Halfway through her 32-minute set on Wednesday night at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, Madonna offered a message of sympathy.
It was “Hung Up,” about the agony of waiting. And as she finished the song, she added, just in case the message wasn’t clear: “Anybody who knows me knows how much I hate to wait.”
New York may be a city of the impatient, but for Madonna’s fans, Wednesday’s show proved that seeing her for free in a 2,200-capacity hall — minuscule by her usual touring standards — was something worth waiting for. And waiting for a very long time.
The line outside Roseland, on West 52nd Street, formed 60 hours before show time. By late Tuesday it had stretched around the block as the faithful stood and sat and slept and caffeinated themselves for the chance to score one of the 750 wrist bands that would guarantee free admission.
Erica Gabriel, a 28-year-old makeup artist, waited through the night in line with friends. Once duly wrist-banded some time after 6 a.m., she returned home to prepare the elaborate, swooping hairstyle and “stewardess-Madonna-tricky-tranny look” that she sported early Wednesday evening — as she waited on line again to receive a second wristband.
“Gays don’t camp out,” said one of Ms. Gabriel’s friends, as the group laughed, “but we’ll camp out for this.”
Even those who joined the queue relatively late proved to be professionals of a sort.
“I’m not fanatical,” said Walter Sharpe, 36, an interior designer from Brooklyn. “But I do collect Madonna magazine covers, and I’ve got maybe 170 of them.”
There is something almost quaint about an overnight line for concert tickets in an era of Internet pre-sales and ordering by text message. But Madonna’s show, to promote her new album, “Hard Candy,” was also part of a technologically sophisticated, 21st-century product rollout that involved multiple media tie-ins. It was broadcast live on the Internet by MSN and on cell phones worldwide by Verizon and Vodafone. In addition to the 750 spots given to fans on the line — that’s on a line, not online — about 1,000 were given to radio contest winners, and 200 to members of Madonna’s fan club, which now has a social-networking component.
And at 49, Madonna remains on the entrepreneurial vanguard of the music business. “Hard Candy” is her last album for her longtime label, Warner Brothers; in October she announced a new deal with the touring giant Live Nation that will encompass recordings, tours, merchandising and various other projects, and is valued at $120 million.
Not that all of the Music Biz 2.0 stuff mattered much to the people who crammed into Roseland on Wednesday, even those who breathe media and marketing. One of them was Tanesha Fields, a pretty 26-year-old who works in advertising and said her nights are filled with business parties. “I don’t have to go to another media event for a year,” she said. “This tops them all.”
The room roared with “Omigods” and lit up with digital camera flashes when Madonna emerged at 10:09 p.m. from behind a revolving stage barrier, dressed in shiny black and wearing lace-up boots. Backed by a live band whose members worked in the far corners of the stage, she performed six songs, four of them from “Hard Candy.”
Another big roar rose for the third song, “4 Minutes”: Justin Timberlake, who is featured on the song and is one of the writers and producers of it, took the stage in a sharp white jacket and black scarf, and joined Madonna in some dirty dancing that had slight bondage overtones — with Madonna dominant, of course.
The show was swift clockwork. At 10:23, right after “4 Minutes,” Madonna picked up a black electric guitar and, after picking out the riff to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” led a grungy version of “Hung Up.” At 10:32 there was a slight costume change — she put on a black top with “HARD” in silver letters on the front and “CANDY” on the back — and she sang the new “Give It 2 Me.”
Then came “Music,” much dancing, and a quick makeup and hair fix on the wings. By 10:42 Madonna and her dancers had swung back through the revolving wall and the lights went up.
Some had waited for more than two days for a half-hour show. But no one seemed to be complaining.
“I had the time of my life tonight,” said Jeanrené St. Pierre, a fan club contest winner from Montreal who wore a “BOYTOY” necklace. “Of course it was worth it.”