Pop star Madonna treated fans to an intimate show at Paris’s famed Olympia theatre on Thursday, voicing her love for a France that is open to minorities and artists and reinterpreting Je t’aime moi non plus, a song laced with sexual innuendo.
Tickets for the surprise show — a last-minute addition to Madonna’s “MDNA” tour — were offered first to members of her fan club and sold out within minutes. Some people began gathering outside the Olympia as early as Wednesday for the show, and anticipation was running high.
In the end, reaction was mixed, and some in the audience voiced disappointment at the show’s length, a mere 45 minutes. A few called for refunds as they left the 2,700-seat theatre, Paris’s oldest surviving music hall which has welcomed iconic stars from Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel to the Rolling Stones.
The concert was expected to have a political overtone to it, and Madonna started off on a rebellious note.
“I have a special affinity with France, and I have for many years,” the pop star shouted at the start. “It could go all the way to Napoleon, because I think of myself as a revolutionary.”
Yet there was no repeat of the performance she gave at the 80,000-seat Stade de France on July 14, which angered France’s far-right party leader Marine le Pen by showing a picture of her with a swastika superimposed on her face.
France’s National Front has since announced it will sue her.
On Thursday, Madonna offered only veiled criticism of the party’s anti-immigrant stance, paying homage to a France which she said once “opened its arms to minorities”.
“I know I have made a certain Marine le Pen very angry with me,” she said, adding that her intention was not to make enemies. “We are entering some very scary times in the world. People are afraid, and what happens when people are afraid? They say: ‘Get out! You’re the reason. You’re the problem. You’re to blame,’” she told the audience.
Tickets for the show, which included both classics and songs from her latest album MDNA, started at 80 euros (Dh361).
Fans started gathering at noon on Wednesday to attend the show, with many pitching tents on the sidewalk to make sure they got as close as possible to the Material Girl.
Die-hard fan, 25-year-old Ally Gloser from Cologne, Germany, said she had bought tickets for 11 of Madonna’s shows over the summer, at a cost of 2,500 euros.
“Normally, I’m a student. Now I’m a poor student,” she said.
True to form, the 53-year-old offered up an array of attractive outfits and age-defying moves, at one point adding a French touch for Parisian fans with a black leather pencil skirt, red lipstick and a French beret. She paid tribute to several French artists, including actor Alain Delon and singer Piaf.
“I walk in her footsteps, actually I crawl in her footsteps,” she said of the La Vie en rose singer while kneeling on stage.
Under red lights and on an entirely empty stage, Madonna sang the famous French song, Je t’aime moi non plus (“I love you, neither do I”), written by Serge Gainsbourg in the late 1960s. She tied a dance partner down on a chair and pretended to shoot him in the mouth.
Audience reaction to the show was mixed.
“The show itself was pretty good, but she didn’t even sing for an hour,” complained 33-year-old Guillaume Delaval. “She spoke for 15 minutes about tolerance, it’s not the UN here.”
Pierce Brosnan, the Irish actor who played in four James Bond movies, attended the show with his wife.
“We’re fans. My wife wanted to come, so we bought tickets,” he said, explaining he was in Paris to shoot a movie with Emma Thompson called Love Punch.
Madonna will perform in Nice, France, on August 21. After shows in the Middle East and Europe, the singer will give concerts in the US, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.