Sticky & Sweet Tour press - Europe 2008

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Madonna wows Lisbon crowds

Source: The Online Resident - Lisbon - 14 Sep. 2008

Performing Candy Shop in LisbonMadonna, the world's biggest female pop icon today, proved that she still has what it takes to put on a show in Lisbon on Sunday.

Madonna fever had been building steadily in the preceding days with commercial radio stations doing retrospectives of her career to date all weekend.

Bona fide tickets had sold out within days long ago, although ticket touts were still peddling them for enormous sums, as much as 150 euros in some cases, outside the venue.

Those that decided on getting a good pitch had queued outside the turnstiles at Bela Vista Park since the early morning to see the Queen of white trash pop strut her stuff and judging by the 80,000 audience reaction, Madge didn't disappoint.

The stage was designed in a t-shaped runway-come-catwalk to enable her fans to better see the ageing but still-looking-fabulous icon, although the vast majority of the crowd had to make do with massive screens in front of and around the stage flanked by two enormous red letter 'Ms'.

One thing no-one can deny is that Madge is a performer, the consummate artist who puts on a show.

No one seriously suggests she can sing of course, but her ability to foresee trends and constantly invent herself has kept her at the top for nearly 30 years.

And what a show – 16 dancers, 12 anthems, and dazzling costume displays from some of the best designers in the world.

Performing Human Nature in LisbonMadge served up a selection from her latest album Hard Candy dressed in a black leather basque with knee-high boots, slumped imperiously and provocatively on a gold throne as if to say here I am and I'm still Queen.

Then came Candy Shop as she sensually stroked her black boots like a dominatrix in a show that was divided in four distinct parts: Pimp, Old School, Gipsy and Rave.

Vogue and Like A Prayer followed before a cream-coloured vintage car rolled onto stage to steal the show with white top-hatted Madge surrounded by dancers firmly in the driving seat, taking the audience on a sweet journey to delirious delight.

Other hits served up included Human Nature with Britney Spears in a lift visible in a video on the large screens, Die Another Day, Into The Groove, Borderline, La Isla Bonita and Like A Prayer.

The atmosphere was upbeat but not out of control, the crowd respectful and reverent, middle-aged, married, with kids, just to remind us that Madge, despite her various incarnations over the years, firmly belongs in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Madonna still reigns as pop queen

Source: This is London - London - 11 Sep. 2008

Much has happened to Madonna since her last full London show in 2006: the rumours of marital strife; the adoption of an African child; the dogged continuation of her kabbalah hobby; a far from awful album; a couple of awful films. More significant is what didn't happen: nobody came close to usurping her day job as queen of pop. Last night showed why.

Performing She's Not Me in LondonThe Sticky & Sweet Tour is her eighth world jaunt. It's less overtly sexual than its predecessors, but like them it's an all-singing, allleaping, thrillingly choreographed extravaganza.

She may have started 40 minutes late, she may play some of the most feeble guitar this side of Guy Ritchie at his 40th birthday party on Wednesday and her exhausting dance routines may have strangely little effect on her vocals, but her crown still fits snugly.

How the 50-year-old kept the punishing pace up I'll never know. Even watching her was exhausting as she vogued on, yes, Vogue, skipped with a skipping rope on a brilliantly re-invigorated Into The Groove and pogoed like a giddy teenager on Ray Of Light.

Beyond the eye-popping spectacle, the woman with one of the richest catalogues in popular music laboured under the delusion that an audience including Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson wanted to hear nine of her new album's 12 tracks. Obviously they didn't, although the adultery victim's lament She's Not Me (introduced with a curt "did you ever have a girlfriend who wanted to fuck your boyfriend?") was gloriously truculent, Spanish Lesson a Carmenesque finger clicker and the tick-tocking 4 Minutes delivered as if the world really did end this week.

When she did look back, she soared. Bravely, everything was reinvented and hopefully one day she'll do a whole tour featuring radical reworkings of her hits. The hitherto flimsy Borderline and the mighty Hung Up were given new and frankly superior identities as surprisingly convincing rock anthems; the ever-wondrous La Isla Bonita was recast as the ferocious, fiddle-crazed soundtrack to a bacchanalian gypsy wedding and Like A Prayer was remodelled as a thumping house anthem.

