I am Madonna-phoric….if there were such a word. I still can’t believe that we had been there watching (or at least trying to watch) Madge performing yet another blockbuster concert squished among 3,000 others, mostly middle-eastern guys and girls gone absolutely wild.
I hadn’t known what to expect.
Sometime ago and I don’t remember on what occasion, hubby and I promised ourselves, that one of these days if there happened to be a Madonna concert anywhere doable from where we were, we would have to catch it. And so the opportunity came earlier this year when Madonna announced her 2012 MDNA World Tour – she would perform in Abu Dhabi. and we thought, how lucky was that. Unexpected as it was, for us at least, she would perform in the Middle East and Abu Dhabi was so very doable.
I was in Malaysia the day they launched the online ticket sales and I remember I was chatting with hubby when he told me that he was waiting for it to open at 11am. He got the tickets he wanted, then flights and hotels were booked. We waited patiently for the big day in June and that day had come. Finally.
The documents we had said the concert would start at 8pm with an opening act by Benny Benassi, the world famous Italian DJ and we thought that everything would last a total of two hours. Hubby had paid a small fortune, just like the 3000 others for our tickets in the standing-only “Golden Circle” which was the so-called coveted area in a concert these days – a section immediately in front of and around the stage. They were, we thought, the “best seats in the house”. He also paid an additional premium for “early entry” that enabled us and about 300 others to enter the Du Arena at least 30 minutes before the other 2700. Why, one might ask. So that we could choose the best place to stand, get the best vantage point to go crazy, of course.
Summer had come early to Kuwait and it had started to reach 45 degrees Celsius at midday and although summer wasn’t quite as harsh in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we still expected the heat to be a challenge. An outdoor concert in the summer in the Middle East sounds crazy and it WAS crazy. The temperature was around 35 degrees and it was humid but not quite the kind that made you sticky sweaty. Humid enough though to make you feel like it was 40 degrees. Hubby said that “early entry” tickets required us to be at the gate BY 6:15 pm. I wondered why we had to go so early for an 8pm concert but oh well… We left our hotel 5 minutes away at 5:30 pm because we were not familiar with the parking and didn’t know how long it would take to walk across to the du Arena where the concert was being held.
I wore heels (yes, crazy!) and we had to walk quite a distance from the sandy car park then cross the street and walk some more to the du Arena. In the sweltering heat. We wondered how we would manage once we were inside. Again, no idea what it would be like. My sandals turned white with the sand and my feet were covered in it too. Next time I know how not to dress for a concert LOL
Hubby went to collect our passes at the registration area and I secured our places in the queue, which was already long. What time did everybody else get here???
We stood there for what seemed like hours. Thankfully the sun had gone elsewhere and we were not in it’s direct heat. It was quite interesting to stand there and watch all the different kinds of people around. Diehard fans came dressed in all kinds of T-shirts, caps and tattoos. One came dressed in an 80′s style Madonna outfit complete with capri leggings and lacey arms. One lady came in the highest platform shoes and I think everybody like us must have thought she was a lost Lady Gaga fan!
As I looked around I saw how long the queue had gotten behind us….was this really the queue for the Golden Circle early entry?
We were definitely more than 300 people. Hubby went to check if perhaps we were in the wrong queue and was told that this was it. There was only one queue and although we had the laminated star on a lanyard which said “Early Entry”, we noticed many other people didn’t.
Hubby assured me that the organisers hadn’t bothered to create a separate queue for early entry but that probably when they opened the gates they would only allow the people with the early entry passes to go in first. I wondered how that would go.
As we waited, a representative of the organisers came and told everyone that in a moment, her colleague would be going around with an iPad to raffle off tickets for the “Golden Triangle” which was a standing area in the shape of two little triangles in front of the stage flanking the runway that Madonna would perform on. Lets just say it was the “Groupie” area. What Golden Triangle? There had been no mention of such section in the ticket sales. Well, if there had been, we certainly didn’t know about it. So the lady went around with her iPad and everyone had to touch a space on the screen and if you won, you were immediately tagged with a Golden Triangle bracelet and could bring one guest in. So we had two chances at the iPad, but neither hubby nor I won. Every now and then we heard screams from someone who won. Good for them.
And so I wondered, how come they don’t sell tickets to this so-called Golden Triangle? It has to be THE most coveted tickets and THE place to be to watch the concert. Up front and close. Hubby had an answer – the raffle is more democratic. Ok I thought. So after all that, we don’t have the best tickets in the house. That’s ok. By now we’re just glad that we didn’t pay that extra extra premium for the VIP area because they would watch the concert from the same place we would – the only difference was that they got to wait in more hospitable conditions, maybe a tent with air-conditioning and refreshments perhaps?
It was 1 1/2 hours into the queuing that they finally opened the gates for us to go in. Or should I say FLOODGATES! As expected, it was a bad idea to put everyone for the Golden Circle in the same queue. They should have separated people who paid extra for early entry!
Our suspicions were confirmed as they began to let in only those people with the early entry star. That included us. But people didn’t understand since no one had informed all those others who had bought tickets for the Golden Circle.
It was chaotic!
We finally got in with the other 300 or so. We waited again, this time with a “human barrier” in front of us and the moment they let us go through we had to run as fast as we could to secure the “best seats” (standing room) of the house in front of the stage.
Unfortunately the stage was raised and it didn’t matter where we stood little me would see either the stage barrier a foot higher or the heads of whosoever decided to stand in front of me.
This photo which hubby took shows the layout of the stage. The little triangle right in front of the white lights was the coveted Golden Triangle. Madonna would perform on the stage I front of the and walk down those steps to the forward triangle and we decided to stand at the apex of the traingle.
I lost track of time as we stood there. Everywhere around were people just waiting like us. We waited for what must’ve been close to an hour before the opening act Italian DJ Benny Benassi came on. It drew screams from the crowd as everyone thought it was Madge making her appearance since it was after all, 8pm! The pulsating rhythms and the thunderous boom of the bass got everyone in the mood I guess and this went on for 1 1/2 hours till 9:30 pm. Bennie took a bow and the lights went off. Nothing happened and we waited and waited in what might have seemed, in that humid, hot, sweaty setting, like hours!
At 10pm there seemed to be a lot of activity on the stage and they were actually setting up the props for Madge! Now at this hour?
Shouldn’t this have been done earlier? There didn’t seem to be any prospect of the show starting any time soon as the band was not even there. At this time we had been standing for more than 4 hours and my feet were really hurting. People were getting anxious. There were too many sweaty men too close. But nothing nasty. A Saudi chap right next to us was very nice and offered to take photos of us every time we tried to do it ourselves. There were all sorts of people there.
Groups of girls. Groups of men. Fights almost broke out when people from elsewhere in the Golden Circle seemed to try and secure a better place to park themselves. People were very protective of their spots! But people were helpful also. When a lady next to us started to get ill – probably a heat stroke – everybody tried to help her out passing water to douse her and asking the response team from the organisers who at some point of time was passing around bottles of cold water to get her some water.
By 10:30 pm the crowd started to get restless. Was Madonna always this late for her concerts? We speculated she had miscalculated the effect of Abu Dhabi’s summer heat. She was probably waiting for it to cool down. I had wondered myself about the wisdom of holding a concert in an open-air setting in Abu Dhabi in the summer. Hubby too. But we had read that organisers planned to put up giant misting fans to cool the air. If they had done so, I certainly did not feel anything. Not a breeze. Everyone was just drenched in their own sweat. How Madonna was going to perform on that stage tonight I didn’t know. Maybe they had air-conditioning on the stage.
I looked around and the best seats in the house were probably in an air-conditioned, raised pavilion to the right of where we were which must also afford an excellent view of the stage and Madonna’s performance. It was Du’s pavilion for the “Du family and friends”. Now why didn’t they sell tickets to places like that? As we glanced to the left, we saw another similar pavilion there. This one was for abaya-clad and fully covered ladies. Thoughtful.
The crowd started shouting for the Material Girl….and then the booing started. Well, you really can’t blame everyone who had been on their feet for probably five hours by now in this sweltering heat. Madonnaaaaaa…Madonnaaaaa..they shouted.
Then the stage lights went off and it was complete darkness for a while. SHE was coming out. And as soon as it became apparent that the Material Girl had begun her perfectly planned and choreographed MDNA Concert 2012, the crowd went mad! I stood on tip toes, peered between heads but all I could see was this…..!
So I raised my iPhone too and this was what was happening on stage.
I think that once Madonna came on stage, nothing else mattered to anyone. Including me, I guess. Whether you could see or you could not, you were there and you went mad with everyone else. With her. And what a show she put on. I forgot about my aching feet and just went with the flow. I saw what I could and was happy every time she came and performed on our little triangular end of the stage because I could look up and see her LOL
But she was great, not unexpectedly of course. The songs. The costume changes. The scandalous bits. She was after all, Madonna.
She said three times that “Its hot!” And once she said “Its really hot here! Do you know how hard we’re working our a**es off to put on this show for you?” Or something to that effect. Yes, it made you wonder how and where she gets the energy to put on as energetic a show as she did. But she did and it was worth it.
This post isn’t about Madonna’s concert – you can read about that in all the reviews – enough to say that it was about my experience of a lifetime! I posted on Facebook the day after the concert that I probably wouldn’t do it again but I think I tell a lie! Despite being on our feet for more than 7 hours in the hot and humid du Arena, squashed with 3,000 others, I think it was worth it and yes, I’d definitely do it again. But I’d be more prepared and smarter about what tickets to get and what to wear!