MADONNA secured her title as Queen of Pop by entering the stage on a throne for the first night of her world tour.
The 50-year-old, wearing a sparkly black one-piece outfit designed by Givenchy, was surrounded by dancers in top hats and tails as she kicked off the Sticky and Sweet tour at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium tonight.
Appropriately enough, the first track – greeted by screams from thousands of fans – was Candy Shop.
The black sequinned outfit was accessorised with knee high boots, fishnet tights and a sparkly cane.
The show was advertised to start at 7.30pm but did not get under way until 9.10pm, when giant video screens showed images of pink and white sweets being made to a soundtrack snatches of Madonna songs.
Madonna’s husband, film director Guy Ritchie, and children Lourdes, Rocco and David, were amongst those in the 40,000-strong audience.
Madonna then got into a white car that came onto the stage for Beat Goes On and was driven down a catwalk into the sea of fans.
Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, who feature on Madonna’s latest album Hard Candy, made appearances on video screens.
But their roles were trumped by that of troubled star Britney Spears, who appeared on screens in a montage that showed her trapped in a lift dressed in a hooded top and dark glasses for the next track, Human Nature.
Britney whispered the lines “express yourself, don’t repress yourself” as the CCTV-style footage showed her desperately trying to get out of the lift before lying down on the floor.
Madonna herself wore a white top hat and played a guitar during the track.
The Britney film ended with the younger singer escaping, taking off her glasses and smiling, as Madonna said: “It’s Britney, b****.”
Fans were then treated to a raunchy version of Vogue, which saw dancers in bondage-style clothing and black face masks contorting at the front of the stage. The song itself was given a makeover, mixed with a sample of one of her latest hits, 4 Minutes.
Into The Groove was delivered with a high-energy dance treatment that saw dancers in 1980s hip-hop clothing.
Madonna, showing the energy of a woman decades younger than her, joined in a skipping contest with them and even briefly pole-danced.
As well as showcasing her more recent, urban-inspired hits, the show featured radical reworkings of classic Madonna songs, including a hard rock version of Borderline.
Madonna took to the stage with a pink guitar, which she played throughout the darker, heavy metal rendition of the song.
The 1984 song, rarely performed live, was received with loud cheers from the audience.
La Isla Bonita was given a Flamenco-style twist, as Madonna performed accompanied by Romanian musicians and hand claps from her fans.
The star paid homage to her chameleon style in She’s Not Me, in which dancers dressed as four of her previous incarnations, including the Material Girl and Blonde Ambition tour eras.
A high-energy version of Music, part of the Old School segment of the show, saw Madonna take part in a dance-off on the stage, with graphics showing a New York subway train covered in bright graffiti.
Despite being given a rapturous reception as she left the stage, Madonna was given a mixed review by fans after the show.
Una Magill, 30, from Belfast, said: “It just wasn’t as good as her last tour.
“I think the audience was a bit quiet. There was no drive from the crowd.”
Her brother Marc, 27, also of Belfast, said: “It should have been more of a stand-out performance, seeing as it was her first night.”
Susan Harvey, 49, of Whitchurch, Cardiff, said: “I expected her to say thank you to us, considering we came along for the opening night. “Her singing was good, but there was no interaction.”
Ruth Henson, 24, who works in human resources in London, said: “Madonna was absolutely fantastic, but the Cardiff crowd completely let her down.
“We enjoyed it to the max though, and Madonna, considering she’s now 50, is so fit. She did a really good job.”
Taj Tabbah, 27, from London, who had previously seen Madonna 14 times, said: “I think the fans who have been grumbling about the show are the older ones who aren’t as keen to get into the new songs.
“I thought it was amazing. She has such a lot of energy.
“It was a very diverse show, with lots of different things going on.
“It started fun and light-hearted, but then there was the heavy political moment, followed by 4 Minutes, when she says there’s only four minutes to save the world, which was brilliant.”
Sarah Pearson, 27, of Aberystwyth, south Wales, said: “It was fantastic. I danced the whole way through it.
“I paid £250 to get into the golden circle without having to queue, but it was well worth it.”