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Tour by Madonna
Promotional poster for the tour
Associated album Erotica
Start date September 25, 1993 (1993-09-25)
End date December 19, 1993 (1993-12-19)
Legs 6
No. of shows
  • 6 in Europe
  • 12 in North America
  • 4 in South America
  • 9 in Asia
  • 8 in Australia
  • 39 Total
Box office US$70 million ($118.59 million in 2018 dollars)[1]
Madonna concert chronology

The Girlie Show World Tour (also referred to as simply The Girlie Show) was the fourth worldwide concert tour by American singer and songwriter Madonna, in support of her fifth studio album, Erotica. It started on September 25, 1993, in London, England at the Wembley Stadium and continued throughout Europe, Asia, the Americas and Oceania before concluding on December 19, 1993, in Tokyo, Japan at Tokyo Dome. After proclaiming she would never tour again, Madonna started preparaton for a new tour as an attempt to revive her musical career after Erotica and her book Sex were slammed by media and the public.

The show was divided into four different segments: Dominatrix, Studio 54, Weimar Cabaret and an encore. Madonna's brother, Christopher Ciccone, was assigned as the tour's director and designer, and was also in charge of supervising the crew, designing the stage set, and handling all the dancers. American actor and choreographer Gene Kelly was hired to choreograph a number for the show, but was fired after Madonna's dissatisfaction with the performance. Then they hired Alex Magno as the choreographer. All costumes for the show were designed by Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana.

A number of controversies affected the tour during its course.

The tour is estimated to have grossed over US$70 million.

Two separate television specials were broadcast during the tour, one made during the Japanese leg of the tour and shown only on Japanese television; Madonna Live in Japan 1993 – The Girlie Show and an HBO special Madonna Live Down Under – The Girlie Show which was later released in 1994 by Warner Music Vision on home video.


A topless Carrie Ann Inaba sliding down a pole during the introducion of the show.

In 1992, Madonna founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandising divisions.[2] The first release from the venture was Madonna's book, titled Sex. It consisted of sexually provocative and explicit images, photographed by Steven Meisel. The book received strong negative reaction from the media and the general public, but sold 1.5 million copies at $50 each in a matter of days.[3][4] At the same time she released her fifth studio album, Erotica, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200.[4][5] Its title track peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.[6] Erotica also produced other five singles: "Deeper and Deeper", "Bad Girl", "Fever", "Rain" and "Bye Bye Baby".[7] Madonna's provocative imagery continued in the erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, a film which contained scenes of sadomasochism and bondage, and was poorly received by critics.[8][9]

In July 1993, Madonna's fourth concert tour was announced, launching in London at the Wembley Stadium in September 25.[10] Madonna's inspiration for the name of the tour was a painting called "Girlie Show" by Edward Hopper.[11] The tour was seen as an attempt to revive her musical career after Body of Evidence impressed neither critics nor audiences.[10] Madonna later commented on her choice of starting the concerts in London on the tour's book, saying, "I'm not interested in preaching to the converted... I'm going to the places where I have the most enemies. That is why I'm starting in London".[12] At the same time, it was released a promotional extended play (EP) in Brazil, The Girlie Show, which included all singles from Erotica.[13] The tour was also chronicled by the photo book of same name, released in November 1994, which included a CD with three live tracks from the tour: "Like a Virgin", "In This Life", and "Why's It So Hard". Madonna wrote on this book,

"When I finished the Blond Ambition tour, I swore on my life that I would never even think of going on tour again as long as I lived. I was spent. I was exhausted. I was sick of traveling. I wanted stability. So, I threw myself into making movies, recording a new album, and I also put out a book called Sex. So much for stability.

