The Virgin Tour
The Virgin Tour was the debut concert tour by American singer-songwriter Madonna. The tour supported her first two studio albums, Madonna (1983) and Like a Virgin (1984). Although initially planned for an international audience, the tour was restricted to the United States and Canada. Warner Bros. Records decided to send Madonna on tour after Like a Virgin became a success. After an official announcement on March 15, 1985, Madonna and her team began production plans. She wanted the tour to be a reflection of her own self and collaborated with designer Maripol for the costumes.
|Tour by Madonna|
Promotional poster for the tour
|Start date||April 10, 1985|
|End date||June 11, 1985|
|No. of shows||40 in North America|
|Box office||US$5 million ($11.65 million in 2018 dollars)|
|Madonna concert chronology|
Beastie Boys were signed as the opening act, while record producer Patrick Leonard was the music director. The stage was triangular and included ramps around it, with lighting arrangements hanging about 30 feet above. Four giant screens lined three sides of the stage's outer perimeter. The set list consisted of songs from Madonna and Like a Virgin. Madonna was backed by two dancers as she moved energetically across the stage. The show ended with her in a wedding dress, performing "Like a Virgin" and "Material Girl".
The tour received a mixed reception from critics, but was a commercial success. As soon as it was announced, tickets were sold everywhere. Macy's New York department store was flooded with buyers, who bought tour merchandise ranging from shirts and sunglasses to crucifix earrings and fingerless gloves. On its end, the tour was reported to have grossed over $5 million ($11.65 million in 2018 dollars), with Billboard Boxscore reporting a gross of $3.3 million ($7.69 million in 2018 dollars).
The tour was recorded and released on VHS and LaserDisc, as Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour, which received a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). With the commencement of the Virgin Tour, a wide-ranging audience—especially young women—thronged to attend, attired in Madonna-inspired clothing. This frenzy regarding Madonna gave rise to a new term called Madonna wannabe—a word that was ultimately officially recognized by the Webster's Dictionary in May 1991.
The Virgin Tour was officially announced on March 15, 1985, by Warner Bros. Records. Prior to the tour, Madonna's only live performances were limited to evening shows at Danceteria, CBGB and Mudd Club, and only the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, where she performed her song "Like a Virgin". Following the success of the Like a Virgin album, the record label wanted to milk-in the success of the album by sending Madonna on a worldwide tour. However, the tour was restricted within United States and Canada. It did not visit Europe, Asia or other continents. Early on there were plans to schedule dates in Britain and Japan due to Madonna's large fan bases in both countries, however the final schedule did not reflect the idea. In the end several more U.S. dates were added and the tour was moved to larger concert venues due to overwhelmingly strong ticket sales. Madonna was quite nervous to perform in front of a huge audience, and singing with a live band for the first time. During a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, interviewer Austin Scaggs asked Madonna regarding her feelings and emotions during the tour, since it was the first time she was playing in arenas. Madonna replied saying,
"That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas. I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings. I was like, 'This is insane!' After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas. I've never done a bus tour. Everyone says they are really fun."
After the tour was confirmed, Madonna and her troupe started working on it. Madonna wanted it to be "loud and brazen, and a reflection of my street-style and DGAF attitude." She wanted a concert where people can enjoy themselves as much as she would enjoy performing. Commenting on the development, Madonna said "I normally hate performances where there is just a singer singing, and a lame-ass band playing in the background; or shows where there is a rocker screaming his lungs out and jumping on the crowd. That just plain sucks! That's why I wanted something different, something that would be memorable." For the show, Madonna collaborated with her designer friend Maripol for the clothes and the fashion. Maripol operated a small fabric boutique called Maripolitan in Greenwich Village, where the designs and the clothes for the tour were decided by her and Madonna. Rehearsals for the show started in late February, with auditions and choosing the dancers going on in-between. Madonna specifically wanted male back-up dancers, citing that the "provocating moves that I do on stage works better with men beside me." To further promote the tour, Warner Bros. Entertainers Merchandise Management Corp. introduced the Boy Toy collection, named after the belt buckle Madonna wore on the Like a Virgin album cover picture. It consisted of a rectangular buckle, with the words "Boy" and "Toy" emblazed on it in gold color. For choosing a music director for the tour, Madonna's manager Freddy DeMann contacted record producer Patrick Leonard, who had just returned from the Victory Tour by The Jackson 5. At first Leonard said no, feeling exhausted from the Victory Tour, but after he spoke to Madonna on the phone, he found her charming, and agreed to sign for the tour.
