Madonna may have ruffled some hometown feathers when she called the Detroit area “provincial” earlier this year on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show, but she made it clear she was happy to be back on Thursday night, when her Rebel Heart Tour stopped at the city’s Joe Louis Arena.
“Motor City — the hometown girl is back!” she declared towards the start of the two-hour and 10-minute show, and later she told the crowd that, “Detroit made me who I am today” before talking about her involvement with entrepreneur and philanthropist Dan Gilbert — owner of Rock Financial, Quicken Loans and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers — in women’s empowerment and youth boxing programs as well as “some new schools we’re building.”
Though she acknowledged the city’s recent financial problems and bankruptcy, Madonna announced that “Detroit is making a comeback people, so watch out. We got heart, baby. We’re in the heart of America. With all of its heart and all of this love we are gonna build this city back up. Believe that!”
Madonna — who was born in Bay City, Mich., and raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Rochester — also gave shout-outs to her father Silvio “Tony” Ciccone, and to daughter Lourdes, who both attended Thursday’s show. She dedicated “Rebel Heart” to her dad, thanking him “for making me so strong and instilling this drive in me to survive.” And before her version of Edith Piaf‘s “La vie en rose,” Madonna credited Lourdes — a second-year student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor — with inspiring her to pick up the ukulele, which Madonna played on the song, and also noted that Lourdes both plays the ukulele and speaks French better than her mom.
Madonna also used her hometown connection for some light-hearted references during the concert. After “Body Shop,” a sequence set in an auto repair garage, she noted that, “If anybody can understand the trials and tribulations of working in the body shop, it’s the Motor City. If it’s got tits or tires, it’s gonna give you trouble.” At another juncture she told the crowd, “There’s a lot going on up here — not bad for a small-town girl from Detroit.” And complaining about a non-existent time limit for the show — “They said I have two hours — get in, do you stuff, get out” — Madonna grumbled, “Yeah, bitch, I’m from Detroit, so I should get some extra time up here on stage, right? Yeah!” She also added an acoustic version of her 1998 single “Frozen” to the setlist especially for Thursday’s show.
Prior to the tour launch, Madonna refined what she meant about the area being “provincial” — a remark which drew an open letter from Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett defending the area. “I appreciate my provincial upbringing,” she told the suburban newspaper the Oakland Press. “To me it’s really important that I came from the Midwest, with my father and people that I was surrounded with, very strong work ethic and my practical approach to work, and not a lot of frills. I don’t think I would be as creative as I am if I’d grown up surrounded by everything at my fingertips. The fact that I came from a small town in the Midwest has a lot to do with the kind of open notebook that I had to start my journey of creativity.”