Needless to say, as rewarding as all these creative endeavors were to me, they could not take the place of performing live. Theater is my life--or is my life theater? I'm not sure and it really doesn't matter. Being on stage is where I feel most alive, and it's where I'm able to pull all of my creative energies into one outlet. It's the only place where I can combine all of my influences and all of my inspirations into one living, breathing animal. The stage is the only environment where cubist painting, burlesque, flamenco dancing and the circus can live together under one cozy roof. Taking the adventure one step further is to play in front of a different audience every night. dealing with different cultures, different expectations, different ways of expressing pleasure and bewilderment--this to me is the ultimate thrill. The ultimate risk. And I love taking risks. You may have heard that about me. There's no way this book could truly recapture the excitement of the "Girlie Show", but it comes pretty damn close.

By the way, if you ever hear me say, "I'm never going on tour again", don't believe me".[14]


Madonna performing "Vogue" while wearing a Dolce & Gabbana-designed headdress

In early 1993, Madonna contacted her brother Christopher Ciccone, who also worked on her previous tour, and told him she was going on tour and wanted him to work on it. He was then assigned as the tour's director and designer. They began rehearsing the show at Sony Studios in Culver City, California, in July 1993. Besides directing the tour, Ciccone was also in charge of supervising the crew, designing the stage set, and handling all the dancers.[15] They had decided on a burlesque circus theme for the show and would work with different choreographers. American actor and choreographer Gene Kelly was hired to choreograph the performance for "Rain". However, he was uncomfortable with the dancers, who were picked for personality, and not only for their ability as dancers. Also, he did not understand the show's concept of "grand spectacle and burlesque with heavy sexual overtones". Ciccone was worried, telling Madonna she needed to watch Kelly number, as he did not think he was working out, and needed to fire him, but Madonna disagreed. A week later, Madonna tells her brother, "Christopher, I've just watched Gene’s number again. I don't think he's working out. I think we need to fire him". Ciccone recalled she was "shamefaced at having single-handedly conceived of such a terrible fate for this venerable American icon".[16] Then they hired Alex Magno as the choreographer, by suggestion of dancer Carrie Ann Inaba, who was managing him at the time.[17] Madonna said about hiring dancers for the tour:

"First I had choreographed stuff I had them do. The I asked them to dance and improvise, whatever the music moved them to do. Then I called back all the people who looked good and could really dance and I asked each of them to tell a joke or an amusing story. If they were really embarrassed and couldn't do it I didn't pick them. Then the ones that were left, I asked them if they would shave their heads. Not that I was going to shave their heads. I just wanted to see how far they were willing to go for me".[12]

During MTV Australia's special Girlie Talk, Madonna commented about having her hair cut before the tour, "My hair was hot pink. I went through this Pippi Longstocking phase where I just had to have, like, pink red hair and braids [...] and when I dyed my hair of all these crazy colors [...] I tried to make it blond again my hair started to break off everywhere so I kind of gave myself a haircut whatever I like it or not. For the tour I wanted something clean and after I cut all the dancers' hairs I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my hair and I thought of having it dark like in my Rain video, but then I didn't want to have the same color hairs of all the dancers, so I shortened and kept this color".[18]

Fashion designer duo Dolce & Gabbana created 1,500 costumes for the cast. Madonna gave the duo instructions to watch a number of films, including My Fair Lady and Cabaret, to bring to life the "striptease, a Vegas type of show" she envisioned.[19] The designers commented that they "had to redo some stuff that would rip during the tour. We should adjust trousers, knitwear, redo shoes. We followed the tour like this. From time to time it lacked shorts and stuff. We followed the tour and assisted Madonna, despite being always in Milan".[20] Two aircrafts were needed to ferry the tour around Europe, including the largest Soviet transport plane ever made.[21] The show had a more complex stage than those from Madonna's previous tours; it had a runway that led from the center of the main stage to a minor stage, a revolving elevated platform in the middle of the main stage, balconies in the rear of the stage, a giant illuminated "Girlie Show" sign above stage and two huge drawings on the sides portraying a face hidden behind a black mask.[22][23] It was also required a 24-hour set up time for the stage.[24]

Concert synopsis[edit]

Madonna wearing a blond afro wig during the performance of "Express Yourself".

