Against the odds, Madonna rocks Moscow
By Nick Allen
Moscow -- She was to be kidnapped or crushed with her fans by a stadium roof, eternally damned by the church or forced to cancel by petty incompetence and greedy intrigue. But against all the odds, Madonna performed in Moscow Tuesday night to a roar of acclaim. Whether fired up by irritation at the problems, or coolly tapping a quarter of a century of performing excellence, the 48-year-old pop diva delivered a blistering show for some 50,000 people in the Russian capital's Luzhniki stadium. With the song I Feel Love she embarked on the set of her controversial Confessions tour.
In the preceeding weeks, the biggest music event of Moscow's year began to resemble a grotesque soap opera with an ever changing cast, as a succession of figures proclaimed that they were the real organizers.
Promoters and police clashed over the venue, supposedly owing to security considerations, and after the gig was pushed back a day, furious fans were given less than a week to swap their tickets for the concert planned by the university for new ones at the stadium.
A Moscow architect whose buildings suffered two horrific collapses said powerful reverberations from the music could literally raise - and bring down - the stadium roof.
Extra security was arranged after British media claimed that the Russian mafia wanted to abduct the singer, her son Rocco and daughter Lourdes.
Russian Orthodox Church believers tore up Madonna's picture at small rallies round town, angered mainly at the song Live to Tell, where the singer undergoes a mock crucifixion in a crown of thorns.
And all the time, her fans tried to forget the debacle of the scheduled Eric Clapton gig by Red Square a month earlier, cancelled at the last moment amid conflicting rumours about the reason.
Meanwhile, the scalpers had a field day marking up thousands of mysteriously channelled tickets that were officially priced at 1,500 rubles (56 US dollars) to 25,000. Days before the event, VIP seats were reportedly selling for more than 95,000 rubles in a country where the average monthly salary is around 10,000 roubles.
Somewhere in the melee voices could be heard calling for what most people wanted: a show that lived up to her reputation as a performer and Moscow's as a city that successfully hosted concerts by other top acts like the Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams and Joe Cocker.
"Maybe Madonna's fans will get to see not some bellicose champion of depravity and other heresies, not an instigator of petty political squabbles, but a singer whose show simply deserves respect," the Novaya Gazeta newspaper wondered on the eve of the concert.
It didn't look possible, with showbusiness insiders lashing out at a constantly deteriorating chain of weak command in the concert's organization. Some blamed the singer's US representatives, Life Nation, for trying to maximize profits by hiring Russian ground operators who were out of their depth from the start.
But, as they say, it was all right on the night. Moscow had its Holiday, while the mafia and other sundry forces and calamities were left to strike another day.
Madonna's Confessions tour began in May and is expected to break all box-office records for a female artist, with anticipated gross revenues of 200 million dollars.
Â© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur