TEL AVIV (EJP) --- Madonna’s much-anticipated inaugural concert of her MDNA world tour kicked off in Tel Aviv on Thursday night, with 35,000 fans receiving her personal call to peace.
Much had been made of the theme in the run-up to the one-night-only Israeli date, with Madonna pre-warning a group of Peace Now activists she would say “more than a word” about peace.
Explaining her decision to begin her 80-country tour in the country, she said she chose it “for a specific and important reason”.
“You can’t be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world, we all bleed the same colour,” she declared to rapturous applause. “If we can all rise above our egos and our titles and the names of our countries and religions, and treat everyone around us with dignity and respect, then we are on the road to peace.”
Performing on a stage decorated with symbols reminiscent of both Israeli and Palestinian sides, she opened her performance with the sound of a church bell, over which came a chanting of God’s name in Hebrew. Images of guns and goriness were interspersed with Catholic symbols, paying tribute to her Catholic upbringing. Church bells rang out and bare-chested monks marched in front of a large red cross, as a Hebrew prayer was chanted and Madonna appeared on the stage on her knees in a Catholic confessional booth, before breaking through the glass window with a rifle.
The controversy didn’t end there. As rumoured, from the series of evocative images of the Queen of Pop and her backing dancers posted to official Facebook page, Madonna performed opening numbers such as Gang Bang and Revolver holding a gun in her hand. As she ‘shot’ it, blood stains appeared to splatter at a screen behind her.
The famed Kabbalah-devotee also referenced her gifting of 600 tickets to Israeli and Palestinian activists, notably members of (the Palestinian-Israeli non-profit organisation) Peace Now), saying “there are several brave and important NGOs that are represented, both Palestine and Israel (here) together...we are all on different paths but we are all sons and daughters of the universe.”
Her followers went wild, with one Israeli fan Carmit Zindani announcing: “There is simply nothing bigger than Madonna starting her world tour here in the Holy Land. She is one of us.”
The concert is said to have brought 4,000 tourists to Israel, with fans paying up to NIS 5,000 (€1,000, $1,300) to attend the show. Reaction to her arrival in Israel has been frenzied, with fans and media camping outside her Tel Aviv hotel (she is rumoured to have taken over the Dan Hotel for her entourage of 70 people) as well as rehearsals. Having arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday, the icon is thought to have spent the weekend visiting holy Jewish sites, including a trip to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. She was reportedly asked not to visit the graves of the Kabbalah rabbis in Safed, because it was deemed disrespectful, but was seen attending a series of Shavuot classes at the Kabbalah Center in Tel Aviv.
With the Tel Aviv show alone rumoured to be costing in the region of $3.9 million (€3.1 million) and costumes designed by high profile fashion names such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander Wang and Dolce & Gabbana, Madonna changed outfits seven or eight times, paying tribute to her changing images of the past as she stepped out at one point wearing a version of her iconic Jean Paul Gaultier conical corset.
The designer himself couldn’t help but be swept up in the fever of the night, saying: “I love Madonna. She is the only woman I have asked to marry me. She refused, of course. But when she asked me to do a costume for her for this tour, I couldn’t refuse.”
Madonna returned to her heart-felt message at several points during what she herself had termed her ‘peace concert’, preaching that “no matter how many laws we change and how many percentages of land we give, no matter how many talks, no matter how many wars, if we don’t treat every human being with dignity and respect, we will never have peace”.
Speaking of her desire that peace in the Middle East would eventually spread to the rest of the world, she told her fans to “star today, start now, each and every one of you is the future”. She ended the concert by wishing everyone Shalom and salaam.