As Madonna continues her monthslong journey across the globe and back through her career with her Celebration Tour, pop icon Sir Elton John is ready to give the 'Ray of Light' singer her flowers.
In a post to his Instagram on Thursday (Oct. 26), John shared a photo from Madonna’s tour, showing the singer standing in a floating rectangle as the faces of thousands of people who died throughout the HIV/AIDS crisis swirled around the stage. John took a moment to praise his peer for bringing visibility to an ongoing issue.
"We're deeply moved by the heartfelt tribute from @madonna during her Celebration Tour performance of 'Live to Tell', honouring the 40.4 million people we've lost to AIDS," John wrote in the caption. "Thank you, Madonna, for your advocacy and compassion, and for raising important awareness of the ongoing mission to end AIDS. With 39 million people living with HIV today, 9.4 million of whom are not currently on life-saving treatment, we must keep using our voices and platforms to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live full and healthy lives."
Both John and Madonna have been vocal advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS over the years. John started the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 as a means of raising money for research into a cure for the retrovirus. Madonna, meanwhile, has spoken out as a vocal advocate for HIV/AIDS research since the 1980s, when she was one of the first celebrities to lend her support to patients living through the outset of the epidemic.
Queen of Pop Madonna seems to be unreachable when it comes to music sales.
The iconic American singer, who is currently touring the world on her Celebration Tour, has renewed her record-breaking status as the biggest-selling female recording artist.
Madonna, 65, said during an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last year that she had sold over 400 million records – albums, singles and digital – during her career.
While precise sales figures are difficult to obtain, it's widely acknowledged that only The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson have sold more records worldwide, making Madonna the best-selling female singer.
Even more impressively, she's held this record since 2009, with no one else coming close to beating her.
Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé make up the rest of the top five.
Madonna is also the highest-grossing female touring artist, having made a box-office gross of $1,389,746,222 (£1,157,136,058) from her tours, as of July 2022.
She's ranked fifth overall, behind The Rolling Stones, U2, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen, but of course, her figure will soon increase thanks to her latest outing.
Her Sticky & Sweet tour in 2008-09 was the highest-grossing music tour by a female artist after it made $411 million (then £252.9 million).
Madonna has been having a great time on her latest tour, posting thank you messages to the cities she's performed in.
She called the opening night in London "an evening I will never forget" and thanked Antwerp for "shining your light for me".
These world records are just three of the many titles Madonna has claimed – here's a rundown of the rest:
• Highest-ranked female on Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Artists” chart – overall No.2 behind The Beatles
• First act to have 50 US No.1s on one Billboard chart
• Most No.1s on the US Dance Club Songs chart – 50
For the second night in Antwerp, my friends and I had standing tickets and we managed to secure a good spot at the Uptown catwalk. It was almost 22:00 when M finally rose up to the stage.
It might've been because I was standing closer but she seemed to be in a better mood than yesterday. No comments on her health this time. Before 'I Will Survive' she addressed the recent death of her brother Anthony, whom she called a great teacher. She said her art teacher in school told her to stop painting and go to New York, because "you're a showgirl!".
Our favourite Music Director Stuart Price was the Ballroom Judge for the night, who happily donned 10s across the board to the sexy dancers.
After kicking off her Celebration Tour with 4 shows at the London O2 Arena, Madonna has brought her show to Antwerp, Belgium this weekend.
It's only the 4th time in her career that Madonna has toured this country, with earlier stops in 2009, 2012 and 2015. There's quite a lot of attention going to her visit, the press writes about her staying at the fancy Botanic Sanctuary hotel in Antwerp (how fitting can a hotel name be for Madonna?), and that additional security precautions have been taken, due to the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict, and a terrorist attack in the capital only days ago.
As the clock passes by 20.45, the crowd started to get unruly. A while later, Live Nation displays a message that the show will start at 21.30, to which some boos are heard. It's at 21.38 that Bob the Drag Queen makes his way through the standing crowd (it's the first show that doesn't have seats around the catwalks). The second Madonna appears on stage everyone in the seats is also on their feet.
The crowd is at times rather quiet, but especially the bigger dance hits such as Into The Groove and Open Your Heart have everyone singing along. Madonna doesn't speak of the Middle East conflict, but does say a few words about her health and her mother. She's very emotional when saying she feels guilty for getting another chance at life while her mother didn't. A fan breaks the meotional silence with a loud "We love you, Madonna'" which prompts loud applause and cheers, as M smiles and thanks us for the support. A bit disturbing is when she says she's still not feeling well, but that she "can't complain because at least she's still alive".
Those emotional moments are in high contrast with the high energy dance performances. She's incredible in Ray Of Light, bringing energy to the entire arena. She praises the two incredible Belgian choreographers that are touring with her, Damien Jalet and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Damien is also the Ballroom Judge of the evening.
A few days after Madonna's The Celebration Tour kicked off at London's O2 Arena to a sold-out crowd and rave reviews, the tour's music producer Stuart Price – previously a part of the pop icon's orbit as the co-producer on her high-BPM classic Confessions on a Dance Floor – welcomed Billboard into his London studio.
The English producer/DJ's flat is in the thick of the fashionable Notting Hill district — close enough to the action that during the annual Notting Hill Carnival, Price says "the alarms in the studio always go off because there's all these bass systems pummeling through the walls."
The second-floor recording studio is a clean, neatly arranged space dotted with guitars, comfortable chairs and a cornucopia of electronics, much of it vintage (at least by the ever-shifting standards of technology). As we speak, Price is seated next to the wood-paneled board he used to mix Confessions; not far from it casually rests the $250 microphone that Madonna used to record a number of songs for that 2005 LP.
With no live band backing Madonna's 78-date trek – her original recordings take center stage on this tour — Price's role as music producer has afforded him more opportunities for input and innovation than someone in the same role might have on another pop star's tour. To that end, The Celebration Tour includes sonic Easter eggs and clever references for the faithful to parse as they're engulfed in an aural and sensory journey through the life and art of Madonna.
For as much time and thought as Price has put into the Celebration Tour, he's certain it pales in comparison to what the Queen of Pop has invested in it. "As much as Madonna demands of anyone working with her, she demands that much of herself as well," Price tells Billboard. "It's always in the pursuit of, 'How can we improve this? How can we aid the arc of the show?' It's nice to have a show you can unpack whether through memories or during a second visit. It's a show that can keep giving."
Of a tour that covers four decades of classics – and is notably her first tour not in support of a new album – Price opines that, "It's impossible to look back without looking forward." Referring to the airborne platform that permits Madonna to float above the crowd during "Live to Tell" and "Ray of Light," he explains, "That's why there's a window frame in the show. That window frame is about reflecting backwards and reflecting forward as well."
From providing glimpses into his creative process with Madonna to revealing certain audio Easter eggs that pop up during the show to potential setlist changes, here's what Stuart Price told Billboard about working on Madonna's The Celebration Tour.
I'm going to start with a granular question. In the Celebration Tour, "Like a Prayer" is melded with bits of Sam Smith & Kim Petras' "Unholy" and her own "Act of Contrition," which features electric guitar from Prince.
The medley is inspired. Was everything from "Contrition" that appears in the tour from the album? There were some parts of the Prince solo where I was listening and thinking, "I don't quite remember this bit."
Part of the joy of working on this tour specifically was how we were going to approach featuring original recordings. It's a tour which is essentially biopic in style, documentary in style. When you see a great documentary you get archival footage, a real taste of stuff that happened at the time. Madonna's archive of multi-track recordings covers a vast era: multi-track two-inch tapes all the way through DAWs today.
When you work in a DAW today, you delete what you don't use, and the file is gone. But the old tape multi-tracks, everything was recorded and what was muted was done at the time of the mix. So if you now listen to those recordings 25 years later and have the channels open, you hear all this stuff that was not present in the final recording but is available. I used everything I could of the guitar because it's incredible.
For a tour that is connecting memories of relationships, partnerships and musical experiences, using original stuff is so important. If you're able to find stuff in that original recording that no one has ever heard, you're actually getting to peek behind the curtain.
Was there anything else like that?
There's another moment like that at the beginning of "Erotica." We were searching for atmosphere for the intro — "Erotica" begins with this big, booming bass line and we needed to fill some time. In the original multi-track to "Justify My Love," there's this great moment about 30 seconds before the song begins. Madonna gets into the vocal booth and she's waiting to record and she's getting into the mood of the song and Lenny Kravitz appears. He says something very innocent like, "We're gonna put some reverb on your voice, we're gonna f–k with you a bit." And she says, "That's okay, you can f–ck with me." It's such a great soundbite. That's a great example of this thing that's from the time but has never appeared.
The tour features music from Prince and a bit of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." I'm guessing the estates gave their blessing.
I approached everything on a musical level for the tour, I don't know relationships or how they do that.
"Billie Jean" appears in "vs" form alongside "Like a Virgin." The "Virgin" vocal struck me as slightly different from the original.
"Like a Virgin," the vocal from that is the original recording. There's a few things happening in the show. There are segues or mashups of songs where you just need to make it work. So that might involve transposition or time correction or stretching or shortening or whatever it is. When you're trying to pursue storytelling ideas through music, you should never let a technical consideration get in the way. If you do that, you're diminishing the strength of the idea. We may change the key of the song because it's better for Madonna to sing — the A note is to serve the arc of the show. There's probably elements of time crunching that happens.
Opening the show with "Nothing Really Matters" was totally unexpected, and the setlist includes a few songs she hasn't done in decades. Was the setlist locked by the time you got involved?
I first talked to Madonna about this tour in February of this year. When we first spoke at the time, she was already prepared with her full pages of setlists and ideas of exactly what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. The phone call was actually Madonna directing what the show was going to be. Her preparation is always so considered. Much is always made of Madonna's collaborators, but there's no two ways about it: She's considered everything before she even gets into the room with a collaborator. And it's fantastic to work with someone with such strong direction. So to answer your question, the setlist was almost fully realized.
On opening night, she was very candid about the bacterial infection that sent her to the hospital and postponed the tour. When she was in the hospital, did you ever wonder if the tour might not happen?
For a tour you've been working on for such a long period of time and that's had so much time invested in it — especially by Madonna — when you take a break for it, the only thing you focus on is "what's the end result of what happened here?" To me that is someone who looks so strong, so healthy, sings so great and moves so great. Your experience when you see the show is one of wonder. Not just creatively but artistically as well.
Her voice sounded amazing. And she does "Ray of Light," which is a tough one to sing, and nails it.
In terms of building the show, top of the list is got to be, "Can we make something that is enjoyable to perform? Can we make something you feel confident doing?" The number one reason for doing that is it's all about the vocals. To give a singer the platform to sing and be themselves is the number one goal. All this stuff is aimed toward, "Does Madonna feel like she can hold the microphone and really go for it and deliver on it?" I love a comment I've received from fans after the show. A couple fans go, "Is that all tape vocal?" To me, that is the biggest compliment because it's all live vocal. There's a couple of spoken word sections in the show where we just use track. But it's all live vocals; there's backing singers — there always has been — but it's all live vocals. I hope that you hear the humanness of the vocal coming across as well.
Well, you certainly knew it was live on opening night when there were sound issues on "Burning Up" — she even joked about it.
One thing I marvel at – I go to a lot of DJ shows, and what's the biggest cheer of the night? Is it the beginning of the show, the end of the show, or when the DJ accidentally knocks a fader or button and the whole thing stops, the DJ pretends it wasn't them, points somewhere else and gets this huge reaction from the audience? Because it says, "This is real. It's fragile." After eight months of rehearsal, the factor that changes is the audience. There's a heat, a bunch of extra noise, and on that night, there was a technical hitch with the computer system on "Burning Up." Whilst anyone responsible for the show is concerned, there's this other connection going on between Madonna and the audience, which is completely improvised, off the cuff and more importantly a real human connection. It's a unique human thing that happened for the night.
And it gave the audience a few minutes with her, totally unscripted, which was great. When you're watching the show now, are you still making tweaks and fixes?
Yeah. The day you lose desire to keep improving is the day you should step aside. If you're invested in something and care about it, it's impossible to be an artist and not constantly be considering how you can improve or evolve over the course of a tour.
There are a lot of clever audio moments in the show. I love when the camera is rotating around Bob the Drag Queen and we hear the "Lucky Star" synth roll as it moves. Are there any deep cuts most people won't notice?
Sure. Actually, prior to that movement, the startup noise of the show when Bob the Drag Queen comes on and says, "it's show time," there's this sort of slow-building motorized arpeggio sound. And it's building momentum like a clock or disco ball spinning faster. (It's) from the song "Lucky Star" — there's that iconic arpeggiated sound. I took that and we just stretched it out as long as we could. And then we stretched it a little bit further until we could break it down into individual component noises. So that speed-up is coming from the original "Lucky Star" arpeggio deconstructed and gradually sped up until it gets to original speed.
There's a little moment right before "Live to Tell" which is a very emotional part of the show, where there's a reference to "In This Life." When you look at her volume of work, there's gotta be more than 70 hit songs. So how do you approach 70 hit songs in a two-hour show? The answer is by creating a continuum of references, of lyrics, of melodies of as many songs as possible, whether it's a bridge or an overlay. (You hear) "In This Life" between the end of "Holiday," which is about the death of people in that era, and using it as a transition into "Live to Tell." And using a spot of "Angel" as a transition from "Billie Jean" into "Bitch I'm Madonna." That's how you collect all these songs.
When she called you up, was the decision to forgo a band already made?
Madonna, right from the start, decided she wanted to present the show in a different way. And she wanted to do it in ways that were noteworthy. With this tour, I thought it was fascinating that she'd decided, "I want to come out, be me, sing the songs and perform them front and center." Whilst I love having a band on stage, I thought it was an interesting idea she wanted to do for this. Within that discussion came conceptually how do we create a set of performers from original recordings. The answer was, we'll feature the recordings: we'll deconstruct them, manipulate them, reinvent, juggle and use parts that haven't been heard before.
When you get to a gallery or a museum and see a sculpture, you don't just experience it in fixed, static two dimensions; you get to walk around a sculpture and study it from different angles. Wouldn't it be exciting if we could do that with music — study it from different dimensions? Those are different ways to peer inside.
And it's pretty amazing watching her kids perform during the show. Mercy James' piano playing was so impressive.
All Madonna's children are gifted individuals and they're musically gifted. It's impressive getting to witness contributions that large in a stage show. Mercy's piano playing is just stunning. David as an individual – as a singer, as a guitar player – you get a sense of his wonderful personality, it's so infectious. Estere and Stella – same thing.
Is it possible you and Madonna could be working on new music?
You measure a working relationship not by the gaps between but by how easily you pick up again from when you left off. As soon as we started to work together on this tour, the shorthand was there. We were able to create productively. The key component of working together is "do you understand each other?" And musically, are you able to challenge as well? That's how you get the 1 + 1 = 3 outcome. So, I've really enjoyed working together again. [laughs]
Can we expect setlist changes or surprises as the tour rolls on?
I think… Madonna's reputation is for always having a highly rehearsed, highly choreographed show and she provides the element of dynamicism with her interactions. But at the same time, her mind keeps evolving and reaching further. And it's common on her tours to start to perform to audiences, feel what works and where there's an opening to do something new. It would be foolish to not take opportunities to act on inspiration. It's a long tour. Right now, what audiences are seeing is the pure form rehearsal version of the show, and as it goes on, there will be an evolution.
London's O2 Arena has an 11 p.m. curfew, and on opening night she went a bit over. What makes it difficult to start on time and hit that curfew mark? What's happening in those 15 minutes before it starts?
Yeah. Well, what goes on is preparation, preparation, preparation. Madonna is committed to always showing up on stage in a zone of confidence and inspiration. Every day before the show there's soundcheck, there is rehearsal in the soundcheck. I think being so uncompromising about making sure the show doesn't have anything that could be overlooked takes a certain amount of time. It's interesting, in my experience – I worked with Madonna [on tours] in 2001, 2004 and 2006 – the ticket always said 8:30 and she was always on by 9. And on this tour, the ticket said 8:30, and she's been on by 9. No one is delaying for delaying's sake.
What's your favorite moment in the tour?
Emotionally, the strongest moment in the show is "Live to Tell." It's powerful. It's a reminder that Madonna has soundtracked a lot of our cultural history. It's so striking because she's addressing people that have been lost, people that were friends, people that were muses and collaborators. You see them on the screen, and they're gone, and Madonna is still here, having been with those people, and now singing to them. It's hard not to feel something on a human level.
Also, when the opening happens, it's so powerful. Nothing compares to the moment when someone comes out in such strong voice, looking so powerful. It really hits you. That's what the audience will connect to – and in turn what Madonna will connect to from the crowd. That relationship is what it's all about.
I also love "Nothing Really Matters" as the show opener because of the line, "Everything I give you / all comes back to me." That seems sort of like a theme of the overall show.
The Easter egg there is the end of the song. What she did is repeat the lines "in your arms, in your arms." She says it once on the album but four times live, because that's the message.
MADONNA is in advanced talks to headline Glastonbury, The Sun can reveal.