"I'd like to thank God that it didn't f****** rain," she muttered, as a sort of farewell benediction, before rubbing a guitar between her legs with the gusto of a woman half her age. She remains untouchable. All hail. [rating: 4/5 stars]

Madonna rocks Dusseldorf

Source: Celebrity Gossip - Dusseldorf - 04 Sep. 2008

Following a quick tour break in order to support her hubby's London premiere of his new film "RocknRolla," Madonna was back onstage last night with her Sticky & Sweet gig.

This time the Material Girl found herself in the German city of Dusseldorf, playing to a sold-out audience and having a marvelous time.

Beat Goes On in Dusseldorf Beat Goes On in Dusseldorf Beat Goes On in Dusseldorf Beat Goes On in Dusseldorf Human Nature in Dusseldorf Human Nature in Dusseldorf Human Nature in Dusseldorf Human Nature in Dusseldorf

And it sounds like Madge's daughter has chosen the Jonas Brothers' concert next Thursday over her own mother's show when it comes to London on the same night.

Of 11-year-old Lourdes, a source told press, "She's a massive fan of the boys. She gets to see mum all the time so she's asked to do this instead."

Mama don't preach

Source: The Observer/Guardian - Nice - 26 Aug. 2008

Candy Shop in NiceUsually, the first few dates of a world tour staged by Michigan's biggest export since the automobile are rife with controversy. Last time around, for 2006's Confessions tour, Madonna hung herself from a glittering black cross. For 1990's Blond Ambition tour, it was simulated masturbation. Catholic authorities usually make banning noises when Madonna's visa request comes in.

But this year's Sticky & Sweet world tour feels different. Less sticky, perhaps, even though this is a hot French summer night, and the gig-goers of Nice scoff waffles and doughnuts. The outrage is minimal. Throughout the two hours of her show, watched by Nice's mayor and Elton John, she fakes one orgasm, kisses a female doppelganger on the lips, calls us motherfuckers and says: 'Mon fesse' (my arse) in ropey French. That's about it for fluids'n'sacrilege, two formerly key ingredients of a Madonna globetrot. The tour began in Cardiff last weekend not with a bang but with a grumble. She came on late. Tonight, the screens fail for a song and a half and a guitar is out of tune for a bit. No scandal here, just technical hitches, for which she politely apologises.

Is it that Madonna, now 50, has finally grown up? Is it a newfound piety instilled by kabbalah? Perhaps. But after a quarter of a century of provocation, we are now probably unshockable. Madonna would have to fellate a donkey while dressed as the Pope to get cab drivers tutting now.

Beat Goes On in Nice - click to enlargeNo, the hoopla this time is merely political. Republican senator John McCain has objected to being part of a montage of world ills that obliquely aligns him with war, famine, pestilence and Nazi Germany, while his Democratic rival Barack Obama ends the sequence elided to Gandhi, John Lennon, icecream and fluffy bunnies (well, not quite, but you get the idea). This is the 'Get Stupid' sequence of the gig, in which video projections of Madonna lecture us about imminent Armageddon, while the real, sinewy thing executes one of her umpteen costume changes elsewhere. Pop concerts are obviously not the best arena for nuanced political debate but, even by stadium standards, this is a point too crudely made.

Moreover, Live Nation, Madonna's concert promoters, have issued a guide to Sticky & Sweet, listing the quantity of freezers, trampolines and lipstick used on tour. While it's nice to learn of some gofer trawling eBay for vintage pantyhose for Mrs Ritchie and dancers (100 pairs), this litany of products, designers and equipment feels de trop. One fan here has T-shirt that reads: 'Liberté, égalité, jet privé', a French philosophical discourse Madonna might readily subscribe to.

