Madonna, Israel’s Queen of Kabbalah, kicked off her first concert in the United Arab Emirates about two hours late on Sunday night, following a nine-day stay in Israel that culminated with a concert for 33,000 fans and a peaceful Shabbat with kabbalist friends.
Israeli fans had wondered whether Madonna would broach the subject of peace while in the UAE, given her heartfelt statement during the Tel Aviv show.
“It’s easy to say I want peace in the world, but it’s another thing to do it,” said Madonna during Thursday night’s concert in the Ramat Gan stadium. “And if we can all rise above our egos and out titles and the names of our countries and names of our religions, if we can rise above all that, and treat everyone around us, every human being with dignity and respect, we will have peace.”
By contrast, it seemed that the most controversial aspects of the Abu Dhabi concert were heat related — including the pop queen’s refusal to use air conditioning units while on stage, despite the 40 degrees Celsius heat.
“It’s too damn hot,” she shouted, reported Gulfnews.com. “But we’re going to have fun any way.”
“You better be [having fun] because we’re sweating our asses off,” she joked.
It was the fact that Madonna used foul language and that her male dancers were shirtless during part of the show that apparently most rankled with the conservative Abu Dhabi crowd.
There was little evidence of a major effort to boycott Madonna’s concert, despite her having held the first show of the MDNA tour in Tel Aviv and her evident support for Israel. One Facebook group, Boycott Madonna’s Concert in Abu Dhabi, had just 171 members at time of writing, with a moderator who repeatedly mentioned Madonna’s “indifference to human injustice… especially when it comes to Palestine,” and who asserted that “it is not acceptable anymore to ignore the plight of fellow human beings.”
Prior to her arrival in Abu Dhabi, an Al Bawaba article titled “UAE embraces Madonna after dancing with the enemy”, included that holding the first concert of the MDNA tour in Tel Aviv dealt a blow to all Palestinians and Arabs who had protested the Israel show. The writer also mentioned a Dubai auction of Madonna memorabilia worth $3 million prior to Monday’s concert, and wondered what would happen if Arab cities refused to host Madonna and used the $3 million to help Palestinian children.
Madonna had met with peace activists prior to the Tel Aviv Thursday concert, and provided 580 free tickets for Palestinian and Israeli volunteers, although some members declined tickets, stating that Madonna’s concert was an “approval of apartheid.”
Heartbeat, an organization of Israeli and Palestinian youth musicians creating music together, had started a Twitter campaign to meet with Madonna. The meeting didn’t happen, but the organization did send three youth participants to the show.
“I’m glad that artists can do more than talk about politics when they come here,” said Noa Yammer, the Heartbeat program director, but it was “just a small step.”