The largest touring show ever
“I may not be performing in front of thousands tomorrow night, but I have one thing over Madonna – I saw her new stage set-up before she did” – Paul Carey writes today on the Western Mail.
“The queen of pop will debut the new-look set when she opens the European leg of her “Confession Tour” in Cardiff. It will be her first concert in Wales despite a career spanning more than 20 years and the 47-year-old singer is pulling out all the stops to ensure it goes with a bang.
I had a sneak preview of what is happening behind the scenes in preparation for the main event.
And although there are plenty of top secret Props That Must Not Be Named, this reporter can reveal that fans are going to be awestruck tomorrow night.
This is the first stadium date on the tour and the production crew are taking full advantage of all the Millennium Stadium has to offer, with more of the roof being used than ever before.
Tour staff have been setting up since Monday and the stage looks awesome, extended with a catwalk and decked with a huge curved screen.
At 5,000 square feet it is almost double the size of a normal stage, by far the biggest set up in the Millennium Stadium since it opened in 1999.
Disco balls glittered above it, covered in $2m worth of Swarovski crystals and although I didn’t see it, rumour has it that a “discofied” crucifix will rise from the stage floor with a surprise visitor on it.
Security has been unprecedented, with curtains fixed around the pitch area to prevent stadium staff and visitors taking a peek. Although I managed to get an eyeful, I was asked not to reveal certain elements for fear Madonna would learn about them in the media before seeing them for herself.
The superstar was not at the venue when I visited but is flying in later today. I did have a chance to talk to her production director, American Chris Lamb, who has known the star for more than 20 years.
“What you’re looking at is probably one of the largest touring shows ever. There’s 60 trucks full of equipment here,” he said.
Although he was tight-lipped about exactly what would be in the line-up, Mr Lamb was clearly excited about tomorrow’s performance. He said, “This is a show, this is not a rock concert. This is a complete entertainment show.” He wasn’t the only one looking forward to the event. The Millennium Stadium’s Paul Sergeant said, “Madonna is the biggest female artist in the world and we have seen from the stage today that it’s a massive show. It’s going to be one of those awesome occasions people are going to remember for a long time.”
DJ Paul Oakenfold will get the party started when gates open at 5.30pm, with Madonna expected on stage at 8.30pm. The star of the show is expected to grant the seal of approval to the new set today and fly out of the city immediately after the gig.
She has reportedly made several diva-like demands, although Mr Lamb says the rumours about brand-new toilet seats are an exaggeration.
“What it is that we’ve asked for is a clean toilet seat,” he said. “She doesn’t want one that all the rugby players have used! It’s a girl thing.”
She has also asked for a bottle of neat vodka – but being a clean-living gal, it is intended to clean her stage clothes and get rid of sweat marks.
Madonna has already played 35 sell-out arena shows across America, to rave reviews. But exceptionally high tickets prices and her use of a crucifix during the set have attracted criticism.
Welsh fans have been asked to pay between £55 and £160 for tickets, with booking agents charging fee of as much as £13.
However it doesn’t seem to have deterred the fans. A 59,000-strong crowd is expected to attend the concert. The first 3,000 to arrive will be admitted to a “golden circle” at the front of the stage, where the luckiest will be just four feet from the star.
Of course, the new stage will only be used if the queen of pop is happy with it. And if she’s not? Will they be up all night changing it?
“Yep,” Mr Lamb nodded. “She’s the boss.”