Good things come to those who wait. For Madonna’s Australian fans it’s been a long time between drinks, with the global superstar setting foot Down Under for the first time in 23 years.
Her choice of venue – Melbourne’s historic Forum – was inspired, and her crew lit up the grand old dame in a way that showcased all her delicate charms in a way I can’t recall any other act having ever done.
After all that time, a few extra hours spent waiting around outside (and around the corner and down the side laneway) didn’t seem to dull her loyalists’ spirits. Quite the opposite: they used the time to sing medleys of their idol’s tracks until the doors opened late on Thursday night.
In the end they got almost two hours up close and personal with Madonna. For the queen of self-control, it was an open, at times even vulnerable insight into her persona. She seemed relaxed, drinking Cosmopolitans as she spoke at length between songs.
She made her entrance on a tiny tricycle, dressed in a clown-like outfit of yellow swing tunic and pink and white striped stockings, topped with a pink wig and a white top hat perched askew, she launched into Stephen Sondheim’s melancholy Send In The Clowns.
The Tears of a Clown show, a reward for fans who had waited more than two decades for her to return, was a combination of relaxed insight, frank reflection and some seriously daggy gags.
Her set was largely a roll call of her lesser known songs mixed with bona fide hits, some in an almost unrecognisable arrangement.
Substitute for Love was followed with a cover of Elliott Smith’s Between the Bars and a few more recognisable tracks, including Don’t Tell Me and Borderline, and a ukulele version of her 1980s smash hit Holiday for the encore.
She dedicated her song Intervention to her 15-year-old son Rocco, who is the subject of custody negotiations with her former husband Guy Ritchie. She also discussed her father at length and paid tribute to her late mother.
Performing with a fairly subdued backing band, Madonna fluffed a few songs, but warned the audience they were viewing a rehearsal, yet for what was not entirely clear.
“This is some brand spankin’ new shit,” she told the audience. “I hope you like it raw. It’s rough as f—.”
Madonna plays Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Saturday and Sunday, Brisbane Entertainment Centre on March 16 and 17, and Sydney’s Allphones Arena on March 19 and 20.