The singer, 65, has never performed at the event and insiders say her team are plotting what would be one of the festival's biggest-ever performances.
A source said: "Negotiations are well underway between Glasto organiser Emily Eavis and Madonna's manager Guy Oseary.
"Both teams are keen to make it happen and striking a deal shouldn't be a problem.
"Emily was blown away watching Madonna perform in London and is desperate to get her on the Pyramid Stage next year."
The pop queen kicked off her Celebration Tour last weekend with sold-out shows at the capital's O2 Arena.
After watching, Emily wrote online: "She's back! Incredible."
Fans were convinced it was a sign that Madonna will be at Worthy Farm next year.
Emily — the daughter of Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis — faced criticism that this year's festival was headlined by male acts Elton John, the Arctic Monkeys and Guns N' Roses.
She said: "We did have a female headliner, and she unfortunately had to pull out . . . it changes all the time.
"But next year it's looking like we've got two female headliners, so fingers crossed."
Taylor Swift was thought to have pulled out over a change in plans.
She's the biggest-selling female recording artist of all time, a woman who's made an indelible mark on our culture, and contributed to lasting social change. But, for a long time, Madonna sustained public interest by refusing to look back on her career, insisting on maintaining a focus on present and future projects. Now – finally – she's ready to celebrate her cultural legacy. And, perhaps most importantly, to show her vulnerability.
I watched, transfixed, as Madonna performed Open Your Heart. Wearing a bustier, fishnets, and writhing around a chair, she reprised her role as a dancer from the famous 1986 video, in which she danced for an audience of gay men and a lesbian drag king. On stage she danced with gender-nonconforming performers.
It's a key moment in Madonna's Celebration tour, a sumptuous, emotive and self-referential show that not only celebrates Madonna's cultural legacy but proves that her fire is still burning, her drive is undimmed, and her rebel heart is still beating.
I saw the show in London's O2 Arena on Sunday night, but it took me back to Roundhay Park, Leeds, when Open Your Heart was the opening number in Madonna's first ever world tour, in 1987. Twelve years old, I was in the audience, a bullied gay kid struggling to find his place in the world. But I felt emboldened by the energy and attitude of the invincible warrior on stage. This was only bolstered when I saw the Blond Ambition tour in 1990, when Madonna's costumes resembled armour, and her signature look of steely defiance reached its zenith.
[Over the past 10 years] there were signs that my spirit guide was struggling to accept her changing role in the cultural landscape
Madonna saved my life. She inspired me to follow my own creative dream, drawing on my experiences in my debut novel The Madonna of Bolton. It's about a boy growing up in the 1980s who clings on to Madonna to help him survive the trauma of growing up gay – but who then needs to let go of his obsession in order to find his own voice as a writer.
But the past 10 years have been a difficult time to be a Madonna fan. There were signs that my spirit guide was struggling to accept her changing role in the cultural landscape. When she announced her new show, I – like many fans – invested a lot of hope and emotion. And Madonna has delivered a dazzling show that succeeds on the level of spectacle, stagecraft, reflection and political bite.
It opens with Nothing Really Matters, a song saying that love – and motherhood – are more important than fame. There are no distracting theatrics, just Madonna, her image and her voice – which has never sounded better. She's beautifully lit, raised on an altar and wearing a crown, offered up to the audience as a goddess. After that, the crown comes off. Madonna appears more human – and more vulnerable – than ever before.
On past tours, she moved with machine-like precision, showcasing her stamina and athleticism, never deviating from the show as rehearsed. In this show, her vulnerability could only ever be front and centre. In June, the opening North American leg of the Celebration tour was postponed when she was hospitalised with a serious bacterial infection – a brush with death that seems to have had a profound impact on her. On opening night, she commented that "the angels were protecting me". During an acoustic cover of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, she paused after the line "Did you think I'd lay down and die?" to ask the audience, "Well, did you?"
And who can forget her famous fall on stage at the Brits in 2015? She may have picked herself up, made it through the number, and ended with a triumphant fist in the air, but no-one would ever see her as invincible again.
At the age of 65, Madonna still moves – more than artists half her age – but within a limited repertoire. In the show I saw, she wore a bandage on her knee, and at one point had to stop singing when she had a coughing fit.
But what we lost in choreography, we gained in fun. Gone was the steely defiance, replaced by smiles and even laughter. In between numbers, Madonna was chatty and reflective, discussing her struggle as an artist but also her love for her children – several of whom joined her on stage. And it was great to see a warmth towards her fans coming from a star who's so often had to switch into warrior mode that she's sometimes come across as abrasive. After brutalising experiences at the hands of the press and the patriarchy – many of which are documented in this show – her barriers went up. Now she was basking in the audience's love.
And this show has much more of a narrative than past ones, beginning with her move to New York in 1978, it told the story of her life and career through music, dance, design and social activism.
Her costumes nodded to past glories, and replicas of her classic costumes were worn by dancers playing her younger self. These imitators sometimes interacted with Madonna – at one point one of them on the same red velvet bed performing in the infamous masturbation scene in Blond Ambition.
There was a sharp focus on her social activism in the show, such as her support for gay men in the 1980s. Live to Tell was performed in memory of all the men lost to Aids, beginning with her close friends, the dance teacher who inspired her to be an artist, and so many of her collaborators.
"We all have our own Madonna… we all see her as representing something different, based on what we wanted or needed when we first encountered her work"
But Madonna's greatest contribution to society has to be fighting against the double standard that allowed men to express their sexual desires but forbade women to do so. And it is a treat to hear songs like Erotica, Justify My Love and Bad Girl, and see her reclaiming that chapter of her career from the early 90s, when she became the most vilified woman in the world.
