Madonna Scandal, Paris Plages and Wheat-less Banana Chocolate Bread …

Everyone loves a good scandal right. Well the scandal of the moment in France involves an “unplanned” concert (unplanned in that it wasn’t part of her original tour) that Madonna performed at a very small, historic venue in Paris called Olympia Hall this last week. At the start of her show, she expressed “a heartfelt thank you to France” and said she was doing the concert “to honor her love for French artists, French cinema and a tribute to France’s long history of welcoming and inspiring artists, authors, painters, poets and minorities from other countries over the years.”

Madonna at Olympia Hall in Paris

So far so good. Since the venue was very small (about 2700 places), tickets were essentially only available to her fan club members and VIPs; the public never had a chance to buy tickets to the show. The first floor of the venue had the seats removed so for about 2000 of the tickets, it was first-come first-served in terms of getting a good spot to see the concert. This prompted the Madonna faithful to literally camp out in front of the Olympia, with a report of one crazed fan camping out 9 days and many others for at least 48 hours, just to be first in line to get a good spot. The cheapest tickets, the ones the fan club members could buy, went for about $110 each. The VIP tickets went for about $300 each. Quite an expensive “thank you” concert but so be it; that’s what happens when a handful of companies own all musicians, venues, ticket sales, etc.

Before going any further, a logical question to ask at this point would be why am I mentioning any of this? Well, thanks to a connection, M and I had the opportunity to purchase 2 VIP tickets and we figured how often could we see someone as legendary as Madonna in a venue as intimate as the Olympia with seats as good as can be? So we did what we rarely do and bit the bullet with the price of the tickets and said let’s do it. So we were there and the seats we had were really spectacular. Right nearby was Pierce Brosnan, a former French culture minister and a top French comedian among others. We were all ready for the show to begin.

And we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Even though it was announced that Madonna would be on stage at 9pm, she took the stage at … 10:50pm, almost 2 hours late. Adding to the “ambiance” was the fact that it was the hottest day of the year that day and air conditioning and France don’t mix very well. It was pretty toasty inside. Once the show started, I can say that it was pretty spectacular. The choreography and the artistic design of the costumes was top notch. And the dancers on stage with her had to be among the most talented on earth; a pleasure to watch perform. And as for Madonna, she hasn’t really lost it but I never thought she had it to lose really.

Madonna on stage – Olympia Hall, Paris

After doing a couple of songs, Madonna decided it was time to pause and give a speech about tolerance, how much she loved and appreciated the fans and didn’t take them for granted, and a bunch of what can only be summed up as bland, canned cliches. This discourse lasted close to 15 minutes. When Madonna re-started the concert, it was back to the grand and spectacular. She brought a male singer onstage with her and did a version of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Je t’aime, moi non plus (I love you, me neither)” with him. The song ended with Madonna taking a gun and shooting the already-handcuffed male singer, then dropping the gun and walking offstage. A pretty dramatic scene. The audience went wild.

The crowd was still cheering a few minutes after the end of the song, partially in anticipation of what would come next. Imagine their (and our) surprise when the next thing we saw was the road crew walking out on stage to start dismantling the speakers and wires. WTF? If you subtract the time she was giving her speech, she performed for just over 30 minutes. Then left the stage without saying anything to the crowd, or thanking her fans that she “didn’t take for granted”. Once the crowd understood that the concert was over, pandemonium broke out. People stayed in the theater and started chanting “salope (bitch)” and “putain (whore)” and then eventually “rembourser (refund)”. If this had happened in the U.S. I would have been much more concerned that violence would have broken out but instead, the audience just started throwing plastic bottles of Evian on stage. But clearly people were rightfully pissed off. Here’s a video someone shot inside the theater right after everyone figured out the concert was over.

Evian bottles thrown on stage – Olympia Hall, Paris

After we all made our way out of the theater, we were met by a small brigade of riot police just out front. Kind of made me think that perhaps the organizers were expecting some potential backlash. Not sure really but it’s not normal to have riot police outside a small concert hall.

All in all it turned out to be a big mess and disappointing in that everybody left there with a varying degree of anger, despite the fact that the actual performance was entertaining. If the concert was a FREE showcase to thank her fans, then it would have been great. But to have people (her fan club no less) shell out all that money and spend so much time waiting for her, only to get 30 minutes of performing and no thank you or goodbye is really pretty shameful.

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After taking the last couple years off from shooting it, I went back this year to the annual Paris Plages “beach” that is set up along the Seine to check it out and snap a few photos. There’s always a lot going on and if it’s your first time seeing it it’s kind of cool but otherwise, it’s probably more interesting for the camera than in reality. Here’s a dose of images from my walk along beach.

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

Paris Plages

If anyone is looking to cut down on their wheat intake (which I believe to be a good idea), I’ve stumbled across a good recipe for some tasty banana chocolate bread that we’ve recently made that contains no wheat at all. CLICK HERE to check out the recipe.

Some photos of the week:

Foosball – Paris Plages

Bride and Groom on Pont de la Tournelle

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