opinion

Madonna’s latest tour may have done more harm than good to her career

Madonna on her Madame X tour
(Photo: @madonna | Instagram)

Madonna is currently in the home stretch of her beleaguered Madame X Tour, which will likely go down in history as one of the most drama-laden concert tours of her career.

The show was supposed to be a big deal. A very big deal. Madonna would be playing in smaller, more intimate theaters. Fans would get to interact with her in a way they had never gotten to before, up close and personal. At least, that was the idea.

Sadly, the reality has proven to be a much different story.

The Madame X Tour, while receiving mostly positive reviews from critics, seems to have been plagued from the start. Two weeks before it was set to open in New York City, after fans had already purchased nonrefundable plane tickets and made hotel reservations, Madonna’s camp sent out an email saying the show was being postponed.

The email cited a delay in “highly specialized production elements” as the reason for delay. But, it added, the “good news” was fans could get refunds on their tickets, if they wanted.

As it turns out, the beginning… was just the beginning.

After the Madame X Tour was underway, Madonna quickly started receiving criticism for arriving late. And not just 20 or 30 or 40 minutes late. More like two or three or four hours past the advertised start time.

On top of that, she instituted a “no cellphones” policy. Ticket holders were required to keep their devices in secured Yondr cases that were stored outside of the theater space.

And she demanded the air conditioning in every venue be turned off, creating a stifling, near-suffocating experience, especially for fans seated in the balconies.

As it turns out, people didn’t particularly like paying hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars, to wait in a stuffy, unventilated room for hours on end without access to their cellphones. Go figure.

Madonna’s behavior eventually resulted in one fan suing.

Nate Hollander filed a $15,000 lawsuit in federal court after he was denied a refund for Madonna’s December 17 show in Miami after the start time was moved from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. to accommodate her lateness. Hollander had to sell his tickets, but he says Madonna’s reputation for mistreating fans forced him to unload them at a lower price than he had paid.

Madonna responded to Hollander’s lawsuit by telling an audience in Vegas, “Here’s something you all need to understand … and that is, that the queen is never late.”

(Side bar: About that show in Vegas. There were reports the singer was met with loud boos from audiences after arriving two hours late and that she had to issue 500 refunds as a result.)

Then, earlier this month, two more fans filed a second lawsuit against Madonna for the same thing.

Andrew Panos and Antonio Velotta are currently suing her for showing up three hours late to her Brooklyn concerts on September 21 and October 1. They claim they, too, were denied refunds even though they were unable to stay for the entire performance, which got out after 1 a.m., because they had to work the next morning.

And then came the cancelations.

Throughout the Madame X Tour, Madonna has complained of “overwhelming” and “indescribable” pain allegedly due to a knee injury suffered during rehearsals. (Remember when we said the tour seemed plagued from the start?) Because of this, nearly a dozen shows total had to be scrapped in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Lisbon, and London.

In one instance, fans weren’t informed the show was being canceled until 45 minutes before the start time, after they had already checked their cellphones in the lobby and begun filing into the theater.

Understandably, they weren’t pleased.

Then this past week, in what can only be described as an ironic twist, the singer had her microphone cut and the fire curtain lowered on her at the London Palladium after she disregarded the 11 p.m. curfew mandated by the city.

“F*ck you motherf*ckers, censorship, motherf*cking censorship,” she said. Then, quoting James Baldwin, she declared, “Artists are here to disturb the peace!”

(For context: When Baldwin said that in 1961, it was in reference to his life’s work of raising awareness to the plight of disenfranchised African Americans through his literature. He wasn’t talking about white pop singers worth an estimated $850 million.)

Madonna later elaborated on the incident on Instagram, writing: “It was 5 minutes past our 11:00 curfew – we had one more song to do and The Palladium decided to censor us by pulling down the metal fire curtain that weighs 9 tons. Fortunately they stopped it halfway and no one was hurt. Many Thanks to the entire Audience who did not move and never left us. Power to The People!!”

Of course, the situation could have been avoided if she had started the show on time. Also, she wasn’t being censored. The city curfew applies to all performances, regardless of who’s on stage, and exists for public safety reasons.

The Madame X Tour is scheduled to make its final stop in Paris later this month, with closing night planned for March 11. It remains to be seen what, if any, impact all this will have on the singer’s future concert tours.

It’s clear Madonna has lost fans over all this, as measured by the lawsuits, the refunds, and the angry tweets, though it probably won’t effect her bottom line in any meaningful or noticeable way. She’ll continue to record albums and sell out venues around the world.

What can’t be measured, however, are the number of fans she didn’t gain because of her antics. Part of the reason an artist goes on tour is to promote their latest work and reach new audiences. That’s hard to do when you show up hours late. If, that is, you show up at all.

Related: These are Madonna’s 8 most queer-positive anthems