The Queen of Pop overcame injury to deliver one of her most memorable shows yet in London.
It was a smart move on Madonna’s part to ban the use of mobile phones for her Madame X tour.
More than four months since its New York premiere, the show arrived in London to great excitement; its surprises unspoilt by YouTube uploads, rave review from both professional publications and social media postings, and its setlist up online, ensuring no-one is going along in anticipation of a greatest hits extravaganza.
That’s just as well, because the show is mostly Madame X-centric with a few oldies thrown into the mix – not that that would come as a big surprise to true fans, since she’s always leaned heavily towards new material since 2001’s Drowned World tour.
So we get a very cool Vogue done as a sort of snippet from a spy movie, Express Yourself as an a cappella singalong, Like A Prayer as transcendent gospel (and very much in tune post Eurovision) and Frozen accompanied by a stunning video of daughter Lourdes doing interpretive dance like a chip off the old block.
But it was the new songs that truly thrilled – from electrifying opener God Control to an inspirational I Rise at the end, where Madonna walked up the aisle and through the crowd in what truly is her most intimate show to date.
The Madame X era has proven to be a trying one for the Queen of Pop: Released in June last year, the album is her best since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor and – with its genre-blending, world-exploring sound – it’s very much the work of a woman keen to push the envelope.
But, despite its beautifully-crafted songs and often astonishing sonic explorations, it’s her lowest-selling long-player to date.
So what? Fans clamoured for tickets for the accompanying tour – an all-theatres roadshow promising a more up-close-and-personal encounter with the Queen than previous arena and stadium tours.
But then came cancelled dates due to technical difficulties and a knee injury that a gruelling schedule hasn’t allowed time for Madonna to fully recover from, raising worries that she might not even make it to London.
We needn’t have worried. After cancelling the Monday show she was bang on time on Wednesday, joking that she’d be in big trouble with Westminster Council if she went beyond the 11pm curfew. She also cracked self-deprecating quips about the British accent she accidentally adopted when she was living here and about being an out-of-shape soccer mum.
The rest of us could only dream of being in such shape at age 61. She’s curvier, which really suits her, and even though she seemed a bit hesitant to really throw herself into the dance routines (no doubt in fear of aggravating her injuries) she’s still a phenomenally charismatic performer.
I especially loved the ‘Fado’ section, where she turned the Palladium into a giant Portuguese party, and Batuka, where an army of female singers came through the crowd to join her on stage for a stirring call-and-response.
The show itself is by no means as slick as previous tours, but that only makes it more enjoyable. Madonna circa 2020 is more relaxed, more relatable and a lot of fun. All hail the Queen!
Madonna – Madame X is at the London Palladium until 16 February.