Still, we do not come to Madonna for dignified austerity, and the Sticky & Sweet tour delivers on visuals, pace and sheer physicality. Divided into four suites, each with its own theme, the show radically remixes old favourites and showcases the newer songs from her Hard Candy album. Candy Shop and Beat Goes On kick off with Madonna on a throne and in a retro convertible car, all soundtracked by some headily futuristic R&B. Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Kanye West (and, later, Justin Timberlake and Britney) all do their guest bits on giant video screens while Madonna and troupe contort below.

In the absence of stickiness, perhaps the sweetest segment of the night is the homage to Eighties New York. Into The Groove is reinvented in a blizzard of hip hop scratching while Madonna skips between two ropes, double-Dutch style. On the screens, Keith Haring visuals mirror the skipping below. In his memoir, Madonna's brother Christopher Ciccone accuses his sister of forgetting her gay roots since marrying Guy Ritchie, whom he portrays as a casual homophobe. So it is nice to see Haring's work onstage and the loyal gangs of gay men, lesbians and transsexuals out in support tonight.

Human Nature in Nice - click to enlargeLess successful is the Gypsy interlude, where Madonna follows her infatuation with New York gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello to its logical conclusion. La Isla Bonita is transported many miles to the east, with Madonna gripping a rose in her teeth and galumphing alongside Romany musicians and dancers.

To be fair, she becomes more respectful, taking a break from centre-stage to watch them perform 'Doli Doli', a Romanian folk song. But it all ends with You Must Love Me, Madonna playing guitar on a stool and laboriously enunciating the Evita number. It is ghastly.

Indeed, whenever Madonna picks up a guitar - which is often - the songs wilt a little. As the loveliness of Ray Of Light disappears under the groans of Madonna's axe, she increasingly recalls Courtney Love, who was, for a time, grunge's Madonna. Of course, she can't be all-disco, all the time, but Madonna is always at her finest singing about dancing while doing just that. So Give It 2 Me - with its added cheesy rave stabs - brings the fourth quarter to a euphoric end. The body is where Madonna's true genius lies; all the head stuff is just a distraction.

Remains unrivalled and undefeated

Source: Times Online - Cardiff - 23 Aug. 2008

Music in Cardiff - click to enlargeHours before Madonna launched her Sticky & Sweet world tour in Cardiff last night, the phenomenal pulling power of history's biggest female pop star was evident for miles around. Heavy traffic tailbacks clogged main roads into the city, while a carnival atmosphere prevailed near the venue, where stallholders enjoyed a brisk trade in pink furry cowboy hats and feather boas. I am still wearing mine.

Never mind that the Millennium Stadium was only two-thirds full, or that tout tickets were changing hands nearby for half the original £90 asking price. And never mind that the diva kept us waiting so long (she was more than an hour late) that the excitable crowd eventually began to boo loudly. Yet when she finally arrived, her amazingly taut 50-year-old body wrapped in skimpy burlesque gear and shiny top hat, the sheer totalitarian spectacle silenced all doubters.

The two-hour show was divided into four chapters: Pimp, Old School, Gypsy and Rave. As ever with Madonna, dazzling theatrical touches abounded. Most were achieved using brilliantly programmed, billboard-sized, mobile video screens that allowed her to duet with Britney, Kanye and Pharrell – and to dance with no fewer than three virtual Justin Timberlakes. Early in the set, a vintage car materialised during the deluxe disco anthem Beat Goes On, gliding up and down a catwalk protruding into the audience. Fantastic.

Later, during Spanish Lesson, Maddy's dance troupe appeared as hooded monks, eventually shedding their robes to reveal brightly hued matador outfits. This jumble of costume changes and disconnected images was often confusing: one minute we were watching a slightly scaled-down version of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, the next a stage musical of "The Da Vinci Code".

Maddy's latest album, Hard Candy, accounted for nine out of the 22 numbers played. It is a decent record, well received both critically and commercially, but it takes a hefty dose of misplaced self-belief to favour bland filler such as Heartbeat or She's Not Me over Like A Virgin, Material Girl, Justify My Love, Cherish or half a dozen more niggling omissions.