—Madonna reminiscing her experience with the Beastie Boys on the tour.
Beastie Boys were signed as the opening act for the tour. Adam "MCA" Yauch of the group recollected: "One day, Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, came in and said, 'Hey guess what—Madonna's manager called. Do you guys want to go on tour with her?" DeMann had asked for another group called The Fat Boys, but Simmons did not manage them and lied, saying "Oh, the Fat Boys have another gig that week. What about Run–D.M.C.?" But they were too expensive according to DeMann, and hence ultimately Beastie Boys were chosen. Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz from the band commented: "It's not like any of us knew Madonna that much, but we all used to hang out at Dancetaria [club] so we knew about each other. I don't know why she thought it would be a good idea [to open for her tour], though. It was a terrible idea. But it was great for her in a way because we were so awful that by the time she came onstage, the audience had to be happy." The circular stage for the tour, consisted of three ramps around the perimeter, which were connected with each other. A long line of stairs descended to the main stage from the central ramp; it was flanked by the band. About 30 feet above the stage, the speakers were suspended from a circular beam. Four giant screens lined the outer perimeter of the stage, on three sides.
The show opened with Beastie Boys performing six of their songs for 30 minutes. They were accompanied by their DJ, Rick Rubin, who scratched the music, with The Beastie Boys prancing around the stage, making lewd gestures towards the audience. As they finished their performance, the backdrops started displaying Madonna's images from her music videos. The band—consisting of guitarists, bassists, a drummer and three synthesizer players—came into focus, and the music started. Madonna's voice was heard, saying: "Don't be afraid... it's gonna be alright." Then, Madonna's silhouette appeared behind a white screen on top of the stairs as the first beats kicked in. The white screen lifted and she is finally seen, wearing a psychedelic housecoat, a blue see-through crop-top and her characteristic black bra. She also had lacy leggings and crucifixes around her ear and her neck. She posed on the stairs before reaching the microphone to sing "Dress You Up". After dancing to the last note of the music, Madonna and the two male back-up dancers went to the back of the stage, as the music of "Holiday" began. Taking a moment to ask the audience how they are feeling, Madonna declared, "I was never elected homecoming queen, but I sure feel like one now", and started the performance of "Into the Groove", playing a tambourine. A boombox was present on the stage during the performance, Madonna sitting and playing with it, and addressing it as her "box". She continued with "Everybody", while asking the audience to clap along with her. As she finished the vigorous performance of "Everybody", the lights were dimmed and the introduction music of "Angel" started. Rotating lights fell on the stage. Madonna appeared sitting on top of the stairs and gradually descended. During the intermediate bridge, she and her dancers moved energetically around the whole stage, as white balloons fell on them from above. Madonna continued singing as the lights were dimmed again. She finished the performance and disappeared behind the wings for a costume change. She appeared on the stage wearing a black, fringed micro-top and similar skirt, with her belly-button exposed, and a number of crucifixes in different sizes, hanging from different parts of her body.
As the guitar intro of "Gambler" started, Madonna stood on the side-stage and started dancing energetically, as flashlights fell on her. While singing the song, she sometimes opened her jacket and sometimes straddled a steel structure present on the side of the stage. The performance ended with Madonna jumping off the side stage, onto the main one. She then performed "Borderline", "Lucky Star" and "Crazy for You"—while touching the hands of the audience members. Madonna then returned to the microphone and started singing "Over and Over" from Like a Virgin. It was followed by "Burning Up" during which she caressed one of the guitarist, ultimately disappearing for another constume change. As the music of the song "Like a Virgin" started, Madonna returned on the stage, wearing a wedding dress, holding a bouquet in her hand and a long white veil behind her. Accessorized by a white bow atop her head and lacy, three-quarter length gloves, she also had a crucifix on her waistband and another hanging from a long chain around her neck. Madonna asked the audience "Will you marry me?" When the audience answered affirmatively, she threw the bouquet towards them and started singing the song. Madonna continued singing the song while rolling around the floor, and added a snippet of Michael Jackson's Motown-style single, "Billie Jean". Balloons floated out towards the audience again as she pulled apart her veil and threw it towards the audience. She returned to the stage in the arms of one of the backup dancers, wearing a boob tube and a tight white skirt, carrying a bunch of notes in her left hand, and a number of garlands around her neck. In a self-parodying performance of the song "Material Girl", at the end of the performance Madonna asked the audience "Do you really think I'm a material girl? ... I'm not ... Take it [Throwing fake money] ... I don't need money ... I need love." As she began to strip off more clothes and jewelry, she was apprehended and marched offstage by an extra posing as her father. In Detroit, her father Tony Ciccone himself did the honors. The show ended with Madonna returning onstage once more to take her fur coat and doing a curtsey.
The tour received generally mixed reviews from critics. Jason Stratley from The Philadelphia Inquirer said that "On stage, wiggling and writhing, a rock-video vision of messy, bleached- blond hair, bare skin, sequined paisley and dime store diamonds was the flash-and-trash rock queen Madonna. Behold the Madonna clones—she is turning into one fine legend." Jeff Sewald from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette felt that "the modus operandi [of the tour] was clear. Madonna was not only selling her music to throngs of teen-agers and adults alike, but she was selling herself and the entire package proved to be a joy for the 14,500 screaming fans. [...] Madonna's 'Virgin Tour' had torn the cover off Pittsburgh's sexuality." Rachel Lee from The Sacramento Bee felt that "more than any pop star in recent memory, even Boy George and Prince, Madonna is an image. Her hour-long concert here Tuesday night, as professionally performed and well-choreographed as it was, did nothing to give her more dimension than the two already bestowed on her." Arthur Daniels from Lexington Herald-Leader felt that "Madonna looked grim, but the fans were delighted when the blond rock star made her first major concert appearance to kick off her 'Virgin Tour'. [...] She looked blank and did not look up as she passed fans who gathered by the stage door before the show."
Robert Hilburn from the Los Angeles Times commented: "Madonna represents a contemporary fantasy figure that revives the glamour, innocence and raw sexuality of many of Madonna's own teen heroes, including Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Like the early Monroe, Madonna may portray a bimbo, but there she's clearly no pushover. Though the audience was on its feet throughout, it often seemed that Madonna was operating beneath her potential in this pop format. It's important to demonstrate that she can handle herself live, but the simplicity of pop concerts doesn't begin to tax her ambition or talent. In fact, she has so little to do other than express this aggressive, sexy attitude that the show seemed long at just over an hour. Heidi Sherman from Spin commented, "The Virgin Tour was Madonna's first, yet it put her in the same league as Prince and Bruce Springsteen. It proved that Madonna was beyond real. And if her stage presence indicated she was more showgirl than musician, at least she knew how to gussy up her act for the postfeminist MTV age. Boy Toy? Not exactly. She was a bonafide pop star in the process of becoming a cultural icon."
Laura Fissinger from South Florida Sun-Sentinel felt that "'Virgin Tour' establishes Madonna more as a bimbo, rather than the strong, independent woman people think her to be." David O'Reilly from Philadelphia Daily News said that with the concert "Madonna proved once more why she was called a 'talentless bimbo'; it was utter trash." Richard Defendorf of Orlando Sentinel gave a positive review, saying "Madonna's 'Virgin Tour' was very enjoyable and she put her music video charms in her live performances." Maya Hathoray from The Miami Herald said that "We know [Madonna is] sexy, exotically beautiful and her funk/pop songs make us want to dance, but on stage, she is extremely tame compared to her raw persona in her music videos. She is like daddy's little girl." Mary Edgar Smith from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed that "It was obvious from the apparel of the young girls at last week's Virgin Tour concerts in Tampa and Orlando, Fla., that the 26-year-old singer [Madonna] had more to give to the music world than what others suggest. She will be a force to be reckoned with." Stephen Holden from The New York Times commented, "While her pubescent lookalike fans cheer approvingly, the star's manipulation of such symbols as a wedding gown, a cross, furs and jewels becomes a lighthearted communal psychodrama. Madonna has brought traditional little girl's games of dress-up and playing with dolls (using oneself as model) into the television age by turning them into a public spectacle." A review in Variety by John Gleeson said that "Madonna's singing was like a soundtrack to a more visceral display of herself, her persona, her nonstop dancing and her surprisingly explicit sexual dare, which included a visual climax—so to speak—to every other song." Paul Grein from Billboard said that "Madonna's show was stylish, well-paced and consistently entertaining."