The show was divided into four different segments: Dominatrix, Studio 54, Weimar Cabaret and an encore. It began with an orchestral parade mimicking circus music followed by a Pierrot - who makes several cameos later - appearing from behind the red curtain. Next, a half-naked pole dancer appears sliding down a metal pole dangling high above the stage.[25] Madonna then emerges from the stage behind the pole dancer, dressed as a black-masked dominatrix to perform "Erotica" while rubbing a riding crop between her legs and with her back-up dancers posing and dancing suggestively around her.[25] "Fever" is the next song to be performed. For this performance, Madonna partially strips and proceeds to straddle and dance suggestively with two half-naked male dancers before disappearing among flames.[25][26] Next comes "Vogue", which was re-invented with an Asian context and featured Madonna wearing a black beaded, Hindu-inspired headdress based partly on the works Erté and Zizi Jeanmaire, while all her back up dancers realize a gestural dance.[25][27] After, Madonna and her back up singers Niki Haris and Donna De Lory put on black see through robes,[28] and began performing a Motown-influenced "Rain". This performance is followed by a "Singin' in the Rain" dance interlude, featuring the pierrot and several dancers doing a choreography with umbrellas.

The next segment begins with a disco-styled performance of "Express Yourself" with the stage decked in Mylar curtains and glittering disco balls.[29] The performance begins with a distorted voice claiming "I'm gonna take you to a place you've never been before". Afterwards, Madonna descends from the ceiling on a giant disco ball, wearing a blond afro wig, 1970's style halters and royal blue bell-bottom pants.[28] Then her back-up singers, Haris and De Lory, join her and the three woman perform the song together. The end of "Express Yourself" was connected to the next song "Deeper and Deeper", which features a male member from the audience jumping onto the stage trying to dance with Madonna who calls out security. Eventually he rips off his breakaway pants to reveal himself as one of the show's dancers.[25] Having descended into an hedonistic orgy by the end of "Deeper and Deeper", the beginning of "Why's It So Hard" finds Madonna and several of her back up dancers simulating sex on top of a rising podium in the middle of the stage. She's seen then cradling some of her black female dancers, showing gestures of both maternal and paternal instincts.[30] The next song "In This Life" is sung by Madonna standing alone on the stage. She dedicates this performance to a friend who died of AIDS.[29] The pierrot watches Madonna during this song. "The Beast Within" is another interlude which features two male dancers performing an apocalyptic dance with sexual overtones that includes a simulation of couplings and brawls while Madonna, from off-stage, recites from the Book of Revelations.[29]

The next segment begins with "Like a Virgin" where Madonna, wearing a classic tuxedo, adopted a Marlene Dietrich-like persona singing the song with a thick German accent. Towards the end of the performance she even sang the first verse of Dietrich's signature tune, "Falling in Love Again (Can't Help It)". For "Bye Bye Baby", Madonna plays the role of a sideshow barker and engages in a chair routine with three androgynous female dancers. A hispanic influenced "I'm Going Bananas" is performed next with Madonna losing the hat and the jacket, revealing a blue and white striped shirt and a blue bandana underneath. For "La Isla Bonita", she is joined by a bare chested male dancer playing the acoustic guitar while singing the song in top of a rising platform.[31] The next song to be performed was an alternate version of "Holiday", which was given a military theme and had Madonna and her dancers wearing Trench coats.[32][31] Halfway through the performance Madonna paused the song for a military drill with the dancers and to interact with the audience.[33] For the encore, Madonna and her dancers perform "Justify My Love" wearing Edwardian dresses and morning coats with Madonna holding a lorgnette. Whereas the final song of the show "Everybody" finds Madonna and her troupe in denim shorts and white tops, inviting the audience to sing and dance along.[29] Finally, as the red curtain fell and carnival music played, the pierrot emerged yet again, only to reveal its identity as Madonna herself; she closed the show by singing the phrase "Everybody is a Star".[31]

Critical response[edit]

Madonna surrounded by dancers during the performance of "Why's It So Hard".