You Must Love Me in Cardiff - click to enlargeThroughout the show, Madonna self-consciously referenced the 1980s Manhattan which shaped her early career. There were robotic dancers in glittery crash helmets – Daft Punk meets Damien Hirst – plus chunky hip-hop beats and computer-game graphics galore. Into The Groove and Music came backed by animated Keith Haring artwork and a superbly realised, graffiti-splattered New York subway train. Meanwhile, Maddy and her team sported Day-Glo legwarmers and performed synchronised skipping-rope dance routines. Highly impressive, in a "Kids from Fame" kind of way.

The boldest digression of the evening was the Gypsy section, a full-blooded campfire singalong affair. For La Isla Bonita and You Must Love Me, the latter taken from the musical Evita, Madonna gathered a band of fiery acoustic players around her, led by Alexander Kolpakov, director of the Russian folk music and dance ensemble Via Romen. Clearly her recent fascination with the gypsy-punks Gogol Bordello has left its mark.

Of course, this kind of musical tourism could easily be dismissed as tacky tokenism, a cheap holiday in someone else's mystery. But in reality it was audacious, surprising and rather splendid. Madonna should consider an entire tour or album featuring gypsy-folk arrangements of her greatest hits.

Less convincing were the grating interludes in which she strapped on a guitar to play mildly raucous, ersatz garage-rock versions of classic singles, including Borderline and Hung Up. Oh dear. Not that revved-up riffs should be the sole preserve of male rockers, but Madonna's flirtation with power chords and feedback had all the plastic-punk conviction of Mel C or Kelly Osbourne.

Equally disappointing was the lack of vintage Maddy scandal. There were no mock crucifixions, no simulated lesbian orgies, almost no gratuitous swear words. Instead, we were treated to earnest but meaningless video montages of Al Gore, Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi and – inevitably – Barack Obama. Woolly sentiments prevailed. No religious groups were offended in the making of this show.

Closing with an oddly anticlimactic Give It 2 Me, Sticky & Sweet is an archetypal 21st-century Madonna tour: hugely impressive, technically slick, musically uneven, and slightly soulless. Compared to other recent mega-shows in comparable venues, such as those by Prince or Leonard Cohen, it lacks warmth and wit. But in the premier league of sense-battering, unit-shifting, song-and-dance spectaculars, the robot queen of pop remains unrivalled and undefeated.

Madonna plays Wembley Stadium, London, on September 11.

Madonna seemed to have a point to prove

Source: - Cardiff - 23 Aug. 2008

A week after turning 50, when most of her peers would still be shaking off a hangover, the untiring pop star performed the first of 51 shows across Europe and America.

The tour promotes Madonna's current album Hard Candy, which topped the charts when it was released in April.

Human Nature in Cardiff - click to enlargeShe opened with two fast-paced tracks from it, making her entrance to Candy Shop on board a moving throne, legs spread open. Her voice sounded shaky as she strutted across the stage in a Givenchy-designed one-piece, fishnets and knee high boots.

Establishing the gangsta-pimp theme of the first quarter of the show, a cane-wielding Madonna was joined on stage by dancers in raunchy bondage–style costumes.

The "Old School" phase of the show was much more fun and Madonna seemed on surer ground. It kicked off with an energetic performance of Into The Groove with schoolyard skipping rope dance routine that hinted at how the muscular star maintains her remarkable physique.

Other re-workings of her old hits included a guitar-heavy rock version of Borderline and striking New York subway train visuals on the track Music.

There were times when Madonna seemed strained and she lacked the effortless confidence of previous years. In the opening half of the show, she struggled to involve the crowd, who responded half-heartedly to her newer tracks. Her voice was stronger when she wasn't attempting to keep up with her dance troupe.

But the energy picked up during La Isla Bonita, when she skipped around the stage at the head of a procession of violin players. The pace continued with a high-energy, crowd-pleasing rendition of Hung Up.

Sticky & Sweet is Madonna's first world tour since she hit the road in 2006 with Confessions— the highest grossing tour by a female artist.

Two years later, Madonna's biceps are no smaller and, with the news that 100 pairs of fishnet pantyhose have been procured from eBay for the artist, her costumes no less raunchy.

