Abu Dhabi: touched for the very first time
She’s stripping, screamed one viewer, reporting live in the 'heat of the moment' on Madonna’s wild antics on the Yas Arena stage of Abu Dhabi (AD), June 4th 2012 for the final AD run of a two-day sell-out tour. At 53, Madonna in the Middle East, and last night in Abu Dhabi, was a dynamo diva who showed she could still shake up an arena and a community with her sacrilegious ways.
When out of ideas to make the audience gasp, she brought on her child. Yes, Madonna with child. Her very own 11 year-old Rocco Ritchie, a 'borderline' pre-pubescent boy, joined in her uber-sexualized live show, which she wasn't toning down for anyone; not for the AD Muslim conservative mind-set, not for her own wide-eyed young.
With time, the Madonna shock factor has lost its punch and we’re left marveling at the stamina of the woman with stringy arm muscles and the staying power to do a humid, hot and harrowing performance in Abu Dhabi the heart of the sizzling United Arab Emirates.
Seasoned concert goers were milling about in anticipation, suffering the soaring 40-degree-celsius temperatures and the customary waiting time for a giant super-star that could keep anyone standing and get away with it. It was 20 minutes before 11pm and her Madgesty had still not deigned to enter her awaiting stage and hyper fans. When she did finally show up, it was to the tune of ropes and red monks. The best-selling female pop act of all time emerged from behind a cross for all her sins past and 'present,' having descended on an oriental lantern. Soon after singing Like a Prayer, she injected an inshallah - hey at least she's multi-faith conscious!
Her Arabic-style entrance was a grand display, replete with intense religious pageantry – more characteristically Christian than Muslim— though Arab Christians are a devout sort who might have taken umbrage. But anyone who's easily offended should be nowhere in sight of a Madonna concert.
Her faux pas, crammed into just under 2 hours worth, were too many to enumerate:
Sexy black bras, under and over white shirts, pin-striped pants that were on, then off, and suddenly the lines between pants and panties were blurring and more than her tie was being ripped off. Boys cheered their approval at the exposed 'No Fear' tattooed on her back - as if there had been any doubt that Madge gave a big 'F' for fear.
Abu Dhabi had not tried to impose any stipulation that she tone it down - citing artists' prerogative, according to Time Out, Abu Dhabi.
Which is why, Madonna didn’t spare Abu Dhabi the racy, the erotic and the flouting of conventions. Crosses were man-handled in the same way as her homosexual company on stage. She 'expressed herself' with a same sex smooch on stage.
Among other accusations, she was criticized for lip syncing. Lackluster at times in the show, unable to tap into extra energy from a flagging audience even with comments like ‘Have you ever been in love with something you’ve never had? It’s OK cause now you have me’.
To be fair, the 53-old woman was giving her best. But she showed visible signs of struggling – giving her own shout-out to her efforts: "I hope you’re appreciating how hard I’m working for my fans". Fans too were feeling the heat: bottled water sold at 2 for 1. But the Queen of Pop eschewed the AC in favor of sweating it out.
She swapped guitars for tight ropes (and you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Arab’s Got Talent, but with less Arabs more black, Hispanic back-up singer-dancers..)
Madonna ruffled the feathers of conservative AD, injecting gays, buff male dancers of all colors of the rainbow, woman-power and guns a la MIA style. She brandished guns to Revolver - her 'sex pistol' - and body parts to almost every other track. The Material Girl was playing dismissively with her toyboys throughout the show.
She also sang Lady Gaga, borrowing from a peer who likes to shock and upset the religious faithful. Born This Way - Gaga's freedom song uses lyrics heavy with gay allusions and has been compared with Madonna's Express Yourself.
Impressed, gob-smacked, fawning, hating or shrugging off Madonna, the lady of contradiction - whether for her Peace Tour that brought war and sex to the already conflicted Middle East - everybody is today talking about her.
By Dina Dabbous
Do you think Madonna was too much for Abu Dhabi or just the ticket for the depressed Middle East?