Madonna’s first İstanbul gig in 19 years: a concert that croaked

“Ribbet, ribbet.” “Yup.” You could almost hear frogs croaking »»

“Ribbet, ribbet.” “Yup.” You could almost hear frogs croaking in a bog somewhere outside of İstanbul, while sitting among the silent concert crowd watching the Queen of Pop gyrate on stage Thursday night.

Close to 50,000 fans -- some dressed in true ‘80s “Material Girl” style, others with images of Madonna splashed across their chests -- packed İstanbul’s Türk Telekom Arena for Madonna’s eagerly anticipated İstanbul concert that came some 19 years after her last appearance here.

They were young, they were old, die-hard fans, curious onlookers, locals and foreigners, whoever they were, they were there to see a mind-blowing, foot-stomping, jaw-dropping iconic Madonna show. What many left with was a “ribbet, ribbet.”

The concert, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., didn’t get off the ground until at least 10:15 p.m., when the lights went out and the clanging of church bells began. A giant cross flashed on a massive screen, as dancers in burgundy shrouds appeared, evoking images of ancient rituals and secret sects. A black-clad Madonna opened the show with the second single from her new album, “MDNA,” “Girls Gone Wild.” Despite the crowd’s initial excitement, hooting and hollering when she first took the stage, the sight of the songstress dancing among “priests” elicited little reaction.

The first set, comprised of songs from her new album, appeared to leave the İstanbul audience underwhelmed, despite images that surely were meant to be shocking. “Bang, bang, shot you dead,” lyrics from her song “Gang Bang,” had the singer slinging a gun while shooting whiskey as she danced atop her dead lover. The 53-year old singer was lithe as a leopard as she scaled a wall in “spidey-like” fashion with sirens ringing, the sounds of gunshots pelted eardrums while “blood” spattered across a massive white screen, all the while the audience sat rather motionless in a movie theater silence.

Madonna, however, looking trim and tone, went seamlessly from one song to another, whether it was slithering along the floor during a slowed-down “Like a Virgin,” or emanating her inner marching band conductor during “Express Yourself.”

“I’m happy to see all my fans in Turkey,” said the singer, which momentarily pulled the audience out of their comatose-state, that is, until the next song began.

It was only when the first few chords of “Like a Prayer” wafted into the open air that the tens of thousands that filled the stadium got to their feet and for a few minutes the place was electric with people dancing, laughing and singing. However this one moment of electricity was short-lived with the concert wrapping up a few minutes later.

Madonna’s 2012 World Tour kicked off in Israel on May 31, and has been criticized for its high use of songs from her new album. There was clear evidence of that at the Türk Telekom Arena with most people sitting silently in their seats, hands crossed, staring blankly at a light show that aroused little emotion.

Madonna’s next show is scheduled for June 12, in Rome. Other stops on her “MDNA” tour include London, Edinburgh, Paris, Milan and Berlin. The European leg concludes on Aug. 21.


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