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Check out a review of MADONNA‘s historic 2-night stop for Rebel Heart Tour on her first-ever visit to Manila, Philippines. Written by Club Madonna Philippines‘ very own Ian Ray Garcia for Mindanao Times.

THE ENTIRE show was laden with controversial elements: sexually-charged choreography, use of religious symbols, dancers in skimpy outfits (one even bared her breasts but no one in the audience cared), and a lot of swearing. To avid fans of Madonna, the biggest selling female artist of all time, it was the usual fare. To non-fans who were just curious on what she still has to offer, it was cringe-worthy, scandalous, and even blasphemous.

After all these years, it’s unbelievable that a quite a number of people still don’t know that the Queen of Pop doesn’t just sing and dance on her shows – she creates unforgettable experiences.

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To call the recent Philippines leg of of her Rebel Heart Tour, held last February 24 and 25 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, a success is an understatement. It did not only catch everyone’s attention (including two bishops who call it “the devil’s work”), it also led the MOA Arena to open more sections, including an PhP8,000+ Standing Room Only area, just to accommodate more spectators. The venue has a full capacity of 20,000.The show, divided into four themed acts, “Joan of Arc/Samurai,” “Rockabilly meets Tokyo,” “Latin/Gypsy,” and “Party/Flapper”, was described by the singer as a “theatrical spectacle”. In an interview, Madonna revealed that her 10th world tour would be a journey of her personal statements and opinions of being a “rebel heart who is living for love, rising above, believing in dreams, and overcoming heartbreak.”

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The Rebel Heart Tour, front-acted by DJ Mary Mac, kicked off with the anthemic song “Iconic” (featuring Muhammad Ali) from her latest album, which somewhat set the tone for the rest of the evening.

“This is my first time in the Philippines, m*****f******s! You don’t mind if I swear, do you?”, she greeted the audience who willfully obliged to her whims all throughout the show.

However, those shocking, eyebrow-raising moments were overshadowed by her still unparalleled performance and exceptional audio-visual pageantry that only Madonna can deliver.

For the next two hours, she dished out vigorous production numbers and routines that fused religious imagery with sexual energy in songs like “Holy Water”, “Devil Pray”, and “Messiah”. She powerfully  danced and worked the cross-shaped with heart-tipped stage, bursting with gusto as she executed challenging choreography while she crooned 20+ hits from both her extensive catalogue (“Burning Up”, “True Blue” Deeper and Deeper”, “Like a Virgin”, Las Isla Bonita”, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, “Material Girl”) and numbers from the recent release (“Holy Water”, “Body Shop”, “Heartbreak City”, “Living for Love”, “Candy Shop”, “Unapologetic Bitch”, “Rebel Heart”).

Even the interludes, performed by her lithe and nimble dancers, were worthy of ovation. “S.E.X.”, no matter how shocking the production may be, was a display of terpsichorean genius. “Illuminati”, a song she co-produced with Kanye West, was a marvel to watch as her dance crew swung, swirled and spun on malleable poles that drove the crowd wild.

Even the complex stage had character. Like a Transformer robot, it did its own stunts, seamlessly assuming numerous shapes and sizes throughout the show, from a high LED video screen, a lit-up flooring, a vertical and angular partition, to a tilted platform where Madonna and her dancers performed their musical theatrics.

The 57 year old singer/songwriter/actress/director/book author also modified her setlist on the two-night show, surprising her Filipino audience.

On the first night, she rendered a mellowed down version of “Who’s That Girl”, and “Like a Prayer”, one of the night’s major sing-along, goosebump moments. On the second night, she perfomed her 80s medley (which she dropped in the previous Asian stops of the tour) and serenaded the audience with “Crazy for You”, a song that she hasn’t sung live since 2003’s Reinvention Tour. She also hasn’t performed the song in any of her previous Rebel Heart Tour stops.  “Crazy for You”, a well-loved song by many of her Pinoy followers, was the subject of a campaign led by Club Madonna Philippines, requesting Madonna to perform the song on her Manila stop. Thankfully, she obliged.

Madonna also did her version of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”, showcasing her ukulele skills and her fantastic mezzo-soprano singing voice.

The show finally ended with her 1983 hit “Holiday”, a fitting joyous conclusion of a journey 30 plus years in the making.

“I want to show you my gratitude and appreciation for your support, for all these years, for over 30 years,” she said to the audience. “It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. It is. Just a minute is amazing, so imagine 32 years.”

Rebel Heart Tour, which started in September 2015, has raked in US$88.4 million by end of 2015. As of this writing, the tour is on its way to its last leg, with stops at Australia and New Zealand.

Additional photos courtesy of Jeff Randolo, Ricky Villabona and Jet Stiger.

 

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