The boxers from the 1993 Girlie Show tour reappeared to remind us why she became a fighter. Perhaps the strongest political point she can make now is about ageism. Her messaging on this front hasn't always been clear enough to hit home; not so here. An interlude revisits a speech she made in 2016, proclaiming "The most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around".
Ultimately, though, the most important component of the show could only ever be the music. For the first time on a Madonna tour, there was no live band – according to musical director Stuart Price, this is to let the original recordings shine. But this is Madonna. She doesn't play by the rules. And – following the collapse of her self-directed biopic just before the Celebration tour was conceived – she was clearly determined to tell her story, her way. But maybe we all have our own Madonna: we all see her as representing something different, based on what we wanted or needed when we first encountered her work.
That 12-year-old boy could never have imagined the journey Madonna's career would follow for the next few decades. As a man, I can't imagine where it will take her next. But now that she's been brave enough to show her vulnerability, I'm excited to find out.
After revealing on Instagram Monday that an interlude at the Queen of Pop's concert used a photo of her late mother during a tribute to lives lost during the AIDS crisis, the drag superstar tells EW she was deeply moved by the gesture — and reveals how Madonna's team got ahold of the photo for the segment.
"I posted a while back about my mother passing from complications of AIDS, and this Instagram account called The Aids Memorial reposted my exact post. They share photos and stories of lives lost from this disease," Trinity tells EW. "The Aids Memorial contacted me directly to see if I was interested in allowing her to use my mother's photo. Of course, I was delighted to be asked. It's amazing that Madonna is highlighting all of these people whose lives were lost in memory of them for her entire tour!"
She adds that she has a special appreciation for the 65-year-old icon's commemorative video, and praises the fact that "Madonna is doing this for so many people" as the tour continues around the world.
Earlier, Trinity shared a photo of her mother and a screen grab from a video taken at Madonna's Celebration tour kickoff over the weekend in London.
"Thank you @madonna and @theaidsmemorial for including my mothers photo for your tour! Thank you for keeping the memory of so many people who lost their lives to AIDS, a live!!" Trinity wrote in the caption. "So many wonderful, talented people who deserved to live a full life cut short because of this epidemic! April Renee Dunaway June 10 1965 - March 26 1993."
Madonna's Celebration tour also has another Drag Race connection, as season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen serves as the tour's special guest, and appears throughout the set to perform alongside the headliner.
Madonna’s Celebration Tour version of Live to Tell dedicated to lives lost lives to AIDS, including her best friend Martin Burgoyne pictured behind her here, was beautiful and incredibly moving. pic.twitter.com/vKr4ibon9H— Nick Levine (@mrnicklevine) October 15, 2023
At opening night of her Celebration Tour on Saturday night in London, Madonna proved that she still has all her life to live and all her love to give by covering Gloria Gaynor's disco classic "I Will Survive."
Madonna took a moment during her first show to talk about the serious health scare that postponed the tour from its original planned start over the summer. She credited her children — Lourdes, 27; Rocco, 23; David, 18; Mercy, 17; and twins Stella and Estere, 11 — with pulling her through after her hospitalization for a bacterial infection in June.
"I forgot five years of my life, or my death — I don't really know where I was," she said onstage at The O2 arena. "But the angels were protecting me, and my children were there. And my children always save me every time. If you want to know my secret and you want to know how I pulled through and survived, I thought, 'I have to be there for my children. I have to survive for them.'"
Gaynor approved of Madonna performing her signature hit, which spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.
"@Madonna congratulations on the launch of #TheCelebrationTour at @TheO2," Gaynor shared via X on Sunday, alongside a video of Madonna's cover. "So happy that you are in good health and ready to have a holiday with fans around the world! By the way, you have excellent taste in music!"
Madonna has two more dates (Oct. 17 and 18) remaining of her four-night stint in London before heading across Europe and returning to The O2 for two more shows on Dec. 5 and 6.
See Gaynor's Madonna appreciation below:
Hours after Madonna had kicked off her Celebration Tour in the O2 Arena, the first reviews started rolling in. And there's one remark that seems to return often: the Queen is back and shows why after 40 years she still is the Queen of Pop.
The BBC reports that "Madonna brought out her crown jewels".
"Still dancing, still singing, still the one and only Madonna", said Variety, adding that this tour "proves she's still the reigning Queen of Pop".
"Madonna delivers a crowd-pleasing spectacle to 20,000 fervent fans", writes Rolling Stone, and "shows why she still owns the crown."
Reuters called it "a performance that proved her energy, charisma and appetite for controversy were little dimmed after four decades of pop super-stardom and a brush with death."
Ahead of the opening night of her long-awaited Celebration tour, Madonna has teased fans with what they can expect from the live shows by sharing some impressive statistics.
The Queen Of Pop is due to begin the UK and European leg of her 40th-anniversary tour at The O2 in London this Saturday (October 14). She will play six concerts at the arena in total.
Now, sharing insight into the tour with fans, the singer has revealed the numbers behind her shows.
These reveal that the tour will mark the 13th culture shaping tour for Madge, and will include 78 shows across 15 countries (six of which include sold-out shows in London). For those attending, they can expect to see setlists that span across the singer's four decades of hits, 17 archived costumes recreated, and a three-layered circular stage, inspired by the wedding cake of Madonna's original VMA performance.
Four of Madonna's children are also expected to appear on stage throughout the tour, as well as 24 onstage performers and a reunion with musician and DJ Stuart Price. For the performances, a 230ft combined length of catwalk is installed to get Madonna 105ft into the venue, and 3600 sq ft. of projection imagery is featured – the most amount of video ever used in a Madonna show.
During the gig, the Queen Of pop will be lifted 30ft off the ground in an illuminated portal frame. This has been designed to act like a time machine and allows her to move at 1.5ft per second, 80ft across and 130ft down the length of the arena, representing her looking into the past, present and future.
