Madonna has launched her first world tour in two years, delighting an enthusiastic Los Angeles crowd by hanging herself from a cross, insulting US President George Bush, and dusting off some of the sexy moves that have sustained her career for more than 20 years.
The Confessions Tour will keep her on the road for two months in North America, and then resume on July 30 in Wales for a five-week stadium swing through eight European cities. Shows in Japan are also on tap for mid-September.
The 47-year-old dance diva spent two hours yesterday churning out most of the tunes from her new album, Confessions On A Dance Floor, as well as a few old hits such as Like A Virgin, Ray Of Light and Lucky Star.
The audience at the Los Angeles Forum included Madonna’s Kabbalah guru Rabbi Yehuda Berg, socialite Nicole Richie, and gay icon Rosie O’Donnell, who upgraded herself to a premium seat on the floor and left her spouse alone in the stands.
The meticulously choreographed Vegas-style routine began 50 minutes late when a giant mirror ball was lowered from the ceiling to the end of a catwalk stretching deep into the floor.
Out popped Madonna, in S&M-styled riding gear and whip, singing the new tune Future Lovers as four bare-breasted male dancers writhed around with ball gags in their mouths.
Later on, she donned a crown of thorns and suspended herself from a giant mirrored cross to deliver the ballad Live To Tell. Video screens showed images of third-world poverty and reeled off grim statistics.
During one of her half-dozen costume changes, another video montage juxtaposed images of Bush, members of his administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair with footage of Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Midway through the new song I Love New York, she deviated from the script and made a crude reference to Bush and oral sex.
Beyond that, she barely spoke to the audience, largely focusing on keeping control of a busy nightclub-style stage that boasted 15 dancers, four musicians and three backing vocalists.
For the most part, she joined in the tricky choreography, her voice evidently not affected by the aerobic workout. She did pause for a few songs during which she appeared to play a shiny Gibson Les Paul guitar.
A disco segment near the end, where she dressed in a Saturday Night Fever-style white suit to perform Music thrilled the crowd, as did the Like A Virgin routine, when she climbed aboard a carousel-style black leather saddle.
There was no encore, and the lights came up as soon as she had completed a medley of Lucky Star and latest hit single Hung Up while sporting an illuminated white cape with Dancing Queen embroidered on the back.
Billboard magazine has forecast ticket sales could reach the $US200 million ($265 million) range, making it the most successful tour by a female artist. Cher holds the record with $US192.5 million ($255 million) from 273 shows on a “farewell” world tour that began in June 2002 and lasted almost three years, according to Billboard.