As soon as the tour was announced, tickets were sold out almost everywhere. In San Francisco, tour shirts were selling at a clocked rate of one every six seconds. All 17,672 tickets for Madonna's show at New York City's Radio City Music Hall were completely sold out in a record-breaking 34 minutes. Both the shows at Chicago's UIC Pavilion were sold in a single day with a record breaking 18,000 tickets being sold. In Philadelphia, record breaking 31,000 tickets were sold in under four hours. Along with ticket sales, merchandise associated with the tour also sold rapidly. T-shirts, posters and promo-magazines featuring Madonna's image were picked up by the fans, even though most them were overpriced compared to the market value. After its end, the Virgin Tour was reported to have grossed over $5 million ($11.65 million in 2018 dollars), with Billboard Boxscore reporting a gross of $3.3 million ($7.69 million in 2018 dollars).
The 1985 Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour VHS and LaserDisc documents a Detroit stop on the tour. "Angel", "Borderline" and "Burning Up" were part of the tour set list but were not included on the official VHS release. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of 50,000 copies and received a "Video Software Dealers Award" for the Most Popular Music Video in September 1986. The video received mixed reviews from critics. Annie Temple from Philadelphia Daily News said that the release was "not so flattering" and "was a sloppy job". Dennis Hunt from the Los Angeles Times said that "the video is sometimes distracting and blurry, wonder what went wrong during recording. The angles are awkward, especially when the audience members are shown touching Madonna's hand. Was it really necessary to show a fan coming unannounced on the stage?" Terry Atkinson from the same paper said, "This follows the typical concert video format of putting you in the best seat in the hall and letting the aura of a superior performer encaptivate your senses." Joe Logan and Gail Shister from The Wichita Eagle said that "seeing Madonna live in an arena and seeing her up, close and personal in the tour cassette is totally different. The energy, the movements, the provocation—all captures you more." The release debuted at 14 on Billboard's Top Music Videocassettes chart, on December 7, 1985, and reached a peak of 11, the next week. The video started a slow climb on the chart, and on the issue dated January 18, 1986, it reached the top of the chart, replacing Prince & The Revolution: Live by The Revolution. On May 24, 1986, the video again climbed back in the top ten of the chart, at position two. It was present on the chart for a total of 65 weeks. Live – The Virgin Tour was the top selling music videocassette for 1986. The video was certified two-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of 200,000 copies and received a "Video Software Dealers Award" for the Most Popular Music Video, in September 1986.
When the tour first started, people—especially women—thronged to see it wearing clothes inspired by Madonna. Debbi Voller, author of Madonna: The Style Book, observed that "Hundreds of thousands of young girls came to the concert dressed like her, with bleached and tousled hair, see-through tops, bras, fingerless gloves and crucifixes. Magazines and TV shows ran lookalike competitions." This frenzy regarding Madonna gave rise to a new term called Madonna wannabe—a word that was ultimately officially recognized by the Webster's Dictionary in May 1991. Madonna was mystified as to why all the women would want to copy her look. She commented,
"I never set out to be a role model. I am a strong woman, a successful woman, and I don't conform to a stereotype. For so long women have been told that there are certain ways they mustn't look if they want to get ahead in life. And there I was dressing in a forbidden way and yet obviously in charge of my life. It was then I realized why were all of them out there in their seats, dressing like me."
While the tour was going on, the American lingerie industry reported that their turnover was suddenly up by 40 percent and that Madonna's image was responsible for this underwear revival. Sam Gower from Rolling Stone commented, "In the sixties, women burned their bras, now they wear five at a time, and bare their belly buttons. Madonna has done for the corset and crucifix what punk did for the safety pin. Macy's New York department store was flooded with buyers, who bought the tour merchandise like the crucifix earrings and fingerless gloves." The demand was so huge that Macy's had to refill the merchandise time again. Madonna's subversive antics on the tour provoked fiery and antics among the press. Rolling Stone said: "Like Marilyn Monroe, Madonna is bent on epitomizing and championing a vision of female sexuality, and like Monroe she is often dismissed as an artist for doing so." Suzanne Ferriss, author of On Fashion said that "Virgin Tour exemplified Madonna's extended desire to treat boys as toys and her chastity belt coming off at her own whim and desire. Her dance numbers with men during the tour shows them as her underlings, accessories that she toys with and totally dominates."