Ricardo Tisci of Givenchy, Stella McCartney and Roberto Cavalli are among the 36 designers who have contributed to the tour wardrobe.

With tickets for last night's Cardiff gig costing between £65 and £160, it will be no surprise if this extravagant production by the world's most successful female recording artist of all time goes on to break more records.

Hail Madonna, the Queen of Pop!

Source: WalesOnline - Cardiff - 23 Aug. 2008

Madonna secured her title as Queen of Pop by entering the stage on a throne for the first night of her world tour.

Beat Goes On in Cardiff - click to enlargeThe 50-year-old, wearing a sparkly black one-piece outfit designed by Givenchy, was surrounded by dancers in top hats and tails as she kicked off the Sticky and Sweet tour at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium tonight.

Appropriately enough, the first track – greeted by screams from thousands of fans – was Candy Shop.

The black sequinned outfit was accessorised with knee high boots, fishnet tights and a sparkly cane.

The show was advertised to start at 7.30pm but did not get under way until 9.10pm, when giant video screens showed images of pink and white sweets being made to a soundtrack snatches of Madonna songs.

Madonna's husband, film director Guy Ritchie, and children Lourdes, Rocco and David, were amongst those in the 40,000-strong audience.

Madonna then got into a white car that came onto the stage for Beat Goes On and was driven down a catwalk into the sea of fans.

Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, who feature on Madonna's latest album Hard Candy, made appearances on video screens.

But their roles were trumped by that of troubled star Britney Spears, who appeared on screens in a montage that showed her trapped in a lift dressed in a hooded top and dark glasses for the next track, Human Nature.

Britney whispered the lines "express yourself, don't repress yourself" as the CCTV-style footage showed her desperately trying to get out of the lift before lying down on the floor.

Madonna herself wore a white top hat and played a guitar during the track.

The Britney film ended with the younger singer escaping, taking off her glasses and smiling, as Madonna said: "It's Britney, b****."

She's Not Me in Cardiff - click to enlargeFans were then treated to a raunchy version of Vogue, which saw dancers in bondage-style clothing and black face masks contorting at the front of the stage. The song itself was given a makeover, mixed with a sample of one of her latest hits, 4 Minutes.

Into The Groove was delivered with a high-energy dance treatment that saw dancers in 1980s hip-hop clothing.

Madonna, showing the energy of a woman decades younger than her, joined in a skipping contest with them and even briefly pole-danced.

As well as showcasing her more recent, urban-inspired hits, the show featured radical reworkings of classic Madonna songs, including a hard rock version of Borderline.

Madonna took to the stage with a pink guitar, which she played throughout the darker, heavy metal rendition of the song.

The 1984 song, rarely performed live, was received with loud cheers from the audience.

La Isla Bonita was given a Flamenco-style twist, as Madonna performed accompanied by Romanian musicians and hand claps from her fans.

The star paid homage to her chameleon style in She's Not Me, in which dancers dressed as four of her previous incarnations, including the Material Girl and Blond Ambition tour eras.

A high-energy version of Music, part of the Old School segment of the show, saw Madonna take part in a dance-off on the stage, with graphics showing a New York subway train covered in bright graffiti.

Despite being given a rapturous reception as she left the stage, Madonna was given a mixed review by fans after the show.

Hung Up in Cardiff - click to enlargeUna Magill, 30, from Belfast, said: "It just wasn't as good as her last tour.

"I think the audience was a bit quiet. There was no drive from the crowd."

Her brother Marc, 27, also of Belfast, said: "It should have been more of a stand-out performance, seeing as it was her first night."

Susan Harvey, 49, of Whitchurch, Cardiff, said: "I expected her to say thank you to us, considering we came along for the opening night.

"Her singing was good, but there was no interaction."

Ruth Henson, 24, who works in human resources in London, said: "Madonna was absolutely fantastic, but the Cardiff crowd completely let her down.

"We enjoyed it to the max though, and Madonna, considering she's now 50, is so fit. She did a really good job."

