Madonna's second act at her show Thursday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver featured the 54-year-old singer using a fake gun to shoot a masked gunman and images of blood splattering on a large screen behind the stage. She used the set for her performances in other cities for the song "Gang Bang," which includes the lyrics "shot my lover in the head."
"We're dancing and all of a sudden people started realizing what the song was," said concert-goer Aaron Fransua, 25, who was in section 120. "We all just stood there. Everybody who was around me all had shock on their face. I heard a lot of `wows,"' Fransua said.
Mile High Sports Radio Denver personality Peter Burns, who was in another section, said the people around him began murmuring when the song came on.
"You could see people kinda looking at each other," Burns said. "I heard the word `Colorado,' you know, `Aurora,' `shooting.' You could hear people talking about it and it was little bit unsettling. I saw two or three people get up and grab their stuff and actually leave their seats."
The scene reminded some concert-goers of the July 20 shooting at an Aurora theater where a gunman dressed in black and wearing a helmet, body armor and a gas mask stepped through a side door and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle and pistols, killing 12 people and injuring at least another 58, some of whom may be disabled for life.
Burns was friends with Jessica Ghawi, 24, who died in the shooting.
"It sort of hits closer to home for me," he said.
The Denver metro-area is still reeling from the unsolved abduction and slaying of Jessica Ridgeway, and on Thursday before the concert, police announced they had three suspects in custody in the slaying of five people at a bar and grill in east Denver.
Denver television stations said they received a number of complaints Friday from concert-goers saying they were offended she used guns and violence as part of her show in light of the recent shootings.
Her press agent, Liz Rosenberg, said Friday that there was no way to eliminate the scene, because it is a core part of the show.
"It's like taking out the third act of Hamlet," she said.
Rosenberg said Madonna's style is to shake things up.
"Madonna does not make things pretty and tie them up with a bow," she said.
In a statement before beginning the tour, Madonna said she does not condone the use of guns.
"Rather they are symbols of wanting to appear strong and wanting to find a way to stop feelings that I find hurtful or damaging," she said.
She said she is using the guns as symbols of intolerance and "the pain I have felt from having my heart broken."
Both Burns and Fransua said they took the act as just part of the show, though both felt uneasy about it.
"It would have highly upset me if I felt this was something that she added," for the Denver show, Burns said. "But you know this, that song, that production will be played in 50 other cities and Denver would be the only city that would have some major issues."