“I finally made it to the top”, and don’t we know it: Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour, December 2nd 2015
Now I was never going to give Madonna anything less than a 5-star review. Even if she hadn’t turned up. But last night she proved that she was not only 5-stars, but the greatest living performer on earth. The over two-hour long extravaganza was a spectacle of such magnitude, evoking every possible emotion, that I was left physically and emotionally exhausted when the curtain fell.
I’ve seen Madonna twice in concert before. Once I was front row. But this time, at the O2 Arena in London, the tickets were much more expensive and I didn’t even know if I should go or not – student loan and all that. But thank god I did! In the end I spent £200 and went alone. My lack of a companion didn’t matter though because Madonna was with me; seizing my heart. Like always.
I simply cannot express how fantastic the show was. The opening song – ‘Iconic’, no extra comment needed – was my favourite song from the ‘Rebel Heart‘ album and it roared through the arena. Following a truly raw video introduction featuring Mike Tyson, Madonna was lowered from the ceiling in a cage, exclaiming ‘I-can, I-con’ to the obvious delight of her 50,000-odd audience.
What followed truly was iconic. In the first section of the show alone there were dancing gladiator warriors, pole-dancing stripper nuns, Madonna gyrating on top of a rotating topless dancer, a recreation of the ‘last supper’ to ‘Holy Water’ – a song conflating blessed water to Madonna’s *whisper* vaginal fluids – and fist-pumping remakes of old favourites ‘Burning Up’ and ‘Vogue’.
So if that wasn’t visually and audibly spellbinding enough, we’re transported into a 1950s garage where Madonna makes full use of set design and drives us straight into ‘Body Shop’ before whipping out the cutest ukulele ever to smile through ‘True Blue’. The truly visual bombardment was relentless.
Madonna was completely at ease. The master of all before her, she shone through most when she engaged and chatted with the crowd. Not afraid of letting herself free from her cage of a stage, she laughed and joked throughout the night – pulling the heartstrings of everyone.
The tender vocals and gentle sweetness of ‘True Blue’ were blasted away by the reimagined-for-us-millennials ‘Deeper and Deeper’. Such was the sheer juxtaposition that I was brought to tears of joy at the opening chimes of the disco bash.
In fact I was brought to tears more than three times throughout the show – most strikingly when Madonna began an impromptu performance of my all-time favourite song, ‘Drowned World/Substitute For Love’. I sobbed. A tribute to the late co-writer of the song David Collins, the minimalist performance with just Madonna and the audience, made me cry so much that I could barely sing along. I honestly believed I would never see Madonna perform the truly beautiful 1998, ‘Ray Of Light‘ album opener, but alas, a dream of mine came true last night. I didn’t care that I was alone or crying. Madonna was talking to my soul.
In general Madonna got the balance between oldies and newies perfectly right. Classics such as ‘Like A Virgin’, ‘Into The Groove’ and ‘Material Girl’ were fired up with such energy that they could’ve been released yesterday. Madonna herself was also full of energy. A true Olympian, Madonna bounded on top of the world, in truly athletic fashion, only breaking from dancing to provide the tear-jerking respite, when her, sometimes breaking, vocals came to the fore.
Returning to the place of her earlier date with a cape, unlike at this year’s BRIT Awards, the cape came off – to strong cheers – and ‘Living For Love’ went off without a hitch. Like everything else. The show was completely seamless. Madonna continues to write the book on performance art as she seconded to no one by immaculately bossing 10 costume changes, with my personal favourite being her final ensemble, where she literally sparkled like the star she is.
But whether it was hydraulic lifts, dancers literally being thrown across the arena, religious imagery to satisfy even the most devout, a ‘call-to-action’ political video interlude, a guest appearance by Stella McCartney or Madonna draped in the Union flag; Madonna was everything to everyone and she knew it. She fed off the visible joy and ecstasy brimming from her fans. Always modest, she even joked ‘I finally made it to the top, yay!’ But underneath her repeated references to herself as ‘the Queen’, was a poignant tinge of truth. She is the Queen. A mere humble subject can only hope she doesn’t abdicate anytime soon.