Mixtape Music Vault/A Look Back at Three Decades of Madonna Concert Tours

Next month, (April 10th, to be exact), will mark 30 years since Madonna set sail on her very first concert spectacle, ‘The Virgin Tour.’ Not only did this tour catapult the Material Girl to the climbing ranks of icon status, but it also jump started a three decade trek of incredible concerts to follow, with each one setting themselves apart from the next. This fall, Madonna will launch her tenth show, the ‘Rebel Heart Tour,’ and with it will surely come extravagant stage settings, dizzying dance routines and since it’s Madonna, there’s guaranteed to be just a touch of controversy. To commemorate her incredible three decades in the touring game, Philly Mixtape opened the Mixtape Music Vault and took a look at each of Madonna’s concert tours over the years. How many of these Madonna shows have you guys been to?

The Virgin Tour/1985

Madonna’s first and only tour to stay stateside, ‘The Virgin Tour’ launched in support of Madonna’s first two albums, ‘Madonna’ and ‘Like a Virgin.’ The show was met with mixed reviews by critics, including one who said that the Material Girl “will be out of business in six months.” Well, the joke was certainly on them because Madonna’s first tour sold out in a record-setting 34 minutes, catapulting the singer to the beginning of her icon status. In fact, Jason Straitly from The Philadelphia Enquirer (the show was at the now defunct Spectrum)said, “On stage, wiggling and writhing, a rock-video vision of messy, bleached-blond hair, bare skin, sequined paisley and dime store diamonds was the flash-and-trash rock queen Madonna. Behold the Madonna clones-she is turning into one fine legend.” Yes, it was this tour that not only had you girls and gays rockin your “Boy Toy” belts and paisley get-ups, but it was ‘The Virgin Tour” that certainly transformed Madonna into Madonna.

“Lucky Star”

Who’s That Girl World Tour/1987

Now that Madonna is a worldwide sensation at this point, it was time to set sonnet on her first international tour. The ‘Who’s That Girl’ tour launched in tune with her ‘True Blue’ album and also the soundtrack to her delightful box office bomb, ‘Who’s That Girl?’ Since this was her first overseas trek, it was certainly bigger and bolder than the ‘The Virgin Tour,’ adding several video screens, multimedia projectors and a flight of stairs down the middle of the muscially laced set. The singer worked herself to the music bone to get fit for her ‘Girl’ spectacle, adding running, weight-lifting and aerobics to her workout regimen in order to deal with the strenuous dance routines during the show. While Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” film was a major flop, this tour certainly wasn’t, as it raked in a killer $25 million ($51.9 million in today’s dollars) and further cementing Madonna as the one-and-only Queen of Pop.

“Causin A Commotion”

Blond Ambition World Tour/1990

‘Truth or Dare’. Really, what other three words come to mind when thinking about Madonna’s incredible, ‘The Blond Ambition Tour’? Madonna launched ‘Blond’ to explosive reviews and just a touch of controversy. You may remember that it was THIS Madonna tour that had the singer in a bubbling music cauldron of hot water over the show’s recurring religious themes and THAT one moment that Madonna fans will never forget….when she simulated masturbation during her dry-humping-a-bed rendition of “Like a Virgin.” However, it’s this tour that is considered to be one of Madonna’s shining moments for not just the controversy, but for its overall look,  top-notch stage set up, expensive costumes and classic “Bitch, I’m Madonna” attitude. If there are any of you guys that haven’t watched the companion documentary, ‘Truth or Dare’ lately, head to Netflix right away and get lost in this music video masterpiece. Not only does it boldly show what an artist really goes through on tour, but it captured so many tender moments of Madonna’s backup dancers and also her brief weird love affair with  ‘Dick Tracy’ co-star, Warren Beatty. Oh, and when her nervous father shows up not knowing what he’s about to get into seeing his daughter’s concert? Priceless.

The Girlie Show/1993

As we all know, Madonna certainly liked to do a different kind of ….in the early ’90s, and the ‘The Girlie Show’ certainly fit that mold tight like an S&M corset. Laced with sex, sex and a topless Carrie Ann Inaba (she emerges as the first character you see as the show opens, ), ‘Girlie,’ as well as its supportive album, “Erotica’ was met with horrible reviews, but Madonna fans who saw the show claimed that it was her most artisttic show to date, with its ultra-moody setting, lavish dancing, burlesque mentality and bolder costume choices, which were all designed by Dolce & Gabanna. Perhaps the most interesting part about the show wasn’t Carrie Ann’s “inaba’s,” but the fact that the ‘The Girlie Show’ only played five dates in the U.S., as her team feared no one would come see the show after the backlash occurred from her ‘Sex’ book and ‘Erotica’ album. ‘The Girlie Show’ is indeed another fine Madonna music moment, and if you haven’t seen the ‘The Girlie Show:Live Down Under; before, take a peak….just be sure to ask your mom first.