Fifty different merch items will be available for fans, including vintage recreations of items from previous tours, and those attending the London shows can expect to see a "queen-sized" Madonna flag outside The O2.
Other figures account for the items the singer is bringing on tour with her – including eight humidifiers in her dressing room, three travelling mobile gyms, three physical therapists, and 40 pairs of boxing gloves – as well as the technical equipment that helps the shows get off the ground.
For the latter, over 200 members of crew are accounted for, as well as four rehearsal venues, 80 tonnes of production equipment, 3700 amps of show power, 600 lights to illuminate the stage and 14 spotlights for the singer.
The update arrives following the singer revealing that the Celebration Tour will mark her first time appearing on stage without a band, and will feature over 40 songs from her back catalogue.
Madonna will be "transported around the arena in an illuminated portal frame" as part of her 'Celebration Tour', it's been confirmed.
The Queen of Pop's 40th anniversary shows launch on Saturday (October 14), with final details of the elaborate concerts shared ahead of the opening night.
According to information sent to press, the Like A Virgin hitmaker will be elevated 30 ft. off the ground in a set-up that "acts as a time machine allowing her to move at 1.5ft per second, 80 ft. across and 130 ft. down the length of the arena".
It's "designed to symbolise looking into the past, present and towards the future".
Elsewhere in the concerts, it's confirmed that there's 4,400 square ft. of stage – the largest for any Madonna tour – inspired by the grid of Manhattan with Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, East and West stages.
With 24 on stage performers – including Bob The Drag Queen and four of Madonna's children – it features a three-layered circular stage, inspired by the wedding cake of Madonna's original VMA performance and 230 ft. of combined length of catwalk that gets Madonna 105 ft. far into the venue.
The stage will be adorned with 3600 Square ft. of projection imagery – the most amount of video ever used in a Madonna show – while the production includes the recreation of 17 archive costumes.
Madonna's first ever greatest hits tour will be "a documentary through her vast career" that includes more than 40 songs, her musical director says.
In an exclusive interview, Stuart Price told the BBC the show draws on four decades of archive footage and studio recordings to tell the star's story.
"A greatest hit doesn't have to be a song," he said. "It can be a wardrobe, it can be a video, or a statement."
He added that Madonna was back to full strength after a summer health scare.
The superstar was found unconscious in her New York apartment in June and rushed to hospital, where she received treatment for a serious bacterial infection.
The singer later said she was "lucky to be alive", and postponed the start of the sold-out Celebration Tour from July to October.
The premiere will now take place at London's O2 Arena on Saturday.
"The person that is going to take the stage looks incredible, sounds incredible, performs incredible," said Price, reassuring fans that the 65-year-old had fully recovered.
He added that the three-month delay had been used to polish the show.
"Madonna has very high expectations of how much hard work people will put into something," he said. "It's very uncompromising - but she's equally as hard on herself.
"So when she took a break, that pause created an opportunity to further enhance the show. And I'm sure the opportunity [for her] to focus on being 100% well was greatly received as well."
Since she burst onto the UK charts with Holiday in 1984, Madonna has scored another 71 hits, including 13 number one singles.
"That was the big challenge," admitted Price. "In two hours, can you get all of it in? That's hard. But every great moment she's had, we took a bit of it."
Many hits will be played in full, some will be interpolated into other songs, and still more will be used as "bridges" between acts.
Price suggested a ballpark figure of 25 songs would be performed, with elements of 20 more appearing in some form.
And what about a Taylor Swift-style acoustic section, where different tracks can be rotated into the playlist every night?
"Well, Madonna's reputation is for being highly precise and highly rehearsed across all departments. When you look at a tour of this scale, it has so many moving parts, so many elements, that everything has to be highly fixed.
"But there's one thing that's always dynamic, and that's Madonna herself. Her personality is so strong, her interaction with the audience is so strong, that it creates opportunities for variation from night to night."
Price is one of the most in-demand producers in the industry, with credits including Dua Lipa's Levitating, The Killers' Human and Kylie Minogue's All The Lovers.
The pair established a musical shorthand that he said works almost telepathically.
"It sounds very spiritual - but a lot of the ideas we have about music are inferred or non-verbal. There's just an understanding of feeling."
Although Price hadn't worked on a Madonna concert since 2006, their bat-senses began to tingle in January.
"When she announced the greatest hits tour I called her just to say, 'Congratulations, I think this is a great idea'. And she said, 'I was just thinking about you, and I thought you'd be the perfect person to work with on this'.
"So two weeks later, I went to New York."
By that point, "Madonna had a really already highly evolved storyline" for the show that "reflected on her career, from being a young woman in New York and learning the scene, all the way through to motherhood, spiritual awakenings, and all the ups and downs. The storyline was just really, really compelling".
It's no coincidence that the tour was conceived while Madonna was also working on a movie of her life story.
Due to star Julia Garner, the project was put on ice in January, around the same time as the tour was announced.
"One of the Madonna's skills is that she's able to cross-pollinate ideas between different projects," said Price. "In this case there'd been consideration about doing a biopic [which gave] this tour the potential for having a documentary aspect to it as well."
As a result, the show will draw on news footage, classic costumes and music videos.
More crucially, it will use Madonna's original multi-track recordings, with Price extracting "a vocal take where there's a car going by in the background" or "a solo from a guitarist who's no longer with us" to recapture the original spirit of the songs.
In fact, for the first time since she performed club shows at the start of her career, Madonna will not be joined by an on-stage band.
"There are live musicians that perform at different parts of the show," said Price. "But what we realised is that the original recordings are our stars. Those things can't be replicated and can't be recreated, so we decided just to embrace that."
Not that the shows will be a straightforward exercise in nostalgia. In the past, she's enjoyed tweaking her most famous songs - playing True Blue on a ukulele, or splicing the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen into the frothy disco of Dress You Up. This tour will be no exception.
