Crucifix mazes, celebrity guests and a sea of pointy bras: Madonna's Celebration Tour builds a cathedral of pop
“Are you ready to go on this journey with me?” Madonna asks 20,000 fans on the second night of her stint at the O2 as part of The Celebration Tour. A sea of crimped hair, white lace and cone bras scream back at the queen of pop, who arrived on the revolving stage minutes before to perform a club mix of 1998’s ‘Nothing Really Matters’, decked out in a Gaultier kimono and ornate headpiece.
It’s only night two, but the roll-out of the tour hasn’t come without its hitches. Initially planned to kick-off with a North American leg in July, the superstar was forced to postpone her first set of dates after a stay in intensive care earlier in the year. But as she breezes through more than four decades’ worth of signature hits, era-defining costumes and choreography, you’d have no idea.
As we’ve come to expect from a Madonna tour, the production and staging are full of surprises. After stripping things back with just a guitar for ‘Burning Up’, a thumping edit of ‘Like A Prayer’ booms out of a crucifix maze, ‘Erotica’ is performed in a lasered boxing ring and she zooms around the arena on a floating frame during a futuristic rendition of ‘Ray Of Light’, complete with a high-octane strobe light display.
The show is a maximalist spectacle in most ways yet tender in others; she stands in the same frame to perform ‘Live To Tell’ surrounded by a montage of her friends who have fallen to AIDS, while tributes to Sinead O’Connor, Prince and the transgender community add a poignant feel to the evening.
Although ever-professional RuPaul Drag Race darling Bob The Drag Queen guides the show as host, bouncer, clown and dancer, they’re not the only familiar face we see. Rubber-masked dancers recreate the trademark looks of Madonna’s career throughout the night, while FKA twigs joins the pop veteran on ‘Vogue’ to judge a ball featuring her 11-year-old daughter Estere. The family affair doesn’t end there, though. Madonna’s son David also appears with an acoustic guitar to join a performance of ‘Mother and Father’ – an unexpected addition to the setlist – and daughter Mercy takes to the piano for ‘Bad Girl’.
Even though it’s a shame she runs over the arena’s curfew and abruptly ends four songs short (including a final knees-up for the tour’s title track), Madonna’s illustrious career and palpable legacy feel celebrated in all the right ways. The Celebration Tour is a real testament to the rule-breaking, trend-setting and chameleonic career of pop’s greatest living legend.
Photo credits: Kevin Mazur / WireImage for Live Nation / Getty