Originally to be called the "Like a Prayer World Tour", Sire Records announced the Blond Ambition World Tour in November 1989, following the success of Madonna's fourth studio album, Like a Prayer, and Madonna's performance of "Express Yourself" at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards - considered as a tour preview. Initially, the tour was only to reach Japan and North America, as Madonna was considering roles in several films. By the end of 1989 plans were announced to bring the tour to Europe as well because of popularity and fan demand. In December 1989, when preparations for the tour began, Madonna herself announced during a pre-recorded interview on German TV channel ZDF, that she would tour Germany during 1990. In April 1990, additional dates in Europe were added. Stage preparations and dress rehearsals took place at the Disney Studios, Burbank, California, before the tour kicked off in Japan.
The tour incorporated as central themes, sexuality and Catholicism, a combination which engendered controversy. The catholic associations called for a boycott of the show in Rome, and one of three scheduled Italian dates was eventually canceled. The show has achieved a measure of cult status, with elements such as the bullet bra and false ponytail hairpiece becoming cultural icons in their own right.
Madonna herself called the concert "like musical theater" and choreographer Vincent Paterson stated she wanted to "break every rule we can... She wanted to make statements about sexuality, cross-sexuality, the church... But the biggest thing we tried to do was change the shape of concerts. Instead of just presenting songs, we wanted to combine fashion, Broadway, and performance art."
The show's explicit overtone caused problems. In Toronto, police were alerted that the show might possibly contain lewd and obscene content (particularly a masturbation scene) and threatened charges unless parts of the show were changed. The show went on unaltered, however, and no charges were made after the tour manager gave the police an ultimatum: "Cancel the show, and you'll have to tell 30,000 people why.
French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier designed the costumes for the tour, including the now-infamous cone brassiere inspired by Polish Art-Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. Additional costume pieces were designed by Marlene Stewart, who had previously worked with Madonna on the 1987 Who's That Girl World Tour.
Director Alek Keshishian captured more than 250 hours of film of Madonna and her troupe during the tour. This footage was edited and released to movie theaters as Truth or Dare (In Bed with Madonna).
Due to ongoing throat problems, six shows had to be canceled, bringing the tour down from 63 shows to 57; altogether, 125,000 tickets had to be refunded. The proceeds of the last American date in New Jersey, was donated to the Nonprofit organization amfAR and dedicated to her friend Keith Haring who died of AIDS, grossing over $300,000.
Act 1 - Metropolis
- 1. Express Yourself (contains excerpts from Everybody)
- 2. Open Your Heart
- 3. Causing a Commotion
- 4. Where's the Party
Act 2 - Religion
- 5. Like a Virgin
- 6. Like a Prayer (contains excerpts from "Act of Contrition")
- 7. Live to Tell / Oh Father
- 8. Papa Don't Preach
Act 3 - Dick Tracy
Act 4 - Art Deco
- 12. Material Girl
- 13. Cherish
- 14. Into the Groove (contains elements of "Ain't Nobody Better")
- 15. Vogue