"With Madonna, everything is always about recontextualising stuff, finding ways to take strong original messages and see how they resonate in the era that we're in now," said Price.
"A lot of the powerful moments [in this show] are to do with where the music intersects with something that society was going through, especially something emotional, like the Aids crisis. Those moments are incredibly powerful."
In Madonna's world, details matter. And with thousands of hours of archive to draw on, it sounds like the Celebration tour will spotlight her ongoing contribution not just to pop music but to culture.
We'll find out on Saturday night.
A first picture has emerged of the stage that is being set up in the London O2 Arena for the premiere of the Celebration Tour on Saturday.
We can see a side ramp, connected to the main stage by stairs, round elevations on the main stage, and a disco ball attached to the ceiling. It all looks very promising!
"I want to be alone," Greta Garbo's dancer character famously said in "Grand Hotel," a quote permanently and only semi-accurately attached to the actress after she retreated from public life. Garbo was first on the list of Golden Agers in one of Madonna's biggest hits, "Vogue," but the pop star has long seemed to embody this maxim's very opposite. She wants to be surrounded, as if with Dolby sound.
"Before Madonna even had a manager, she had a court of valets and minstrels following her everywhere," the record executive Seymour Stein observed.
Though technically a solo vocalist, Madonna has been backed by dancers from the beginning of her career in the early 1980s. She has six children: two biological, four adopted from Malawi. Many more consider themselves her spiritual offspring: gay men to whom she's been den mother; younger female performers she's inspired.
And she's trooped around the world with an elastic entourage of friends, writers, producers, directors, handlers, photographers, publicists, reporters and fans, all of whom helpfully populate Mary Gabriel's big, indignant new biography of her: a dogged, brick-by-brick bulwark against any detractors bobbing in the moat of her castle.
"Madonna: A Rebel Life" is one of those books you measure in pounds, not pages: almost three, which would have been more if the publisher hadn't decided to post the endnotes and bibliography online rather than printing them. It's not going to fit on the little shelf of the StairMaster at the gym — a classically Madonna piece of exercise equipment — though you might hoist it afterward for wrist curls.
If you wander into an aerobics class instead, not only are chances high that the instructor will play a song from Madonna's catalog, but she'll probably be wearing a hands-free headset microphone — and that is muy Madonna as well. As Gabriel notes, though the technology was used before by pilots and Kate Bush, it was her subject who popularized it on her 1989 Blond Ambition tour.
For this book, though, the woman born Madonna Louise Ciccone in 1958, the same year as Prince and Michael Jackson, stayed quiet. Her voice is piped through from plentiful previous interviews, recorded performances and the occasional post on Instagram, where early in the pandemic she outcringed the Gal Gadot "Imagine" video with one of herself naked in a bath amid floating rose petals, declaring Covid-19 "the great equalizer."
The closest Gabriel gets to Madonna in the actual flesh is half a dozen conversations with her brother, Christopher Ciccone, whose best-selling 2008 memoir, "Life With My Sister Madonna," caused at least temporary estrangement between the siblings, longtime professional collaborators. (Madonna's sense of betrayal is hard to jibe with her ardent defense of free personal expression.)
Gabriel also talks to 30-odd other sources, surprisingly few for the scope of the work, and turns up a few interesting archived nuggets, such as Norman Mailer, in an early draft of the more than 200 he wrote for a 1994 Esquire profile, describing Madonna as a "pint‐size" Italian American (he used an ethnic slur instead) "with a heart built out of the cast‐iron balls of a hundred peasant ancestors."
Previous Madonnagraphers have either been breathily unauthorized — Andrew Morton, J. Randy Taraborrelli — or taken a more "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" approach; universities have offered entire courses on her. Gabriel brings extra intellectual cred to the task. "Love and Capital," her book about Karl Marx and his wife, Jenny, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award; her group portrait of five female painters, "Ninth Street Women," was rhapsodically received. But she doesn't describe her own connection to this project, as she did the others, and t
his reader was left wondering if it might be less love than capital.
Not that Gabriel doesn't make a diligent case for Madonna's cultural importance: inviting us to consider, for example, her Mylar-encased coffee-table book "Sex," pummeled with judgment when it was published in 1992, in the same light as James Baldwin's novel "Giovanni's Room." She airs at length the praise of the curator Jeffrey Deitch, who worked with Madonna on a 2013 multimedia installation called "X‐STaTIC PRo=CeSS."
Maybe we've all miscast Madonna as the Queen of Pop — a dubious analogue to Aretha Franklin's Queen of Soul — and she's closer, on a mass scale, to Karen Finley, the performance artist who used to smear her nude body in chocolate or honey? Indeed, describing the period Madonna lived in Miami, Gabriel writes of her "daily ritual of covering herself in honey and jumping into Biscayne Bay, where she floated until the honey melted away," with no apparent concern for sharks.
"Madonna: A Rebel Life" is organized as a busy, seven-decade, mostly urban travel itinerary. Like Franklin, Madonna lost her mother early and was raised in Detroit, where her father, who also had half a dozen children, "thought we should always be productive," she said. Her Barbie would tell Ken: "I'm not gonna stay home and do the dishes. You stay home! I'm going out tonight. I'm going bowling, OK, so forget it!" Among her formative influences were J.D. Salinger and Anne Sexton (literary); the Shangri-Las and David Bowie (musical); Martha Graham and Frida Kahlo (visual). "The sight of her mustache consoled me," she said of the latter.
I might be biased as a native who craved rubber bracelets and lace socks and waited to hear if FM radio played Borderline through the "la-la-la-la," but the section when Madonna arrives in New York City, though well trafficked, is one of the most compelling in this book. She eats French fries out of garbage cans; learns guitar at an abandoned synagogue in Flushing Meadows nicknamed "the Gog"; brings a demo tape to the DJ booth at Danceteria; and, signed by Stein from his hospital bed, hangs with a "coterie" of artists that included Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. She was also raped at knife point on a rooftop, an ordeal not publicly aired until the punishing Abel Ferrara film Dangerous Game in 1993.