J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Madonna: An Intimate Biography described the show as a "transitional tour. While still sexy, it was still more of an innocent burlesque rather than a blatant attempt to shock".[34] Jon Pareles from The New York Times said that "With "Blond Ambition", she was pop's least flirtatious sex symbol; in "The Girlie Show" [...] She's likable again." Pareles also praised Madonna for singing "just enough solo parts to prove she's not lip-synching" and called called her vocals "adequate", and concluded his review saying that "Part of Madonna's gift for self-promotion has been her ability to grab archetypes, harnessing others' star power to her own."[29] Richard Corliss, writing for Time magazine, also gave the show a positive review: "At once a movie retrospective, a Ziegfeld revue, a living video, an R-rated take off on Cirque du Soleil" and concluded by saying that "Madonna, once the Harlow harlot and now a perky harlequin, is the greatest show-off on earth".[35]

Paul Taylor from The Independent was positive on his review of the show's opening night at London's Wembley Stadium saying that "her performance-which featured spanking, four-letter outbursts and suggestive references to oral sex and the size of one dancer's manhood clearly delighted most of her fans".[36] Frances Hubbard from the Daily Express stated on her review that Madonna was "at her worst when she turns moody and pretentious" and that "if Madonna is on her way down, it's a gentle descent. The world's best-marketed pop goddess will be around for a while yet."[37] Tyler Brule from Entertainment Weekly also commented that "Madonna may have lost some of her glitter lately. But as she demonstrated in the kickoff of her Girlie Show tour at London's Wembley Stadium, she hasn't forgotten the twin pillars of her success—how to put on a show, and how to make a buck".[21]

However, Tom Sheles from The Washington Post was negative on his review and felt that "Her [Madonna] attempts now to shock and titillate have become belabored self-parodies".[38] The London's Daily Mail proclaimed itself as a "Madonna-Free Zone", refusing to publish or show any pictures of the concert.[21] Mark Steyn from The Mail on Sunday also gave the show a negative review, feeling that the show was more focused on the staging than on the actual music; "ever since "Material Girl" there's been a hermetic separation between the sets and the music. The stages are pure showbiz. The songs have been reduced to wallpaper. If her musical arranger was half as droll as her choreographer, her record sales wouldn't be in the doldrums".[39] Geraldine Bloustein, author of Girl Making: A Cross-Cultural Ethnography on the Processes of Growing Up Female, commented that "The overall impression of the show was one of extreme burlesque and carnival", however she also noted that "the emphasis was on dance and movement more than on the music itself" and also noted the "sections of pure modern ballet [with] no lyrics at all".[40]

Commercial reception[edit]

The single concert at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio Janeiro attracted 120,000 people.[41][42] It remains the second largest crowd ever on the venue for a female artist, behind Tina Turner's Break Every Rule World Tour (188,000 people), as well as Madonna's second biggest audience after Paris show of Who's That Girl World Tour (130,000 people).[43][44] Madonna set the record for the biggest ticket sales in Australia with 360,000 tickets were sold, worth US$21,9 million. This feat was later broken by the Rolling Stone's Voodoo Lounge Tour in 1995.[45] Madonna's show at the Adelaide Oval stadium attracted 40,000 people, which remained the biggest attendance on the venue for 17 years until AC/DC's concert in 2010.[46]

Broadcasts and recordings[edit]

Initially, Madonna intended to film the show in Buenos Aires or Mexico instead, but she ultimately chose Australia, influenced by her personal liking for the event being billed as "Madonna Down Under".[47] The show on November 20, 1993, at Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia, was intended to be broadcast in association with HBO. However, a massive storm forced the cancellation of the show at that date, so the show which had been taped the night before, on November 19, as a rehersal show was used instead. The show was aired on November 21, 1993, and was titled Madonna Live Down Under: The Girlie Show. HBO started its broadcast from Club USA in New York City with comments from fans.[48] The program became HBO's most-watched original program of the year.[49]

A re-edited version of this concert was released worldwide on VHS and Laserdisc on April 26, 1994 as The Girlie Show: Live Down Under. At the 37th Grammy Awards, the release was nominated for the Grammy Award of Best Long Form Music Video in 1995, but lost to U2's Zoo TV: Live from Sydney.[50] The DVD was certified gold in Brazil by Pro-Música Brasil (PMB) for shipment of 25,000 copies,[51] and was also certified three times platinum in Australia.[52]

Additional video recordings were made during the Japanese leg of the tour and shown only on Japanese television, Madonna Live in Japan 1993 – The Girlie Show and the October 7 show at the Inonu Stadium in Istanbul was aired on ATV in Turkey.[53] UK radio station BBC Radio 1 broadcast the entire second show at Wembley Stadium on December 26,[54] while Brazilian radio Transamérica broadcast the show at Maracanã stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with live commentary.[55]


Madonna's concert in Frankfurt was condemned by a German politician who declared that her current tour "exceeded the bounds of decency" and should be banned to those under 16. Norbert Geis, parliamentary spokesman for Chancellor Helmut Kohl's party, also had warned: "Either Madonna drops these obscenities... or she will not be allowed to appear". However, concert organizers canceled the show due to technical difficulties with setting up the stage. Trouble in Israel occurred when Orthodox Jews staged protests to force the cancellation of the singer's first-ever show in that country. However, rallies were unsuccessful as the sold-out show went on as scheduled.[56] Uproar developed in Puerto Rico after Madonna rubbed the Puerto Rican flag between her legs on stage.[56] Senator Enrique Rodríguez Negrón filed a censure resolution against Madonna for the act. Eventually, that resolution was rejected by President of the legislature Roberto Rexach Benítez.[57] About 30 Puerto Ricans residing in Miami carried signs criticizing the singer outside her house in the city.[58]

A week before Madonna's arrival in Latin America, controversy arose when outraged by the show, Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, archbishop of Buenos Aires, called the singer "blasphemous and pornographic" and asked then-president Carlos Menem not to receive her. Also, Bishop Osvaldo Musto wanted to ban the concerts; if this did not happen and a practicing Catholic did go to the show, he recommended confession the next day. Jorge María Storni, president of the organization Tradición, Familia y Propiedad, defended the shows' cancellation, since according to his words, the intention of Madonna was to "undermine the foundations of social order". Moreover, the consultant of Menores e Incapaces de la Cámara Civil, Alexander Molinas, asked civil judge Marcela Perez Pardo cancellation of both concerts because they threatened "the privacy and religious conscience". While the judge dismissed the prosecutor's request, she ordered that people under 13 should enter the stadium accompanied by an adult. Despite this, both concerts happened as scheduled.[59]

After controversy with Puerto Rican flag, she heeded a judge's warning and left the Brazilian flag out of the show in Rio de Janeiro.[60] She was only limited to wearing a Brazilian national football team shirt in São Paulo, during the show's encore.[61] Religious fundamentalists in Brazil also planned protests against Madonna and the show for its "sadomasochist garbage".[62] Madonna arrived in Mexico with protests by Roman Catholic Church officials and parents, who said that she would corrupt young minds with the shows.[60] Additionally, social communicologist Nino Canún presented a television special called ¿Y usted qué opina? (English: So what's your opinion?), where the audience, among them a priest, presented their arguments as to why "this morally clueless singer shouldn't be allowed to perform in the country". Later, during the concert, Madonna wore a charro sombrero onstage, as a response to these comments.[63] Upon Madonna's arrival in Australia, controversy aroused when she was given by Michael Gudinski a didgeridoo, a traditional instrument among the Aborigines which is allowed to be played only by men. "The fact Madonna is a Westerner and the didgeridoo as a gift does not change the fact she should not be carrying it around", said Badangthun Munmunyarrun, an Aboriginal elder.[64] Gudinski later explained that he was working with Yothu Yindi at the time, and presented Madonna with the didgeridoo Yindi had given him, but planned to get it back from her and replace it with a new one.[65]


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