Madonna, Hyde Park, London / Wanda Jackson, Islington Assembly Hall, London

At 53, the queen of pop has set her sights on retaining her crown from young pretenders ‑ but in truth, it's all starting to feel like hard work

There's no contradiction between being a dreadful human being and a fantastic pop star. It's just a shame that Madonna, who sealed her status as the former six years ago by wearing a coat made of 40 factory-farmed chinchillas, is so rarely the latter.

The one-woman chinchillocaust brings her MDNA tour to London – oh, the desperate controversy of that title – and it goes off with a whimper, not a bang. But the reason has nothing to do with her age. Face facts: whether it's achieved in the gym or the surgery, Madonna has a damn fine body (and strips down to thong and bra to prove it). If Madonna isn't sexy, it's not because she's 53. For a woman who sings – or mimes – about sex, she's always made it seem like cold, hard work, all Pilates and no passion.

And yes, her face may be morphing into Priscilla Presley, but with Madonna's wealth, we'd all get botoxed too. And who cares if "Express Yourself" is the one thing her face is unable to do? That song, ironically, features the night's most eyebrow-raising moment (a tricky feat for a frozen forehead). Madonna's smart enough to steal back from the stealers, and the no-singing, all-dancing MDNA show's opener has a Vatican-gothic aesthetic that feels straight out of Haus of Gaga, until you remember that Madonna got there first with "Like A Prayer".

So far, so innocent, all part of the cycle of pop. But later, during "Express Yourself" – famously plagiarised by La Germanotta on "Born This Way" – Ciccone inserts the chorus of her junior's hit, before repeating the words "she's not me!" with pointed venom. Four times.

She's right, but for all the wrong reasons. Unlike Lady Gaga, Madonna has always had a head-smashingly banal idea of what it means to be "edgy", and tonight it means getting kidnapped by terrorists on trapezes and shooting hooded assailants with an AK47. The MDNA setlist is heavy on new material, with echoes of the old. "Girl Gone Wild" contains homeopathic traces of "Material Girl", just as the corset she wears for "Vogue" echoes her famous cone-bra. The main musical innovation is her belated discovery of gypsy folk (see revamped "Justify My Love").

"I like to live dangerously", she boasts, as she sprawls on the catwalk, freshly mopped of rain by flunkies. But if the Chinchilla Killa has proved one thing tonight, it's that there's a fine line between "dangerous" and dull.

If you saw Wanda Jackson in the street, with her big black bouffant, emerald eyeshadow and bling, you might take her for a sweet old lady. But within five words of "Riot in Cell Block #9", there's no mistaking that voice. A hellcat rasp rivalled in its day only by Brenda Lee, it's why the Hall of Fame inductee is still known as the Queen of Rockabilly and has a street named after her in Oklahoma City. And it's the reason why, with the excellent Jack White-produced The Party Ain't Over, she's become the oldest woman with an album in the Billboard charts, deposing – as she takes great pleasure in telling a packed theatre – Mae West.

Jackson's career has followed a familiar trajectory for a Fifties rock'*'roll star: turned to Country in the late Sixties, discovered Jesus in the early Seventies, only to rediscover rock'*'roll in her later years, then find herself rediscovered by successive cool cats from The Fall to Adele, who took Wanda on tour and admitted that Jackson's slinky, sultry "Funnel of Love" inspired "Rolling In The Deep".

Jackson blazed the trail for generations of she-rockers. She's been recording for 58 years and touring for 56, but there's only one story everyone wants to hear. In her late teens, not turned off by his yellow sports jacket and pink Cadillac, she dated Elvis. And it was Presley, she says, who persuaded her to sing rock'*'roll.

She returns the compliment by covering his "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "Heartbreak Hotel". She also takes on Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over" and Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good", but the real thrill is hearing her own hits. In "Fujiyama Mama", released just 14 years after the end of the Second World War, Wanda outrageously compares her loving prowess to the atom bomb: "I've been to Nagasaki, Hiroshima too/The things I did to them baby, I can do to you!" Amazingly, it went to No 1 in Japan.

Jackson's been struggling with a cold all week, but still carries off the acrobatic yodelling in "I Betcha My Heart I Love You", and makes it through to her signature finale "Let's Have a Party". They don't call her Leather Lungs for nothing.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk