THE YEAR: 1985. The city: Portland. A sassy, ambitious young pop singer named Madonna opens her first national concert tour in the Pacific Northwest. The fourth and fifth dates of her ballyhooed Virgin Tour take place at Portland's newly refurbished Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Ticket sales are strong, and the young woman goes on to become one of the biggest and most influential pop stars in the world, dominating charts and headlines for decades to come.
As for Portland, the city quietly sits, waiting patiently for a return engagement. It watches as Madonna's 1986 album True Blue shoots her fame into the stratosphere, and again as 1989's Like a Prayer solidifies her artistic credibility. Years tick by. Her 1990 greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection sells millions of copies, and her stop-and-start film career hits some occasional okay moments. Yet no further Portland concert appears on the books. The rest of the globe is offered repeated tastes of Madonna's talents, with concerts and in-person performances that define their eras. Portland gets no such attention frwom her.
Then, a glimmer of hope! During a period in the early '90s, when her career is characterized by sexually confrontational work, Madonna quietly slips into Portland to shoot a new movie. The city—its thirst for Madonna temporarily slaked—lets the icon prepare her new project, an erotic thriller called Body of Evidence.
The movie comes out. It is not good. Not good at all. Portland becomes the site of one of Madonna's bigger failures.
Two more decades come and go, and nary a Stumptown show is to be found on any of Madonna's tour itineraries. Then, in 2015, all that changes. The imperial popstress schedules a performance at Portland's basketball arena as part of her Rebel Heart world tour on Saturday, October 17. The city breathes a sigh of relief, and then carefully, tentatively allows a whisper of excitement into its collective heart.
Madonna... is coming.
To celebrate Madonna's first show in Portland in more than 30 years, we've planned this special issue devoted to all things Madge. We look at the best and worst moments of her career—her albums, her videos, her movies, her clothes, and more. It's a scrapbook of impressions and interpretations that reveals a complex composite portrait of a woman who was always so much more than a simple pop singer. Because Madonna remains, for all of us, surprisingly personal—we grew up with not only her music and her weird British accent, but also her epoch-defining fashion sense and her quick-change ability to redefine herself over and over. Most importantly, the feminism inherent in her art remains nothing short of groundbreaking (even if that pioneering work sometimes gets taken for granted today), and her embrace of gay culture and her willingness to bring it into the mainstream offered great strides in accelerating the conversation.
It doesn't matter whether you love Madonna's music or not (although surely there is at least one song you can get behind): In the end, she's changed the world for the better, and has been doing so for more than three decades. We all have Madonna in common. There's no one else like her.
Welcome back, Madonna!
The Madonna Issue