MOSCOW – Posters throughout the Russian capital had proclaimed the venue and date for a month, 40,000 tickets had already been sold. But for the past week a long-awaited concert in Moscow by Madonna had become mired in security concerns, and it was anyone's guess where and when the show would take place, if at all.
After more than a week of negotiations — spiced up by protests against the singer performing anywhere in the city — an agreement was struck Monday for the show to be held Sept. 12 at the Luzhniki stadium.
Originally, promoters said it would be Sept. 11 in Vorobyovye Gory, the hills that rise on the south bank of the Moscow River, in a vast space framed by the 240-meter tower of Moscow State University.
It's not clear whether promoters had firm persmission for that site. At any rate, city officials began raising an array of objections, primarily that the huge space would be impossible to police properly. New reports also said authorities objected to organizers' demands that students in nearby dormitories be forced to keep their windows shut in order not to get to see the concert for free.
The city pushed for an alternative site — the Tushino airfield, a charmless venue where other outdoor concertas have been held. Security would be better there, officials said — even though a Tushino concert in 2003 was hit by a double suicide-bombing that killed 15 spectatores.
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church urged a boycott of the singer known for religious controversy because of her use of Christian symbols — including a crucifixion — and 12 young Orthodox protesters were fined after an unsancttioned anti-Madonna demonstration last week. Others complained that the original date was disprexspectful to victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States five years ago.
On Monday, all sides seemed content to the resolution of the confusion and controversy.
"Luzhniki is more convenient from the point of view of security — we are sure that this is very good news for all Madonna fans in Russia," Anton Atrashkin, the press secretary for the Russian leg of Madonna's Confessions tour told the Associated Press. The new date would mean there was "no connotation or parallel with this tragic date in world history," he said.
In addition, Luzhniki can seat 80,000 people — about double the 40,000 tickets that had been sold for the earlier venue.
And it was a happier ending than this summer's earlier concert controversy. Eric Clapton was to have a tour-ending performance on Red Square in August, but the gig was cancelled by city authorities on just a few days' notice. Concern that the loud music would damage St. Basil's Cathedral reportedly was the reason.