Madonna Opens Up About Near-Death Experience in L.A. Concert: ‘God Was Saying, “You Wanna Come With Me?” And I Said, “No!”‘

At the opening of a five-night stand at L.A.’s Kia Forum Monday night, Madonna was in the mood to share about the severity of her health emergency last summer, thanking the doctor and other medical personnel who were in the audience who helped her during and after the days she spent in an induced coma.

The singer revealed that it was a well-known physician, Dr. David Agus, who helped guide her through the crisis. He and other members of her support team and immediate family were on hand at the concert and came up for mention during a funny, pointed, seemingly impromptu nine-minute speech she gave late in the show, preceding a version of “Express Yourself” she played solo on an acoustic guitar.

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“It was a strange thing to finally not feel like I was in control,” she told the audience, of being sidelined by the drastic effects of a bacterial infection that put her into the ICU last June.

God himself made an appearance in the story of what she called an NDE, although she didn’t directly recall a divine presence, only inferred it from what she said after first waking up after being put into a deep sleep to relieve the crisis.

Leading into the story, the singer said, “I have fallen off a lot of horses and broken a lot of bones. I have a titanium hip. I mean, the list goes on and on, but nothing can stop me.” She briefly interrupting her story to sing an a cappella snippet of one of her most famous songs: “Don’t tell me to stop…”

Continuing, Madonna said, “This summer I had a surprise. It’s called… um… a near-death experience. Yes, and I’m not kidding. It was pretty scary. Obviously, I didn’t know for four days, because I was in an induced coma. But when I woke up, the first word I said was ‘No.’ Anyway, that’s what my assistant tells me. And I’m pretty sure that God was saying to me, ‘Do you wanna come with us? You wanna come with me? You wanna go this way?’ And I said, ‘No. No.'” She added one more for emphasis: “No!”

Madonna went on to send appreciation to “a very special man in the audience tonight,” Dr. Agus. “He’s put up with so many entertaining phone calls from me. When I was sick this summer and I literally couldn’t walk from my bed to the toilet, I would call him every other day and ask him why I didn’t have any energy. When was my energy gonna come back? When was I gonna feel myself again? When could I go back on tour again? When, when, when, when, when, when, when? And all he would say was, ‘Go outside in the sun.'”

Madonna, being no sun worshipper, said she replied, “Have you seen my skin?” His response: “Go outside in the sun. You need vitamin D so your kidneys will keep working.” And, she continued, “I couldn’t put those two together. And I hate the sun, but I did it anyways, and it was so hard for me to walk from my house to the backyard and sit in the sun. I know that sounds insane, but it was difficult, and I didn’t know when I could get up again and when I could be myself again and when I would have my energy back. It was a strange thing to finally not feel like I was in control. And that was my lesson to let go.”

The star further offered thanks to “everyone who’s here that took care of me and listened to all of my endless complaining and need for predictions that I could not have. You are patient and you are kind, and you still are. You still help me take care of everybody I know that’s sick. Thank you so much, wherever you are.”

She addressed the subject of how short the postponement of her current arena tour was, a mere three months. Madonna referred to manager Guy Oseary, whom she imagined was “probably standing right next to Dr. Agus right now. They’re planning… they have a new plot to almost kill me again. When he said, ‘Well, when do you think you wanna go back on tour?’… I took the oxygen out of my nose, I looked at him, and I said, ‘In two fucking months!‘ … I swear to God, I just said it. And sometimes you just gotta say shit, put that out in the universe, and it happens. Are you with me, Los Angeles?”

Los Angeles was indeed in her pocket. Madonna further offered thanks to her children, including several who performed with her during Monday night’s show, including Mercy, who played piano in support of her mother on “Bad Girl,” and David, who played acoustic guitar on “Mother and Father.” Estere also makes an appearance each night during the mock-dance competition in “Vogue.”

“My children are the ones that really helped me pull through, because they worked so hard and… I didn’t want to let them down. So I just set a date and that date became a reality. And I didn’t wanna disappoint my fans. I never do.”

Offering a personal maxim, Madonna declared: “I want to provocate. I wanna masturbate. But I don’t want to disappoint my fans.”

Madonna began the speech by talking about motherhood as a theme in the narrative progression of the oft-autobiographical show, once it enters the 2000s, following the 1990s, which she said were about “a lot of sexual provocation, experimentation, truth or dare… You can all thank me for allowing you to have the courage to come out,” she said, tongue perhaps not entirely in cheek.

“The motherhood shit — that’s when we get into the real heart (material) because no one breaks your heart like your children. Oh, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I love my kids. In fact, how lucky am I to perform with them every evening in my show?… Motherhood — that’s when life gets complicated. Because when I had children, I finally realized that I was not the center of the universe. But my children are the reason that I keep going.

“My life has been obviously a rollercoaster… artistically, emotionally, mentally, physically. And this show every night, it’s not really so hard on me physically; it’s harder on me emotionally because I’m really telling you the story of my life. My heart is on my sleeve. And yes, I fucked with you,” she said, as the crowd drowned out some of her speech with cheering. “But how grateful I am that you are all here and that you all stood by me… for four fucking decades!”

Madonna occasionally ribbed the L.A. (or, technically, Inglewood) crowd: “Now don’t be too laid back for me, Los Angeles!” she chided at the outset. “This isn’t a flip-flops and shorts show!” Setting the tone for a production that explores her origins as well as progression into stardom, she said, “I’m about to tell you the story of my life. It’s like reading from my personal diary through music, through dance, through art, through videos. I hope you can handle it.”

That included a callback to an early ’80s fashion style she officially designated “What You Can Afford on St. Mark’s Place for Very Little Money… you’ll see this on the runway in Paris,” she added, sarcastically. “I did come to New York with $35 in my pocket, like some dumb-ass, after I spent the other bit of change I had on airplanes… I soon learned, after a couple of years of trying to be a contemporary dancer in New York City, that being broke and homeless and friendless and jobless and fruitless and anorexic just was not a vibe.” She then relayed the story of going to a party and meeting a musician whom she wanted to teach her guitar. “He said, ‘What kind of exchange…what are you gonna give to me?’ So. I was thinking about it and, I don’t know, some things came to mind, and a couple things came up, and it worked. So now I learned how to play guitar,” as a result of “giving blow jobs to people you don’t really like sometimes.”

That led to a solo performance on electric guitar (plus the show’s mostly omnipresent backing tracks) of “Burnin’ Up,” rendered as an all-out ’80s rocker, in an arrangement that was rare prior to this tour. “I played it for the first time in a small, smelly little club on the Lower East side, dodging beer bottles and insults. People were shouting at me, ‘Show us your tits.’ And at the time I didn’t have any tits,” she explained, “because I wasn’t eating… So anyway, that’s another story.” But obviously far from the most dramatic one she had to impart during this unusually introspective night on an already thoughtfully retrospective tour.

Madonna’s tour continues with more shows at the Forum on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Monday. She then stays in the Southern California area but moves over to Palm Springs’ Acrisure Arena for a concert March 13. The tour winds on through the southwest and Southern states before wrapping up its U.S. leg in Austin on April 15. From there, she moves on to Mexico City for a five-night stand in late April that will bring the international jaunt to a close.

The Celebration Tour, which had originally been scheduled to start in the U.S. in July, ended up beginning with four London shows in October, with a North American leg starting in December in Brooklyn.

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