Madonna, Koko, Camden, London

The queen reclaims her plastic pop crown
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The Independent Culture

There is a fever in the North London air. Four hours before Our Lady takes the stage, fans and photographers are clamouring outside Koko in a state of severe hyperventilation.

By virtue of her longevity, Madonna may not be the mistress of the unpredictable she once was but her live shows are still a major event, so much so that even Chris Evans can be seen queuing patiently outside and clutching his ticket with visible glee.

The choice of venue isn't a random one. Madonna played her first London gig here 22 years ago so, this time, she has taken it upon herself to spruce the place up, hanging a giant glitter ball out front and lining the floors with sparkling vinyl.

It takes one ticket, two separate wristbands and a laminated pass to get through the doors. Contravening the rules of London gig-going, those lucky enough to have won, blagged or stolen tickets have actually dressed up for the occasion. Before the show starts, it's cocktail hour, with assorted pastel-coloured drinks being distributed by glacial girls and boys in Madonna t-shirts and David Bowie make-up.

Then the lights go down and the temperature goes through the roof.

Opening the show with "Hung Up", her new No.1 single is, of course, equivalent to serving your dinner guests dessert first and the crowd go predictably bananas. Madonna gives it her all, which is probably the least you'd expect, given that she's only playing five songs. She does, you have to admit, look fabulous. The look is Farrah Fawcett meets Joan Jett - tonight she has ditched the leotard in favour of purple knee-length boots and pedal pushers - while the sound is late 70s disco.

To the almost palpable relief of the crowd, she has ditched the anti-war, tree-hugging bluster of her last American Life album (though, of course, none of that would have mattered had there been some good tunes).

This is Madonna reclaiming the plastic pop of her past and reconnecting, Kylie-style, with her devoted gay fanbase.

Hot on the heels of "Hung Up" comes "Stay Together", "I Love New York" and "Let It Will Be", alll songs from her new album Confessions on a Dancefloor.

Lurking behind the keyboards is Stuart Price, the man behind Les Rythmes Digitales and Madonna's latest producer whom, safe to say, has enabled the one-time Queen of Pop to reclaim her crown,

There are, of course, the usual clunking lyrics. These days, you no more expect lyrical elegance from Madonna than you do choreographed tap dancing from Morrissey. Luckily, the propulsive beats and whooshing choruses are enough to distract you from such howlers as "I don't like cities, but I love New York/Other places make me feel like a dork."

For her final number, the early 80s track "Everybody" she goes out all out on the camp, bring on dancing boys and revelling in some gloriously tacky dance moves

But in contrast to the strictly choreographed stylishness of her arena shows, tonight looks and feels like an intimate affair, with Madonna looking and feeling like a proper singer rather than a distant hologram.

After the image changes and reinventions, this is Madonna being herself. Its her best trick yet.

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