Drowned World Tour/2001

Hard to believe, but eight years had passed since ‘The Girlie Show’ to ‘The Drwoned World Tour,” so you can imagine, fans were more than ready to see Madonna on stage once again, as she out to tour in support her ‘Ray of Light’ and ‘Music’ albums. This show certainly had all the elements of a superstars magnificent return to concert form, featuring acrobatics, lots of stunts and plenty of that reinvented kabbalah lovin’ that we all became very familiar with at this point in Madonna’s career. This was the also the first tour that strayed the singer away from performing her ’80s hits, focusing on her later work, with just a dash of her’90s sets…and some fans weren’t pleased. Nonetheless, the ‘Drowned’ show sold out in record time all over the world, eventually raking in a healthy $76.8 million , making it the highest grossing concert tour of 2001 by a solo artist. All the time that Madonna to took off for reinventing herself as Evita and a mommy truly paid off, as this show would only set the bar for her tours following it.

Re-Invention World Tour/2004

In the summer of 2004, Madonna’s ‘Re-Invention World Tour’ was certainly the go-to concert of the season. Laced with smash hits, tons of religious and military imagery, and that moment of seeing our beloved Material Girl singing her hit ballad, ‘Live to Tell,” while hanging from a cross wearing a crown of thorns, was truly priceless. The show was met with great reviews, with many citing that Madonna returned to form after her ‘Drowned’ tour was missing a large portion of the singer’s earliest hits. Opening the show was an incredible rewiring of “Vogue,” which saw Madonna working a moving catwalk, posing and owning it. You guys might remember that it was also ‘Re-invention’ that kickstarted the highly publicized diva war between Madonna and Elton John, after Ms. Elton accused the diva of lip synching at her concerts. Later on, Elton felt bad about what he said, issuing an apology and the two remain best of frenemies today.

Confessions Tour/2006

So…many…disco balls. In support of her worldwide smash album, ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor,’ Madonna set out on her ‘Confessions Tour,’ and with it came a lavish nightclub stage setting, lots of grooved out dance moves and a mechanical bull strewn high atop the crowd that Madonna performed “Like a Virgin’ on. Personally speaking, I remember this tour fondly for not only just being an incredible show, but it was also out on the town right around the time of my official coming out. There was nothing quite like feeling comfortable getting lost in Madonna’s fabulous ‘Confessions’ as she delivered incredible disco-kissed rewerks of her hits, “Sorry,” “Get Together,” “Forbidden Love” and a spaced-out reimagining of her hit, “Erotica.” For the ‘Confessions’ show, the sexed up tune emerged as a ballroom bedroom beat, as Madonna and her dancers performed a naughty tango, making this version of Madge’s classic ’90s tune one of the highlights of the entire tour.

Sticky and Sweet Tour/2008

Described as a “rock driven dancetastic journey”, Madonna set out on the ‘Sticky and Sweet Tour’ in support of her Pharrell and Timbo drenched ’08 set, ‘Hard Candy.’ Like most of her tours, the concert broke several selling records, as it sold out quickly all over the globe. The tour was also on the road during THAT ’08 election year, so you can imagine the diva had much to say about it while entertaining the crowd. In fact, the Material Momma was quite vocal on stage about her thoughts on former Republican hopefuls John McCain and Sarah Palin, who were gaining tons of press steam at the time of the concert. (Those that saw the show know that her words weren’t pretty.) Like her ‘Who’s That Girl’ tour, ‘Sticky’ was packed with plenty of aerobic punch, as Ms. M performed numerous one-handed push-ups, jumping jacks and more jump roping than you can find kids at recess. But, perhaps the most memorable moment of the tour occurred when during her show at L.A.’s, The Staples Center, the one-and-only Ms. Britney Spears appeared on stage with Madge for a rocked out rendition of “Human Nature.” We ALL remember that Brit Brit was in her comeback from crazy stage at that point, so it was nice to see her on stage with Madge, beginning to transform into the Vegas residing super diva that she is today.

The MDNA Tour/2012

Although her ‘MDNA’ album wasn’t exactly a runway smash, the tour was a much different story. Madonna announced the show after her iconic Super Bowl performance, where it quickly sold out all over the world, eventually adding more dates and going on to become her longest running sonnet sideshow to date. Of course, the show was met with tons of controversy, as some critics wanted to bust a cap in Madonna’s ass after she depicted the use of firearms in the set’s opening act, as well as the use of vivid Nazi imagery. You may also remember that this was the tour when Madonna briefly exposed her right titty for a minute on stage, which may have caused a little bit of shade thrown her way. In May 2013, Madonna was awarded with the top touring award from Billboard magazine, as it became 2012’s top grossing tour, raking in a whopping $305 million. Do you guys think the ‘Rebel Heart’ tour will top that? I guess we’ll have to wait patiently to find out…

“Girl Gone Wild”