First Night: Madonna, Hyde Park, London
Madonna delivers everything fans want (except full-on moral outrage)
After flashing a breast in Istanbul and facing legal action in France, Madonna brought her highly anticipated MDNA tour to the UK last night with a gig in London's Hyde Park.
The singer, 53, is no stranger to controversy, having once been threatened with arrest after a sexually-explicit performance in Canada and raising moral outrage with almost every video she releases, whether she's smoking or simply trying to cop off with Jesus.
Last night's show was not lacking in punch, kicking off with the internet smut-referencing "Girl Gone Wild", the first of several in-your-face, gun-toting numbers from the album she released earlier this year. (Sample refrain: "See you in hell, bitch".)
While the most loyal fans in the crowd thrilled to Madonna's newly bolshy electro style, the audience for the main part came alive for some of the older hits. "Papa Don't Preach", "Express Yourself" (mixed in with a rather similar-sounding "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga) and a ballad version of "Like a Virgin" were just some of the Immaculate Collection-era standards that elicited the most enthusiasm – which Madonna followers have by the bucketload.
As a performer, Madonna doesn't need flashing lights and heavy set-pieces but she does them all the same. And why not? A batch of claret-clad monks kicked off procedures and what followed was suitably sacrilegious, as she emerged from a confessional booth with a machine gun. Between shooting her lover in a seedy motel, fronting a marching band and being chained up by pseudo-terrorists, Madonna gave the crowd just what they wanted, and her reliance on Auto-Tune during the more energetic numbers didn't even matter.
During a pared down rendition of "Open Your Heart", her 11-year-old son Rocco even joined her on stage, while an energetic performance of "Vogue", replete with several drag queens, was proof of her musical majesty. If Madonna has one message, regardless of whichever genre she has transmogrified into, it is of inclusion and unity.
"You don't want to take anyone's sh*t, do you?" she exhorted during a break, before launching into "Masterpiece", her Oscar-winning song from the recent film W.E. It was a moving spectacle and a sombre point, spoiled only slightly by her solemn cry of "We love you, Poland."
The interludes and montages between costume changes only served to back up Madonna's fearsome reputation as a recording artist. Whether she chooses to indulge in primal and rather hackneyed iconography or not, nothing can subtract from that. Seeing Madonna live is a privilege, whether or not she keeps her clothes on or knows which country she is in.
Arts & Ents blogs
Never before seen personal accounts of Great War offer vivid picture of life at the Front
Neil Patrick Harris talks shooting 'robotic' Gone Girl sex scene with Rosamund Pike
Boy George: Bad karma
PonoMusic: Neil Young reaches Kickstarter target to fund new music player within a day
Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Hells of residence: Inside Macedonia's horrifying student accommodation - where the walls are green and the food is black
- 2 Michael Schumacher 'experience' gives F1 legend chance to 'show his character', says Lewis Hamilton
- 3 Girl found in the Amazon rainforest with neighbour Grover Morales after going missing for 7 months
- 4 Rampaging elephant smashes up house but then 'saves crying baby trapped under debris'
- 5 Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor