I did something foolish on Thursday night. I went to see Madonna at Wembley. Not that seeing Madonna is foolish per se, but going to Wembley a few days after an operation is a bit daft to say the least. But I did it and I survived. Won't be doing it again though!
I ordered a nice, comfy cab there and back, grabbed my walking stick (newly decorated with silver stars) and dosed up on pain-killers but I still felt every twist and turn of the road in the rush-hour traffic, not to mention the speed-bumps (ouch - I said not to mention them) ... I regretted it almost immediately. Due to massive hold-ups around the north circular it took 1:45 hours to get there. At least arriving comparatively late meant that the crowds were already inside so it wasn't too bad walking into the stadium and finding our seats. We had a good view of the stage and the catwalk but Madonna was going to be *small*...
The advertised 8.30pm start time slipped and slipped until the lights went out after 9.00pm and then the razamataz started and the stage lit up and there she was, a tiny enthroned Madonna opening with 'Candy Store' surrounded by dancers. I've definitely been spoiled seeing Madonna up close at Wembley Arena on her last two tours - once the dancers got moving with Madonna weaving in and out I sometimes lost her and couldn't make out which writhing shape was her. Still, it made for a fine, sticky spectacle.
The emphasis was on the latest album, 'Hard Candy', but with a 25 year career behind her there were lots of old favourites as well and some standard Madonna moments, like the visual documentary culminating with Obama and McCain. It's always interesting to hear what she does to older songs, rarely playing them straight but a heavy metal (-ish) 'Borderline' was unexpected. Lights flashing, racing along the catwalk and around the stage, dancers appearing and disappearing, massive video screens and a great sound system all proclaimed a Madonna show.
The show wasn't as spectacular and showy as the 'Confessions' tour with it's great set pieces, but she can't keep doing the same kind of thing - that's not what she's for. It seemed more like a flashy gig than a 'show', and very guitar heavy. Because I kept half an eye on the video screens and half on the stage then I kept missing bits - where did the car come from? Suddenly a white car was on stage and moving down the catwalk at one point, then it was gone. And when will people realise that wearing black in a stadium means you vanish every now and then since people simply can't see you from a distance?
Madonna had her share of guest stars on video doing their part in various songs - Justin Timberlake on moveable video-columns during '4 Minutes', Kanye West and a delightful snapshot of Britney Spears saying, 'It's Britney, bitch' from a massive video screen, which was a nice touch. I thought Madonna looked better than on the 'Confessions' tour (or maybe it's because I was so far away) but she looked lithe and lean rather than over-muscley and sinewy. And she seemed to be having a ball, too.
I wasn't that keen on the version of 'Vogue' but loved 'Into The Groove' and 'Borderline'. The was a great latin/romany section with 'Spanish Lesson' and 'La Isla Bonita' that finished with a touching version of 'You Must Love Me' (it was odd that the crowd didn't respond until Madonna reached the chorus when, I assume, many people realised what the song was). That section was performed with a small band of 'gypsy' performers playing guitars while the dancers frolicked around them.
This section led on to the finale with Madonna in a space-age costume whipping it up for '4 Minutes' (but I'd seen that part of the show before on telly from the 'Hard Candy' gigs), 'Ray Of Light', 'Like A Prayer' and, of course, a guitar-based 'Hung Up'. But no 'I Love New York' (one of my favourites from the last tour). And it ended with an extended 'Give It 2 Me'. Two hours passed very quickly.
And what was the exit music after the show? 'God Save The Queen' by the Sex Pistols! O yes, hearing that pumped out into Wembley Stadium was a mini aural joy in itself.
We let the stadium largely empty before attempting to leave, me keeping just far enough away from people to avoid anyone accidentally touching my back, almost no steps (a great design innovation!) and using my stick to signal to people to keep their distance. Gingerly getting merch on the way out and swallowing more pain-killers for the taxi ride home while the madness of Wembley after an event swirled around me. The roads were gridlocked for ages and even after traffic started moving our taxi was still a mile away - it arrived a mere 50 minutes late but got us home in good time and, thankfully, due to the near-empty roads of the wee small hours, didn't need to take roads with speed-bumps!
It was great to see Madonna but I wouldn't travel again in this state - I couldn't have done it by public transport, strapped into a proper, comfortable cab was bad enough. I got home rather sore despite the pills and very tired, and I'm still feeling like that today (plus I lost my voice yesterday and am full of cold today). I don't even have the solace of the great close-up photos I took at the 'Confessions' tour... At least I was there!