Having segued to Hollywood (and later Broadway and the West End), she gave the middle finger to its male establishment: walking away from an early marriage to Sean Penn, cursing out David Letterman on the air and roundly shushing Harvey Weinstein when he offers feedback on Truth or Dare, her 1991 documentary. ("I don't care what your point of view is," she tells him. "I never want to hear it. Who the hell are you to tell me what kind of film I should be doing?") Her onetime paramour Warren Beatty, who directed her in Dick Tracy, mocked how she wanted to live on-camera all the time; who with an iPhone now does otherwise?
Madonna is rightly celebrated here as a pioneer of AIDS education — she lost countless friends to the disease — and a genuine philanthropist. But as she grows more practiced with the press and isolated by her fame, the book softens and suffers. The muchness of Madonna, her cross-disciplinarity — from MTV to Evita — seems impossible to corral.
Madonna's drug is work — she makes a discipline of even decadence — and "A Rebel Life" increasingly becomes a litany of remote description and tabulation: boundaries crossed, records broken, shows staged, money made, countries visited, foreign cultures sampled. "All artists appropriate," is how Gabriel defends her against a frequent charge. "It is called inspiration."
Clichés sneak into her prose. Madonna is burning the candle at both ends, igniting a firestorm and is a lightning rod for controversy. She has never taken the road most traveled, but does take a long hard look in the mirror.
Speaking of mirrors: Gabriel acknowledges Madonna's talent for self-reinvention, but oddly ignores her transformation after cosmetic procedures and the resultant backlash — a sensitive matter to parse, but hardly irrelevant for someone whose oeuvre has been so entwined with image. "I'm going to make it easier for all those girls behind me when they turn 60," the star said when promoting her 2019 album, Madame X. Well, some of those girls want to know why she can't shake her skull-topped cane at the anti-aging industrial complex.
"A Rebel Life" hits its marks but rarely soars, as Madonna did suspended by cables during her Drowned World tour. (Rather, the book is submerged in names, places and dates and historical exposition.) Then again, assessing Madonna's legacy before she has a chance to recover from recent health setbacks may be an impossibly premature endeavor.
"The verdict time and again would be that she had gone too far, that her career was over," Gabriel writes. "Time and again, the jury was wrong."
The Sun reveals that Madonna has flown into Manchester for intense, last-minute rehearsals ahead of her 78-date Celebration Tour, which kicks off at London's O2 Arena on October 14.
The shows, which will see her perform her biggest hits, will be the most expensive she's ever staged, with fans set to be wowed by an elaborate production
Madonna jetted into the UK with her army of dancers and backing singers.
They are perfecting the show before full technical and dress rehearsals this weekend.
The Vogue singer has rented Manchester's entire 21,000-seat AO Arena so she can make sure everything runs smoothly.
And Madge, a renowned stickler for perfection in her live performances, will then have less than 48 hours to set up at the O2 and iron out any issues before her opening gig there.
But it seems the singer, who was admitted to intensive care in June after suffering a serious bacterial infection, isn't cutting any corners.
I understand her tour boasts one of the most spectacular set-ups she has ever delivered.
As well as multiple stages across the arena floor, the production includes several trapdoors and three giant screens.
Madonna is said to have been influenced by Post Malone's Twelve Carat Tour, enlisting his creative director Lewis James to help put her production together.
The rapper's 2022/23 trek was heavy on lighting, strobes and pyrotechnics.
The fact that Madonna has reunited with Stuart Price — the musical director for several of her past global tours, which were met with worldwide acclaim — could hint at what's in store this time.
As for the all-important set list, I'm told it will see her perform some songs she has not brought out in years, including a stripped-back version of 1998 hit Nothing Really Matters.
A source said: "Madonna's tour will be epic.
"She is now locked in full rehearsal days, some of which are 12 hours long.
"The stage is the most elaborate that she has ever taken on the road.
"The tour is a celebration of her record-breaking career, so every- thing has to be perfect."
Just in case there wasn't enough diva power, the seven-time Grammy winner has also enlisted designer Donatella Versace to help craft some of her looks.
Madonna is clearly raring to go after her health scare.
And I, for one, can't wait to see what she has in store.
Pop music legend Madonna has partnered with eco-fashion house Ministry of Tomorrow to create a limited edition of exclusive merchandise for her Celebration Tour.
The Celebration Tour merchandise, designed by Ministry of Tomorrow's founder and president Julian Prolman, also known as The Great White Buffalo, draws inspiration from Madonna's style while promoting sustainability and ethical fashion practices. The fabric is made from certified organic and fair-trade cotton.
The collection includes two collector's item tote bags, with top handles and shoulder straps.
This collaboration also has a partnership with two important causes to Madonna, Raising Malawi and the Chema Vision Children's Center. Madonna is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales of these merchandise items to both organizations.
Madonna founded Raising Malawi in 2006 to address the most critical needs of vulnerable children. Chema Vision is located in Kibera, an underprivileged urban area of Kenya.
The Celebration Tour merchandise will be available for purchase both online and at select tour venues. Madonna is also encouraging fans to make individual donations to Raising Malawi and the Chema Vision Children's Center if possible.
Madonna's upcoming tour marks the 12th from the pop star, who has been a music industry staple since the '80s. The tour will go across North America and Europe and is anticipating 78 shows, starting on Oct. 14 at the O2 Arena in London and finishing in Mexico City on April 24.
Madonna announced the tour in January. The Celebration Tour was originally scheduled to begin on July 15, but was postponed after the singer was hospitalized with a severe bacterial infection in late June.↑ Back to top of page