Madge rage: Madonna is late but the trains leave on time

Photo: Brandon Hartley

What happens when one of the world’s biggest pop stars and thousands of her fans converge on the Ziggo Dome during one of the coldest weekends of the year while the NS is doing maintenance on a busy railway?

Magic and a bit of mayhem.

Many of Madonna’s fans were muttering something just like a prayer on Friday during the first night of her Celebration Tour at the arena after the show was delayed by over an hour. The Material Girl got a late start, which forced many angry concertgoers to leave before she finished her final song around 12:45 am.

“We travelled over from London for it,” Madonna fan Sally Jones told Dutch News. “We had to leave early so we could get back to our hotel. A lot were leaving with us.”

“Everything got pushed back by 30 minutes it seemed like,” said Dimitri. “And there was a lot of light and sound checking. They didn’t give an update but maybe something needed to be fixed before starting.”

Tickets for Madonna’s Amsterdam shows both sold out within mere minutes when they went on sale on 20 January. The Celebration Tour has been a big draw because she vowed to fill the set list almost entirely with chart-topping hits from her decades-spanning career. All thrillers, no fillers.

But many fans at Friday’s show in the Ziggo Dome left before midnight because they were worried about catching their trains or having to take a night bus home due to a maintenance project on the rails at Schiphol airport. Many of them complained on social media about the NS’s decision not to provide additional late night services.

“I know there were people at the concert who were not able to catch the last train,” Erik Kroeze, head of media relations at the NS, told Dutch News on Saturday afternoon. “It was hard for the organisers to give us an end time. That’s why the Ziggo Dome warned everyone both Friday and Saturday to get a good plan and not to rely on public transport if they had to go further than Amsterdam afterward.

Photo: Brandon Hartley

“We had longer trains and extra stops because we knew a lot of people would be going to these concerts,” he said. “But for the NS it’s really difficult to make plans for night trains that go all around the country when no one will tell us when concerts will end.”

NS has learned from the chaos that ensued after a Harry Styles concert at the nearby Johan Cruijff Arena and a second concert at AFAS Live last June due to IT problems that impacted rail services. The Ziggo Dome was used as emergency accommodation for those who couldn’t get home.

On Saturday, electronic displays in the Ziggo Dome’s concourses and stairwells warned concertgoers of problems with the trains and slippery walkways outside. Most seemed more concerned with grabbing beers and checking out what was for sale at the merchandise stands. Blonde Ambition and ‘Italians Do It Better’ t-shirts were selling for €50. Madonna hoodies were going for €100.

The show began just past 10 pm. The two hour plus performance featured hits including Like a Prayer, Live to Tell, and Music with elaborate stage effects, outstanding costumes, and, unsurprisingly since this was a Madonna concert, tons of surreal Catholic imagery and risque dance moves.

Vogue was accompanied by a runway show and an acoustic singalong of I Will Survive with the singer playing guitar brought the crowd to their feet with their smartphone lights illuminated.  The concert concluded with Madonna’s backup dancers dressed in costumes from various points in her career. There was even one in her baseball uniform from the 1992 film A League of Their Own.

Photo: Brandon Hartley

But curious omissions included ‘Papa Don’t Preach.’ Its string intro received only a few seconds of attention while Madonna laid on a bed with one of the dancers. ‘Like a Virgin’ was limited to a multimedia duet with CGI silhouettes of the singer and Michael Jackson circa 1984.

She also joked that the Dutch crowd wasn’t understanding her English and may have been too high on marijuana to keep up with her. ‘I’m used to being misunderstood,’ she told them. ‘Miss Understood.’

Fan reactions

Not that the crowd seemed to care about the songs that didn’t make it onto the set list. Many were knocked flat by the concert. Several fans were hugging and in tears afterward. Only a few people left early.

“Best show I’ve seen since the last time Beyoncé was here,” one said.

“Who told her she could slay us that hard?” another wondered. “Who gave her the right? No one. She did it anyway.”  “She was just good,” a concertgoer named Louise reported. “Nothing else to say.”

There were delays on the railways after the show, but things seemed relatively normal at the train station near the Ziggo Dome. More of a concern were the slipper bricks outside AFAS Live. Several people slipped and fell.

The concertgoers ranged in age from seven to well into pension age. One brought her octogenarian mom who provided a quick review as they headed for the exits. “I enjoyed it, but the sound was no good,” she said. “Too much bass!”

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