Even before Madonna’s appearance in Cologne, fans have to endure bad fits of arrogance

It has become a tradition that Madonna concerts never start on time. As a precaution, the organizer had already printed the unusual starting time of 8.30 p.m. on the tickets. But many had feared in advance that the pop diva would also take this information lightly. The first Germany concert in Cologne on Wednesday evening (November 15, 2023) will once again be an extreme test of patience.

The “Queen of Pop” is already dawdling during her sound check, which is why the doors to the Lanxess Arena are only allowed to open after 7 p.m. before the 16,000 fans can get into the warmth. Some then also had to get a ticket for a new seat, because at short notice when setting up the elaborate video and light production it was noticed that a number of seats no longer offered a view of the stage.

Madonna didn’t sing the first notes until 10:10 p.m

Madonna’s followers are surprisingly positive about the useless waiting time – without an opening act or DJ. Some try a “La Ola”, others sing “Viva Colonia”, only a few whistle or boo in the face of this attack of arrogance.

One of the biggest commercial stars in music history with 400 million records sold – only the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley managed more – can be forgiven a lot.

When “Bob the Drag Queen”, winner of the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, finally marches across the hall and asks “Cologne, are you ready for an awesome show?”, the spectacle can begin. After all, it was already 10:10 p.m. when Madonna sang the first notes of “Nothing Really Matters” – complete with a halo on her head on a rotating stage cake.

“The Celebration” tour is an event from many points of view. Less than five months ago, the pop icon was admitted to an intensive care unit in New York. Her life was hanging in the balance after a bacterial infection. The 65-year-old reported on these experiences twice in Cologne.

She wears a bandage and kinesio tape on her left knee, but dances detached and full of power across the numerous catwalks, demonstrating that age is just a number. “I’m so surprised that I’m here. Apparently I had guardian angels. “I’ll tell you my life story,” she chats after “Into the Groove” with a beer bottle in her hand and briefly sings “Causing a Commotion” in an a capella version.

It becomes even more evident when her children are part of the show. First, 17-year-old daughter Mercy James comes onto the stage with a piano and introduces “Bad Girl”. Then 11-year-old Estere is allowed to present a dance show in front of her mother. “My children are the reason I survived,” says Madonna, singing the Gloria Gaynor hit “I Will Survive” alone on an acoustic guitar.

These personal, authentic moments are unfortunately the exception in a show full of gigantism and self-expression. Madonna freaks will find plenty of allusions to her career and life in the 130-minute dance theater.

But presenting his 40-year career is not about a concert or good live music. There is no band, most of the sound comes from the band. Madonna’s live voice can only be heard every now and then. After all: it was also thinner.

The megastar is more concerned with the big messages. When she floats over the crowd in a cage during “Live to Tell,” she reminds us of people who died of AIDS, such as Keith Haring, Freddie Mercury and Arthur Ashe. Slogans against homophobia light up, incense and numerous crosses accompany “Like a Prayer”. Then the queen prances through three boxing rings.

With 28 songs, some of which are only played briefly, there is a rich cross-section of their work, even if of course so many hits like “Music”, “Frozen” or “Take a Bow” are still missing. But whenever a mood arises among the fans – like with “Hung up” or “Ray of Light” – the plug is pulled because videos are played and an elaborate costume change is pending.

Madonna in Cologne: Outfits from Miu Miu, Swarovski, Gaultier and Cardin

Madonna freaks get to see a number of outfits from her 40-year career. The details can be found in the tour program. The boots are from Miu Miu, the jewelry is from Swarovski, the jacket is from Jean-Paul Gaultier, the sunglasses are from Pierre Cardin.

Anyone who complains that this has nothing to do with a live concert doesn’t understand the Madonna cosmos.

The second Madonna show in Cologne is on Thursday evening. There are still tickets for the Lanxess Arena. Fans should not make their way to the hall too early.

Jean Harris

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