Madonna's road to bringing her Madame X residency to the Fillmore Miami Beach began with a lawsuit. Last month, fan Nate Hollander filed suit in Miami-Dade County court after the Queen of Pop pushed back the start time of her concert from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Hollander argued the late start time made it virtually impossible for him to resell his tickets, which he no longer wanted because of the change.
Here's hoping Hollander was able to sell his tickets, because for the first show of her seven-night Fillmore residency, Madonna took the stage shortly after 11 p.m. and played straight through 1:30 a.m. Before the phone-free show began, fans bided their time in the Fillmore's lobby, where they danced to a mix of Madonna's hits, most of which she declined to play during the show later that night. And even in an intimate theater show packed with some of her most dedicated fans, there was one other complaint: Virtually no air conditioning could be felt in the building throughout the duration of the concert. Midway through the show, the mezzanine filled with chants of "A/C! A/C! A/C!"
"Fuck you! I'm cold," the singer responded. "Take your fucking clothes off," she continued, hinting the high temperature eased the physical pain that prompted her to cancel three tour dates in Boston less than a month ago.
Fans reprised their pleas for air conditioning a few more times throughout the night, but it's telling that no one left early. The adoring audience at the Miami Beach theater knew this show was a rare chance to see their idol in an intimate venue.
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"I've wanted this opportunity to play in small theaters for a long time," the singer said shortly after opening the show with Madame X tracks "God Control" and "Dark Ballet." If fans were expecting Madonna's theater shows to bring them closer to the songs they grew up listening to, the master of surprise had other plans for them. The Madame X tour set list mostly comprises tracks from her latest album, with the occasional cut from Bedtime Stories and Ray of Light sprinkled throughout. "La Isla Bonita" makes an appearance when it's interpolated into her Maluma collaboration, "Medellín." "Express Yourself" also makes it onto the set list, but as an a cappella interlude.
Fan favorites "Frozen" and "Like a Prayer" elicited the most enthusiastic crowd reactions, but the audience kept an open mind for the newer tracks, which were accompanied by an elaborate stage show that recalled Broadway productions more than it resembled the average pop concert. During the opening number, Madonna emerged in a colonial-style dress flanked by dancers in police uniforms and riot gear as videos of Black Lives Matter protests were projected behind her. Among other theatrical flourishes were a string quartet dressed in nuns' habits and a casket draped with an American flag carried across the stage by actors in servicemen's uniforms. During "I Don't Search I Find," Madonna embodied her femme fatale Madame X persona in an interrogation scene that recalled Michael Jackson's noir music video for "Smooth Criminal."
Her kitchen-sink approach wasn't limited to the set design. Referring to herself as a freedom fighter, Madonna also addressed a flurry of political issues throughout the show, from gun reform to Black Lives Matter to Palestine, environmentalism, LGBTQ equality, and women's rights. "I made up my mind, and I'm not keeping my baby," she sang during "Papa Don't Preach," altering the lyrics before pausing the music to launch into a monologue about the rollback of abortion rights in state legislatures across the nation.
Sitting next to the singer — who relished the intimate setting by walking into the crowd and interacting with guests several times — one fan illustrated the impact that decades of activist artistic messaging can foster. "There was no It Gets Better campaign when I was growing up," the fan told Madonna as she held the microphone for him. Without her pioneering encouragement of LGBTQ communities, he continued, he's not sure he would be alive today.
Even for fans who may not have hit repeat on Madonna's Lisbon-inspired Madame X and maybe found the "One, two, cha-cha-cha" of "Medellín" a little cringe-worthy, the album's supporting tour was worth the late start time and lack of air conditioning. Looking ahead to additional dates, fans who stick it out will get an intimate look at an artist who, nearly 40 years into her career, refuses to rest on the beloved, paradigm-shifting art she made in the past, instead opting to continue challenging even her most devoted audiences.
"I hope I've disturbed your peace this evening," she said near the end of the show, in reference to a James Baldwin quote that was projected onscreen at the beginning of the concert. As much as Madonna has proven she loves to provoke her audiences, it's clear her greatest pleasure still comes from challenging herself.
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- "God Control"
- "Dark Ballet"
- "Human Nature"
- "Express Yourself" (Acapella)
- "I Don't Search I Find"
- "Papa Don't Preach"
- "American Life"
- "Batuka" featuring Batukadeiras Orchestra
- "Killers Who Are Partying"
- "La Isla Bonita" (Interlude)
- "Extreme Occident"
- "Like A Prayer"
- "I Rise"