" and she even did it with the whole choir ensemble, just the way I remembered it when I was younger. She ended the whole show with a party version of "Celebration" leaving the audience on a very happy high!
Considering that we have been on our feet for more than 6 hours total already, you could imagine that we were already haggardous-mellitus-cactus (scientific name for: haggard). Before leaving Yas Island, we did still manage though to buy some concert memorabilia and take one final snapshot before returning to Dubai.
|We love you Madonna!|
It was truly one of the highlights of my adult life and even though this vacation left me for almost-broke in the next six months to come, I wouldn't have traded off the experience for anything less. Writing about it right now definitely reminded me of that amazing high of being in that concert!
My next artist to watch: Beyonce. :) Soon.
I just need her to go on tour first.