Madonna and her mob
Thai concert-goers in Paris get to see combat, political fire and one bare boob
Madonna preached human rights over monarchy, equality and freedom and condemned hatred, racial discrimination and prejudice in her concert on Saturday in Paris.
It was France's National Day, and the "queen of pop" got in on the act by slipping into republican mode and dispensing her American brand of naked truths complete with her signature striptease, G-string, bare breast and derriere flashing.
About 85,000 fans including some 60 Thais, loved it, but not France's conservative fans.
The rebellious singer may have courted controversy, but this was a terrific show, with excellent choreography, impressive lights and sound and world-class production, all of which - in the eyes of many - put Lady Gaga's recent much-hyped gig in Bangkok to shame.
At 54, Madonna, with her muscular limbs and svelte frame, has proved she can still rock and dance for two hours and be sexy while doing it.
H Music by True Move H 3G treated the Thais to the trip to Paris for the show. H Music is a free app for smart phones that affords access to more than 300,000 songs and music videos by 150 artists. About 16 of the 60 Thais attending the concert won their tickets in H Music contests.
H Music is planning to take more local groups to concerts staged overseas by Universal Music, with which it's partnered.
Madonna's Thai fans in their early 20s dressed up for the occasion and waited anxiously for the outdoor show to start at 10pm, once the sun was long gone.
The performance combined drama, music videos, dance and singing and was packed with rhetorical blows against discrimination and injustice. Madonna's oratorical prowess, rebelliousness and fearless social commentary came to the fore. She was truly a drama queen.
It was two hours of 20 songs, mostly from her recent albums and the latest, "MDNA", with a few classics from the 1980s, some newly arranged.
The show started with the grand "Prayer Overture", the "Act of Contrition" video featuring excerpts from "Lekhah Dodi". The pop queen emerged in a skin-tight black outfit to combat hooded devils in red.
That was followed by "Girl Gone Wild", with the singer wielding a pistol. In "Revolver" she went on a killing spree, a big splash of blood filling the giant screens. Things got even more violent in "Gang Bang". "Shot you dead and I have no regret," Madonna repeated before climbing onto a big cross and proclaiming her superiority.
The background noise of a helicopter and sirens seemed to turn the stadium into a battlefield. Madonna looked really cool, confident - and much like a bitch - but there was a tinge of tiredness in her voice that probably resulted from her intense stage antics. It was fun, and the crowd roared. "I want to act like a bitch, and die like a bitch," she shouted.
After a fat loud "Fxxx Off", the singer launched into the crowd favourite "Papa, Don't Preach", with three men bearing her aloft, followed by "Hung Up", featuring samples from "Girl Gone Wild".
Then she strapped on a guitar and launched into "I Don't Give". She actually played the guitar too.
After a video interlude with samples from "Heartbeat", the singer performed "Express Yourself" dressed as a drum majorette and asking, "C'mon, girls, do you believe in love?" One of the night's most stunning scenes happened here: An actual marching band appeared high in the air, which was an incredible feat.
Another video interlude turned up the singer's hits from yesteryear, and then it was time for the fun number "Turn Up the Radio". Madonna had a bit of a chat with the fans: "Are you having a good time?"
The real fun came with "Open Your Heart", in which she explained the meaning of the Spanish Basque phrase sagarra jo - "smashing the apples". She turned it into an anti-racial slogan, as in smash prejudice, hatred and injustice.
"If anyone judges you on the basis of your skin colour, you say, 'Sagarra jo, motherf**kers'. If we want to stand up for our rights and fight for freedom. This is Bastille Day - we treat everyone equally - we want human rights above monarchy!"
Madonna's republican overtones seemed to go down well with the crowd.
The show slowed down somewhat until another the much-anticipated moment arrived with "Human Nature". Madonna seduced the crowd with a sexy striptease, then slowly lowered her bra cup to flash a breast. Turning her back, she lowered her trousers to show off her G-string. "Don't live dangerously!" she proclaimed.
The applause was thunderous.
Fans were pleased with timeless hits such as "Like a Prayer" and "Celebration", which ended the show. The last number also saw a dance move that looked like Michael Jackson's famous crotch-grabbing format and the crowd went wild.
Overall, it was an extraordinary concert full of drama, dance and republican values. The only complaint is that she kept her 85,000 fans waiting for two hours.
Dressed in pink for the concert, Kwan, one of the lucky H Music winners, said she loved the show and was pleased with the selection of songs. Having been a fan of Madonna for six years, Kwan, now 24, said the show was much better than Lady Gaga's in terms of dance, production and presentation.
"This is the most important concert I've ever been to and I'll remember it for the rest of my life," she said. Kwan picked up a lot of English from Madonna's songs and it inspired her to major in English at university.
The writer attended Madonna's concert courtesy of TrueMove H and H Music.