- "Dress You Up"
- "Into the Groove"
- "Lucky Star"
- "Crazy for You"
- "Over and Over"
- "Burning Up"
- "Like a Virgin" (contains excerpts from "Billie Jean")
- "Material Girl"
|April 10, 1985||Seattle||United States||Paramount Theatre||Beastie Boys||8,934 / 8,934||N/A|
|April 12, 1985|
|April 13, 1985|
|April 15, 1985||Portland||Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall||N/A|
|April 16, 1985|
|April 19, 1985||San Diego||SDSU Open Air Theatre||8,696 / 8,696||$124,773|
|April 20, 1985|
|April 21, 1985||Costa Mesa||Pacific Amphitheatre||18,765 / 18,765||$297,473|
|April 23, 1985||San Francisco||San Francisco Civic Auditorium||8,500 / 8,500||$127,500|
|April 26, 1985||Los Angeles||Universal Amphitheatre||N/A||N/A|
|April 27, 1985|
|April 28, 1985|
|April 30, 1985||Tempe||ASU Activity Center||10,013 / 10,013||$133,427|
|May 3, 1985||Dallas||Dallas Convention Center||8,717 / 8,717||$130,735|
|May 4, 1985||Houston||Hofheinz Pavilion||7,300 / 7,300||$101,880|
|May 5, 1985||Austin||Frank Erwin Center||14,639 / 14,639||$208,005|
|May 7, 1985||New Orleans||UNO Lakefront Arena||N/A||N/A|
|May 9, 1985||Tampa||USF Sun Dome||8,400 / 8,400||$125,415|
|May 10, 1985||Orlando||Orange County Convention Center||10,596 / 10,596||$154,275|
|May 11, 1985||Pembroke Pines||Hollywood Sportatorium||N/A||N/A|
|May 14, 1985||Atlanta||The Omni||14,843 / 14,843||$215,760|
|May 16, 1985||Cleveland||Public Auditorium||N/A||N/A|
|May 17, 1985||Cincinnati||Cincinnati Gardens||9,941 / 9,941|
|May 18, 1985||Chicago||UIC Pavilion||N/A||N/A|
|May 20, 1985|
|May 21, 1985||Saint Paul||St. Paul Civic Center||16,799 / 16,799|
|May 23, 1985||Toronto||Canada||Maple Leaf Gardens||16,000 / 16,000||$238,264|
|May 25, 1985||Detroit||United States||Cobo Arena||24,382 / 24,382||$332,780|
|May 26, 1985|
|May 28, 1985||Pittsburgh||Civic Arena||15,600 / 15,600||$219,210|
|May 29, 1985||Philadelphia||The Spectrum||15,543 / 15,543||$207,547|
|May 30, 1985||Hampton||Hampton Coliseum||N/A||N/A|
|June 1, 1985||Columbia||Merriweather Post Pavilion|
|June 2, 1985||Worcester||Worcester Centrum||11,981 / 11,981||$177,515|
|June 3, 1985||New Haven||New Haven Coliseum||10,190 / 10,190||$153,856|
|June 6, 1985||New York City||Radio City Music Hall||17,538 / 17,538||$294,050|
|June 7, 1985|
|June 8, 1985|
|June 10, 1985||Madison Square Garden||N/A||N/A|
|June 11, 1985|
|Total||221,703 / 221,703||$3,272,084|
- Madonna – vocals
- Ian Knight – set designer
- Brad Jeffries – choreographer
- Patrick Leonard – keyboards/MD
- Billy Meyers – keyboards
- Jonathan P. Moffet – drums
- Bill Lanphier – bass guitar/synth bass
- James Harrah – guitars
- Paul Pesco – guitars
- Michael Perea – backup dancer
- Lyndon B. Johnson – backup dancer
- Freddy DeMann – personal management, for Weisner-DeMann Entertainment
- Dave Kob – audio mixing
- Maripol – costume designer
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