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Madonna sings for Molly

Madonna sings for Molly

MELBOURNE waited 23 years and 45 minutes for Madonna to return to the big stage.

She was surprisingly punctual for her sold-out Rod Laver Arena show last night, after being four hours late for her one-off Forum show on Thursday.

That night was a rehearsal of a looser style of show, including her stand-up comedy. Last night we saw classic Madonna in full pop extravaganza mode.

And remember — that’s a genre she helped to create. Most pop concerts now follow her blueprint.

Madonna told the audience: “Thank you for your patience, you’ve waited over 20 years. What the f*** is wrong with me?”

She also apologised for the rough Tears of A Clown show, saying “I only had two days to rehearse — I’m gonna do it better next time, I promise.”

Madonna got back into clown mode briefly, riding a tiny bike, honking a horn and pulling out a hip flask.

The singer offered Molly Meldrum, who was in the front row, a swig, thanking him for “being the first man in Australia to fall in love with me.”

She dedicated Take a Bow to Meldrum saying “you’re the best” before the crowd started chanting “Molly! Molly!”

Meldrum was Madonna’s first media champion, with his show Countdown responsible for her songs Burning Up and Holiday becoming hits before anywhere else in the world.

The pair have remained friends since.

Madonna tried and failed to pronounce Melbourne correctly and asked if she could stick to “Mel-born”.

While she is a huge fan of the ‘F’ bomb, another F-word dominated the Rebel Heart tour - fun. Maybe it’s the fact that Australia is the final leg of this world tour, but Madonna seems more relaxed on stage. She’s chatting more with the audience and deviating from the setlist — whereas she’s usually rigidly making sure each show is as perfect and structured as possible.

Maybe it’s the influence of last week’s Tears of a Clown show, which was a glimpse into the perfectionist in rehearsal mode, but the audience interaction and bawdy jokes were a nice way to reintroduce herself to Australia.

Sadly that chatter (and possibly coming on 45 minutes late) meant she dropped Dress You Up and Who’s That Girl, throwing in Take a Bow and a bit of Send in the Clowns, also from last week’s show.

Madonna did joke about a possible return of her stand up set “next month — next month in 2019”.

At 57, Madonna is forging new territory in pop music — still touring regularly and still at the top of her game.

There’s no denying these are expensive tickets (over $500 for the best seats, before you get into VIP pricing), but productions at this level don’t travel the world cheaply.

Madonna has never been a greatest hits artist. There are actually more hits than usual in her Rebel Heart set (some annoyingly chopped up into medleys), but if you want wall-to-wall `80s or `90s hits, you have the wrong artist.

There are still plenty of classic Madonna hits — Burning Up is back as you remember it from 1983, just with Madonna on wailing electric guitar — and Like a Virgin, Music, La Isla Bonita, Material Girl, Holiday and the under-rated Deeper and Deeper are all major moments.

And as far as classic Madonna themes, how about nuns in lingerie pole dancing on crucifixes for Holy Water and Madonna doing some pole-vogueing for a quick snatch of Vogue?

There’s also a re-enactment of the Last Supper where Madonna sings Devil Pray with her arms bound.

Devil Pray along with fellow new tunes Rebel Heart and Living For Love demonstrate that Madonna still knows how to make powerful pop music, even if radio stations have put her out to pasture.

Her cover of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore was a vocal highlight while she dedicated her cover of La Vie En Rose, which she played on ukulele to aspiring singer and audience member Jake Dennis not her son Rocco, as she did in New Zealand last week.

International Australian drag star Courtney Act was Madonna’s Unapologetic B**ch for Melbourne, with the singer seemingly not realising who Act was.

Sure, you could pick a dozen Madonna classic hits you’d rather hear than Body Shop or Unapologetic B**ch (Like a Prayer or Express Yourself for starters) but Madonna has always done everything the way she wants.

It’s that single-minded determination that may alienate some people and keeps her diehard fans on board. It’s also the reason she’s the most successful and enduring pop star of her generation.

And theRebel Hearttour is a long overdue reminder for Australian fans of how incredible pop concerts can be, from the woman who reinvented pop music.
Madonna plays Rod Laver Arena again tonight before shows in Brisbane and Sydney.


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