Her current world tour has generated more ink for stirring controversy than any singing or dancing, and her show Thursday in Denver continued the trend. In a region understandably jittery about gunplay – even with play guns – Madge’s deployment of weaponry in her opening song “Gang Bang” upset some locals.
“We’re dancing, and all of a sudden people started realizing what the song was,” concertgoer Aaron Fransua told The Associated Press. “We all just stood there. Everybody who was around me all had shock on their face. I heard a lot of ‘wows.’ ”
Denver TV outlets said they received a number of complaints Friday from concertgoers saying they were offended that Madonna used guns and violence as part of her show. It’s been a difficult few months for the Denver area, which was rocked by the mass killings during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20 in suburban Aurora and is reeling from the abduction and dismemberment of a 10-year-old girl this month.
Peter Burns, a local radio sports personality, also said he was was taken aback by the guns he saw used in the Madonna show. “You could see people kinda looking at each other,” he told the AP. “I heard the word ‘Colorado,’ you know, ‘Aurora,’ ‘shooting.’ You could hear people talking about it, and it was little bit unsettling. I saw two or three people get up and grab their stuff and actually leave their seats.”
Burns, whose friend died in the Aurora shootings, added, “It sort of hits closer to home for me.”
Madonna’s longtime publicist Liz Rosenberg said that omitting the guns from “Gang Bang” would have compromised the performance.
“It’s like taking out the third act of Hamlet,” she told AP, adding, “Madonna does not make things pretty and tie them up with a bow.”
The 54-year-old singer defended the show’s violent imagery in a letter sent to Billboard in late August:
“It’s true there is a lot of violence in the beginning of the show and sometimes the use of fake guns — but they are used as metaphors,” she wrote. “ I do not condone violence or the use of guns. Rather they are symbols of wanting to appear strong and wanting to find a way to stop feelings that I find hurtful or damaging. In my case, it’s wanting to stop the lies and hypocrisy of the church, the intolerance of many narrow minded cultures and societies I have experienced throughout my life and in some cases the pain I have felt from having my heart broken.”
Burns wasn’t happy with the guns onstage but said he understood they were just part of the show. “It would have highly upset me if I felt this was something that she added” for the Denver show, he said. “But you know this, that song, that production will be played in 50 other cities, and Denver would be the only city that would have some major issues.”
The U.S. portion of Madonna’s MDNA tour runs through Nov. 20; she then heads to Latin America for a dozen more dates. The tour opened in May in Tel Aviv.
Watch Madonna perfoming “Gang Bang” live in Paris below.