When Madonna unveiled her alter ego last year, she teased fans with an elaborate bio: “Madame X is a dancer, a professor, a head of state, a housekeeper, an equestrian, a prisoner, a student, a mother, a child, a teacher, a nun, a singer, a saint, a whore and a spy in the house of love.”
What she did not mention: Madame X is prone to injury.
On Sunday in Portugal, during her World Tour, Madonna cancelled her concert due to an undisclosed ailment. This was the eighth time she’s had to postpone or abandon a performance in recent weeks, six for medical reasons.
If Madonna were a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl, the odds would now be 3-to-1 she’d be unable to play. If Madonna was one of Toronto’s new streetcars, she’d be breaking down every two days.
In a message to her fans in Lisbon, Madonna apologized.
Then she added: “But I must listen to my body and rest!!”
“See you on Tuesday,” she said, glancing ahead to the next concert.
Then she added: “Fingers crossed.”
Last month, after cancelling a show in Miami, Madonna posted footage from the previous concert on Instagram. She is climbing a stage ladder so slowly, in such obvious discomfort, the clip is practically an ad for Stair Lift.
Then, as now, Madonna tried to explain.
“I was in tears from the pain of my injuries,” she wrote, “which has been indescribable for the past few days.”
There were medical appointments — scans, ultrasounds, X-Rays — as doctors warned of “irreversible damage” if she didn’t ease up. She reacted with a similar refrain: “This time I have to listen to my body.”
I can only assume her body is speaking a language she does not understand.
I’m miles away from Madame X and I can hear her body loud and clear. It’s shouting, “Madame X, we can’t get out of bed in the morning! Madame X, just reaching into the cupboard for a mug feels like getting kicked by a stallion!”
I’m not saying Madonna needs to forever retire the fishnets and pointy bras. But cancelling most, if not all, of the remaining dates on this gruelling tour is in her best interest, especially if she wants to avoid future tours in which she’s strapped into a motorized scooter. You’re not supposed to Vogue in a back-brace.
Madonna sees herself as a “warrior,” someone who will “never quit.” But it’s entirely possible to have a fighting spirit and still get knocked out by reality. Going into this tour, Madonna said an injury had never scuttled a performance.
Now it’s happened six times since October.
Don’t get me wrong. The fact this sexagenarian is still singing and dancing up a storm night after night is a testament to her physical strength. Just reading her schedule — 19 shows over the next month — left me winded.
But what Madonna is overlooking as she posts videos in which she’s wincing in an ice bath or rehearsing in knee tensors while exhibiting the fluid movement of a marionette doused with molasses is that she is now only hurting herself.
Get more opinion in your inbox
Get the latest from your favourite Star columnists with our Opinion email newsletter.
Sign Up Now
Is Madame X supposed to be a martyr? Is she trying to alienate fans? With each cancelled concert, that is what’s happening. Sunday’s concert in Portugal, called off just 45 minutes before showtime, generated real anger and disappointment.
Madonna is treating this tour like it’s a regular season of hockey and she can be a game-time decision each night. That’s not how it works. A concert tour by a solo artist is not a team sport. Madonna is the only reason anyone is attending.
There are no understudies on the concert circuit.
And how will she cope with the already “excruciating” pain come March, when the tour concludes in Paris? After six more weeks of crushing strain on her joints and bones, will she alter the choreography and have muscled backup dancers carry her around on a bedazzled gurney as costumed doctors inject her with pain killers between songs? She might as well rebrand as Madame Ouch.
This lingering injury, whatever it is, clearly is not getting better. It’s getting worse. So it’s time for Madonna to realize there is no shame in pulling the plug and putting her health first. She should scrap the rest of this tour and heal before her future includes hip replacements and daily shipments of Bengay.
In recent years, many artists — Drake, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Adele, Lorde, Kanye West — cancelled tour dates due to injury, illness or personal matters.
In every case, their fans did wait with fingers crossed for whatever came next.
But if you’re unable to execute at a high level — and if you keep missing shows in between hobbled performances — the only thing many fans will eventually do with their fingers is extend the middle ones.
Madame X does not seem like a warrior right now — she seems like a fool.
She does not need to be on a stage — she needs bedrest.
A voice in her head may be saying, “The show must go on.”
But her body, now trapped in a house of pain, strongly disagrees.