Madonna has staged many of the most successful arena tours in the history of live music, so it was no small surprise earlier this month when she announced that her upcoming Madame X tour would exclusively hit theaters. Every single tour she’s ever done back to 1985’s The Virgin Tour has hit arenas, so this is a very big deal to her devoted fan base. And even though she’s charging upwards of $2,000 per seat, it’s guaranteed to sell out everywhere she plays.
She’s been hinting at her desire to do a show like this for a number of years. “I quite like the idea of just sitting on a stool with a bottle of wine, a guitar and working my stand-up comedy into the whole scenario,” she told Rolling Stone in 2015. “I like talking to audiences, telling stories. I think I could make an interesting show, to tell you the truth. I quite like the idea of doing something simple.”
The following March, she did just that at a special show dubbed “Madonna: Tears of a Clown” at the Forum Theater in Melbourne, Australia. She was in Australia for the final leg of her Rebel Heart arena tour, a meticulously rehearsed Broadway-style show packed with costume changes and dancers that offered almost no room for improvisation. “Tears of a Clown” was designed to be the complete opposite of that. “I want to make a disclaimer,” she told the audience. “If anyone thinks they came here to see a finished final show, there’s the door. This is some brand spanking new shit. I don’t know if you like it raw.”
The show was indeed a little raw, but also wonderfully bizarre in a way that only Madonna could muster. She came onto the stage riding a tricycle dressed as a clown, complete with candy-striped tights and a pink wig. The set list was essentially a wet dream for her superfans. Nearly all of her hits and new songs from Rebel Heart were left out in favor of super obscurities like “Easy Ride,” “I’m So Stupid,” “Mer Girl” and “Intervention.” Some of them hadn’t been performed in well over a decade and others had never been done live. Near the end, she played an acoustic rendition of “Borderline.” It was the first time she’d done the 1984 classic since 2008. Check out video of the moment right here.
Two days later, the Rebel Heart tour resumed at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena and everything reverted back to normal as if “Tears of a Clown” had been a crazy fever dream. But Madonna clearly had fun and she brought it to Miami, Florida’s intimate Faena Forum on December 2nd, 2016, as a fundraiser for her nonprofit organization Raising Malawi. But this time she did just 10 songs and it didn’t quite have the shocking impact of the first one.
It’s unclear what exactly Madonna plans on doing with her upcoming Madame X theater tour. It might be simply a variation of her standard arena show on a smaller stage. But if she incorporates even some of the wonderful “Tears of a Clown” chaos, fans are in for a lot of fun.