Press-Republican

Columns

February 10, 2012

Madonna returns to roots

"The Super Bowl was the rehearsal for her Quebec show," the mayor of Quebec City joked this week.

Regis Labeaume was referring to news that global megastar Madonna was coming to his city to work it out musically on Labor Day on the Plains of Abraham.

The Plains have hosted many a spectacular event over the 253 years since the field overlooking the St. Lawrence River was the scene of the famous showdown between England and France.

In the more distant past, it's been the setting for horse races, golf tournaments, hockey championships, huge anniversary celebrations and historical re-enactments.

More recently, it's been home to some massive entertainment events, including free shows by Sir Paul McCartney and Celine Dion, who came to help the city celebrate its 400th birthday in 2008. These concerts drew upwards of 200,000 fans.

The Plains also host the main stage for the city's summer music festival: Festival d'ete de Quebec, which has swelled into the largest such gathering on the continent, selling nearing 170,000 access passes at about $50 each. Last year's headliners over the 10-day event in July were Sir Elton John, Metallica and the Black Keys.

The Madonna show, though, is, like Ms. Ciccone herself, something altogether different. It would most likely be — subject to further research — the first outright commercial event to be held on the Plains, which happens to be federal property, administered by the National Battlefields Commission.

While it could (and will) be argued that many, many people profit indeed from not-for-profit shows held on the sacred historical ground — from performers, to stage crew, to beer sellers to the army of cleanup workers — the Madonna show would be a money-machine for her entourage, not to mention the Material Girl herself.

The Quebec City show, according to the tour schedule released this week, would be one of only two outdoor concerts on Madonna's North American blitz, the other being Yankee Stadium. The four other Canadian dates — Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa — are all in hockey palaces.

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