Taj Tabbah, 27, from London, who had previously seen Madonna 14 times, said: "I think the fans who have been grumbling about the show are the older ones who aren't as keen to get into the new songs.

"I thought it was amazing. She has such a lot of energy.

"It was a very diverse show, with lots of different things going on.

"It started fun and light-hearted, but then there was the heavy political moment, followed by 4 Minutes, when she says there's only four minutes to save the world, which was brilliant."

Sarah Pearson, 27, of Aberystwyth, south Wales, said: "It was fantastic. I danced the whole way through it.

"I paid £250 to get into the golden circle without having to queue, but it was well worth it."

Can't stop courting controversy

Source: AP via Yahoo - Cardiff - 23 Aug. 2008

Even at 50, the queen of pop just can't stop courting controversy.

As Madonna kicked off her international Sticky and Sweet tour Saturday night, she took a none-too subtle swipe at the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president.

Vogue in Cardiff - click to enlargeAmid a four-act show at Cardiff's packed Millennium Stadium, a video interlude carried images of destruction, global warming, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Zimbabwe's authoritarian President Robert Mugabe — and U.S. Senator John McCain. Another sequence, shown later, pictured slain Beatle John Lennon, followed by climate activist Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi and finally McCain's Democratic rival Barack Obama.

The rest of the show had the usual Madonna fixtures: sequins, fishnets, and bondage-style outfits drawn from the 3,500 items of clothing reportedly whipped together by 36 designers specifically for the tour. Dancers sauntered across stage in top hats and tail coats, and Madonna tried her hand at break-dancing and pole-dancing.

Some 40,000 fans — many in pink cowboy hats and boas — were treated to a heavy metal version of Borderline, while La Isla Bonita served as backdrop for a flamenco routine. The show, billed as a musical mishmash of "gangsta pimp," Romanian folk, rave, and dance — was an homage to Madonna's continuous reinventions over the past three decades.

She took a playful take on her variegated career, mocking dancers dressed as her previous incarnations — including the Material Girl and Blond Ambition — before they sank into the stage to the tune of She's Not Me. Madonna finished off the concert with her thumping Give It 2 Me from her new urban-inspired album, Hard Candy.

Candy Shop in Cardiff - click to enlargeIf the world's top-selling female recording artist is still writhing, shaking and shimmying with the best of them, her personal life has recently been unsettled. Earlier this summer her brother Christopher Ciccone published a gossipy memoir, and she has faced speculation about her relationship with New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriquez and rumors that her marriage to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie is on the rocks — which she hotly denies.

Madonna's tour was eagerly anticipated in Britain, where the pop superstar has made her home, and fans weren't disappointed.

"We enjoyed it to the max," said Ruth Henson, 24, who works in human resources in London. "Madonna, considering she's now 50, is so fit. She did a really good job."

Following Cardiff's opening concert, Sticky and Sweet moves across Europe, hitting London's Wembley Stadium on Sept. 11 and Paris on Sept. 20. From there, it goes to North America in October before wrapping up Dec. 18 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It is Madonna's first tour since striking a deal with concert promoter Live Nation Inc. worth an estimated $120 million over 10 years. The partnership gives Live Nation a stake of future music and music-related business she generates, including touring, merchandising and albums. Madonna's last tour was her 2006 Confessions— in which she staged a mock crucifixion only a few miles (kilometers) from the Vatican.

Madge was late, but worth the wait

Source: The Observer/Guardian - Cardiff - 23 Aug. 2008

Madonna may have turned 50, but the opening show of her world tour in Cardiff proved the queen of pop is still into the groove.

La Isla Bonita in Cardiff - click to enlargeLynne, wearing her best silky cowboy shirt and pink, flashing angel wings, is outraged. 'It's bollocks, that's what it is,' she said. 'One and a half hours late and she still hasn't bothered to come on stage? It's disrespectful. I've driven down two hours from Birmingham. This just isn't right.'

