Madonna The Celebration Tour review – The Queen of Pop has still got it

Madonna’s highly-anticipated The Celebration Tour kicked off at London’s O2 Arena this week, just four months after a health scare sent the Queen of Pop to intensive care.

“No one is more surprised that I’ve made it this far,” the 65-year-old admits after opening the 47-strong set list with Nothing Really Matters (1998).

The first part of the nostalgic show took the sold-out crowd back to Madge’s origin story with the aid of RuPaul’s Drag Race winner, Bob the Drag Queen.

Footage of a youthful Madonna was projected onto screens as she arrived in New York City from her birthplace Michigan “broke, starving and homeless” with just $35 to her name.

Flexing her acting skills, Madonna recreates her failure to gain entry to the famous Paradise Garage club and then plays an electric guitar solo of Burning Up (1983), as she did on stage at Manhattan rock joint, CBGB, in early 1980.

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She then delighted the crowd with dance numbers to iconic tracks Holiday (1983), Into the Groove (1985) and Open Your Heart (1986), which sounded fantastic and kept Madonna dancing with conviction, despite needing knee support due to an injury on her left leg.

The next section took the crowd on a journey through the eras with the stage transforming into the religious iconography synonymous with Like A Prayer (1989) including dancers emulating the crucifixion of Jesus.

In a nod to her Blond Ambition tour, Madonna removed her hooded cloak to unveil a red, satin negligee over fishnet tights and knee-high boots. For Erotica (1992) and Justify My Love (1990), Madonna writhed on a velvet bed at the centre of the stage for an explicit display with a cone-bra-wearing dancer resembling the star during the 1990 concert.

The raunchiness was then amped up for her 2005 banger Hung Up. Madonna danced amidst a swarm of topless dancers, one of whom she pulled in for a passionate snog, before Bob The Drag Queen returned for a lively drag ball for her 1990 smash hit Vogue.

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Fans will have been expecting a spectacular show, and that was delivered tenfold, but what may have come as a surprise was the amount of heart.

At one point, Madonna became visibly emotional as she floated 30 feet above the audience while singing her 1986 tear-jerker Live to Tell as images of those lost to the AIDS epidemic were projected on the screens. They included her friend Martin Burgoyne, artist Keith Haring, cabaret singer John Sex and Queen’s Freddie Mercury.

Nods to those who have died continued to be a theme throughout the two-hour set. Excerpts of Prince’s tracks I Would Die 4 U and Let’s Go Crazy preceded an In Memoriam featuring the likes of David Bowie and Sinead O’Connor.

A mash-up of Like A Virgin (1984) and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean (1983) later played as Madonna’s tutu-wearing silhouette danced with Jackson’s. The pair famously dated in the early 1990s.

There was also an insight into Madonna as a mother. Her daughter Mercy James, 17, whom Madonna adopted in 2009, left the crowd speechless with her incredible piano instrumental for Bad Girl (1992). 11-year-old Estere also stole the show as she vogued on stage to her mother’s classic hit.

David Banda, 18, later floated above her playing the guitar during Mother and Father – Madonna’s 2003 song about the death of her mother when she was just five-years-old.

The show wrapped up with a montage of infamous moments throughout her career and her defiant statements “to age is a sin” and “the most controversial thing I’ve done is stick around”.

The spectacular finale saw Madge soar back into the air for a laser-filled performance of Ray Of Light (1998) before closing the show with its namesake, Celebration (2009).

It is refreshing to see Madonna – a woman renowned for constantly reinventing herself – looking back and celebrating her legendary career. This show is the perfect reminder of why she is the Queen of Pop.

Madonna, undeniably, changed the world and the sheer variety of people in the crowd – from all generations, genders and backgrounds – shows just how much everlasting influence this woman has.

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