MANILA, Philippines – The Material Girl flew into town yesterday for what is touted to be the biggest ever international musical production in the country, right smack into controversy.
After taking on Lady Gaga, the Catholic Church is warning the FIlipino faithful to shun “the evil one,” referring to Madonna.
Like Lady Gaga, the Queen of Pop is expected to survive the Church warning and deliver a riveting performance tonight and tomorrow.
Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles discouraged Filipinos from patronizing Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour, one of the most expensive concerts to be held in Manila at P3,150 for general admission and P57,750 for a VIP seat.
“I admonish the faithful to be wary of the subtle attacks of the evil one,” Arguelles said.
The archbishop also condemned Lady Gaga’s concert in Manila in May 2012. The show sold out.
Madonna’s concert kicks off tonight at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Before it was Lady Gaga. Now it’s Madonna. Why is the Philippines a favorite venue for blasphemy against God and the Holy Mother? Let us pray for our country that the devil will not succeed to draw anyone of this Pueblo Amante de Maria to his evil ways,” Arguelles said. “Lord Jesus, save us from this ideological colonization. Mama Mary, protect the Philippines.”
Madonna is known for racy performances, which have featured pole-dancing nuns and large crosses.
According to sources from Music Management International, the local promoter also behind the two-day One Direction concert last year, it’s a feat to have the 57-year-old Queen of Pop hold her first-ever concert in the Philippines after failed attempts in the past.
The Rebel Heart Tour commenced in Montreal in September last year. Manila is one of 13 stops in Asia and more than 80 around the world.
“At the outset, when we were figuring out the places to play, Madonna asked (us) to present her some new places where she could go and Manila came up. She agreed to it and was very excited,” said Tres Thomas, senior vice president for tour operations of concert producer Live Nation Global Touring.
The STAR had a glimpse of how massive a show Filipino fans are about to see during yesterday’s “bump-in,” when equipment was rolled in for the set-up.
“At the request of Madonna, you’re going to see the same show here in Manila that everyone saw at Madison Square Garden in New York, in Paris or in London. It’s consistently her show because she doesn’t want to limit her creativity or shortchange anyone, particularly in Manila,” Thomas said.
Three Boeing 747 planes carrying about 300 tons of lights, audio and video equipment, among others, flew in from the tour’s previous stop in Macau. Madonna’s 1,000-plus wardrobe pieces alone could fill two sea containers.
Some of the technical highlights of the concert include the 2,150,400 LED pixels to light up the rear screens, which will play 22 videos during the entire concert. It also has a 55,000-pound customized movable stage/ramp that brings Madonna close to the floor audience.
“The stage is such a part of the show. Without revealing too much, there are elements in this show that move and turn around, and because of the hydraulics and automation we can’t use the local stage,” Thomas said.
Production manager Jason Danter said it normally takes them 11 to 14 hours to get the entire stage ready. The concert travels with 150 people – from crew to dancers. It also taps 150 more local production people.
“It really takes an army to mount the show,” Danter said.
Asked how meticulous the US diva is pre-show, Thomas said, “She rehearses every day. Whether it’s the first show or the last show, she will rehearse an hour and a half or two hours every day to fix notes or items that came out in the previous show, just to make sure the show is presented the way she wants to present it.”
Amidst the show’s jaw-dropping ticket prices, Thomas said that “there’s no bad seat in the house.”
“The show is designed to play the entire arena. I think the range of ticket prices gives everybody an opportunity to see the show,” he said.
Danter added, “From the start until the end of the show, we have eight cameras. We tour around with those cameras, spotlight Madonna and the dancers and (feature) the entire show on video screens left and right.”
Expect Madonna to select an audience member to join her onstage. Said Rick Sobkowiak, head of Live Nation’s operations and VIP parties, “Every (concert) night, Madonna picks out a random fan. They’ll be looking for fans that are unique and we’ll be inviting them to come up on stage to dance with Madonna.”
Along with this tour are speculations that this will be her final tour and that the US singing superstar will be slowing down in the music business.
“I’ve been working with her since 2001. Madonna is an artist. She has to create so many activities in her life, whether it’s a stage show or directing movies or producing albums. There’s never an end design to anything she does, she won’t do that. When it’s time to move on, it will be her choice, but we have no expectations that this will be the last Madonna tour,” Thomas said.
Madonna, who has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and placed No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 All Time Top Artists next to the Beatles, had courted controversy for her musical productions as well. When she brings Rebel Heart Tour to Singapore this Saturday, it will be what the Singapore media had reported as an “amended version,” with sensitive content removed, to meet guidelines of an R-18 rating imposed by its media regulator.
The final set list in the Philippines has not been released to the media and might still change as of press time, according to sources.
Among her hit singles are Like a Virgin, Material Girl, Vogue, Like a Prayer and 4 Minutes.