In the semi-filled Cardiff Millennium Stadium, Lynne is not alone in her frustration. At 8pm last night, after an hour's wait, the crowd tried to encourage Madonna on to the stage with cheers and whoops. By 9pm, after two hours' wait, the boos began; starting cautiously in the stands but quickly gaining deafening momentum throughout the stadium.

'I didn't pay £75 for the joy of sitting on a cold, concrete floor, eating hot dogs,' said Tom Allan, one of the most enthusiastic of the booing brigade. 'I do my job properly, why can't she?'
Finally, at 9.10pm the lights went down and the crowd leapt to its feet, instantly forgiving the Queen of Pop as a giant screen appeared and the Material Girl herself burst onto the stage, throwing her heart and soul into confounding and exceeding fans' expectations yet again.

The long-awaited Sticky and Sweet tour had begun.

'This is more like it!' Lynne screamed. 'This is what I came for. I never doubted her really. Madonna rocks. There's no one like her. No one. She's an icon. Her best is yet to come.'

On a stage bookended by two enormous Ms filled with £1m-worth of Swarovski crystals, the world's most successful female recording artist of all time leapt, trampolined and pole-danced with an energy that pulled the audience into her pocket.

Human Nature in Cardiff - click to enlargeA past master at seducing and enthralling her fans, she introduced a whole new definition of 'audience participation' by skipping with a glittering rope in time to their ecstatic rendition of 'Into the Groove'.

With the help of Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, Yves Saint Laurent and Roberto Cavalli, not to mention 12 trampolines and 100 pairs of fishnet stockings, Madonna launched her eighth world concert tour at the 74,600-seat Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Having turned 50 last weekend, Madonna remains defiant amid rumours about the state of her marriage to film director Guy Ritchie, gossip fanned by a warts-and-all biography by her younger brother, Christopher Ciccone, in which he claims that the couple only stay together with the help of a marriage-counselling rabbi.

Swatting such carping aside with the aplomb of the ultimate showgirl, she has crafted a show of exuberance that conceals a tightly controlled narrative. In a micro-managed, four-part stage set, the singer takes fans on a whistlestop tour of the stages of her career.

Those roots go back to when the aspiring singer reportedly showed up in New York City with just $35 in her pocket. Yet three decades on she is still writhing, shaking and shimmying in the limelight.

The Material Girl opens the two-hour spectacle dressed in the first of her eight outfits, 'a mashed-up homage to gangsta pimp and Art Deco'. The first set is a nod to her early years as a new-wave disco nymphette who made her name as a performer more respected in her first British performance at Manchester's Haçienda nightclub for her bravura than her ability to hold a note.

Pausing to transform herself from a Givenchy-clad, dominatrix-style gangsta pimp into a Gothic goddess, Madonna references her early days as part of the Eighties New York dance scene with songs including Into The Groove and Borderline.

Give It 2 Me in Cardiff - click to enlargeA brief 'Romanian folk interlude' features a paean to Romany romance, featuring three gypsy musicians playing tracks including Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, Spanish Lesson, Miles Away and La Isla Bonita on acoustic guitars. Madge presides over this section in a black Gothic-style Givenchy cloak, peeled off to reveal a flowery top, baggy skirt and knee-high boots.

The evening has nine of the 12 songs on her 11th studio album, Hard Candy, which went straight to the top of the charts in 31 countries. It culminates in a grand finale focusing on what could be described as Madge's 'post-imperial' phase: a futuristic, Japanese-influenced rave set in which she sports diamond-studded trousers, a colourful throw top and black vest, singing hits including 4 Minutes, Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light, Hung Up and Give It 2 Me.

Arianne Phillips, a Strictly Come Dancing judge and friend of Madonna, who helped to design the look of last night's extravaganza, said the singer had been determined to produce a show as spectacularly steamy as possible.

Having reached her half-century, the singer might now travel with her own chiropractor, personal trainer and masseuse, but Phillips had been quoted as saying: 'Getting older has had little effect on her sense of fashion adventure. She may have turned 50, but has no plans to tone it down. This is going to blow everyone away.'

From Cardiff, the show will cross Europe and the Americas, finishing in São Paulo on 18 December.

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