It’s three days before the Pope leads hundreds of thousands of people in a mass at Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and four miles away at the Wells Fargo Center, one of America’s most famous ex-Catholics is already getting into the spirit of the occasion. Madonna uses a giant cross as a stripping pole and writhes around on a re-creation of the Last Supper table as she moans, “Yeezus loves my pussy best.” “Popey-wopey is on his way over,” she says later in the show. “I think he’s stalking me.”
The gleefully blasphemous moment is one of 21 elaborately choreographed numbers on Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour, which has been packing North American arenas since it kicked off September 9th. It’s her most extravagant stage show ever — a two-hour set that features samurai warriors, matadors, gypsies, rockabilly kids dancing around a body shop and a dangerous-looking dance routine on top of giant swaying poles, not to mention a grand finale set in a gleaming 1920s-style Paris cafe.
“The logistical avalanche of putting it together was unlike anything I’ve ever done,” says Arianne Phillips, the head costume designer, who notes the tour uses 500 pairs of shoes and 450 costumes. “Every day of rehearsals felt like an impossibility.” To prepare for the show, the 20 backup dancers spent three months putting in 14-hour days, six days a week. The 57-year-old Madonna was right beside them. “No matter what we asked her to do, like riding a nun like a surfboard, she’d try without flinching,” says Megan Lawson, the tour’s head choreographer.
The day after the Philadelphia show, Madonna phoned up Rolling Stone to talk about the tour.
At what point in the creation of Rebel Heart did you start brainstorming ideas for this tour?
Finishing my record was filled with panic and pressure because of all the leaks, so I wasn’t really thinking about my live show until I released the record and started making videos and doing my promo show. So honestly, I didn’t really try to sit down and get my head around it until last March. That’s unusual for me because I usually start thinking way, way, way in advance. read more →