Madame X’s London debut proves this is Madonna’s world, and we’re all just living in it
Madonna doesn’t have to say gay rights – she is gay rights.
Little surprise then that opening night of the Madame X tour’s UK leg had a largely male audience – with quite a few in Madame X-related costume – as the queen of pop made her return to the West End in London.
The hottest ticket in town – unexpectedly, given the show had been due to open two days previously – lived up to expectations and the hype.
This is a Madonna show like no other – it’s as much an experience as it is a performance.
From nuns with violins to Madonna being arrested, Madame X in no way holds back.
From the moment her voice fills the auditorium at 8.45pm, welcoming an intimate gathering of fans to the world of Madame X, to the curfew-pushing final seconds of 11pm, it was Madonna’s world and we were all just living in it.
“Let nothing stand between us,” she advises the crowd from behind a huge red curtain emblazoned with a giant X – something she’s made certain of, by having all phones locked away in fabric pouches.
Madame X appears in a Bond-style silhouette, typing the words of James Baldwin across a giant screen before opening the show with “God Control”, against a backdrop of a destroyed US flag.
Her call to action for gun legislation is punctuated by her blood-stained dress.
It’s the Madame X tour – the clue’s in the name, people – so naturally her latest album leads the way.
The majority of the show centres around these songs and her artistic interpretation of them.
As with her tours for MDNA and Rebel Heart, it brings the album to life in new and wonderful ways.
For “Dark Ballet” there are nuns with violins, dancers in gas masks and queer artist Mykki Blanco projected on screens as the sparse but effective stage pieces revolve around the intimate theatre setting.
As the song comes to a close, Madonna is “arrested” by police and thrown into a circular “cell” in the wall – leading into a fantastic performance of “Human Nature”, where she seems to make a point of proving she can still spread those legs extremely wide.
Her children Estere, Stella and Mercy join the dancers on stage towards the end of the number.
“The best gift I gave my daughters is this piece of advice,” she says before breaking into an a capella version of “Express Yourself”.
A brief on-stage interlude follows where she talks candidly with the audience.
“I just want to say how happy I am to have made it this far,” she says in recognition of having cancelled earlier dates.
“Are you having little panic attacks?” she asks the phone-less audience.
“I am – how come no-one’s taking my picture? I consider this an intervention.”
It’s an intervention we could all learn from – and future performances should definitely follow.
Spreading her legs during a costume change, she quips: “This is what it’s like to have Mozart come out of your pussy.” Before joking about her dressers: “I found my lovely assistants on Grindr.”
It’s all illusion – the big reveal being her entire dance troupe returning to the stage for “Vogue”, a beautiful black and white vision with multiple Madame X’s in blonde wigs, trench coats, shades and high heels.
During a later break she takes a breather, kneeling to take a polaroid selfie.
“I have a few injuries,” she explains how it’s affecting her knee and hip and takes a seat instead of remaining on her knees.
“I’ve been told I’m very good at it,” she jokes.
There can’t be many London Palladium performances where the audience yell “whore” at the star.
“Funny how everyone always gets that right,” she says as she lists the personalities Madame X has. “It takes one to know one.”
The polaroid is auctioned for Raising Malawi – someone walks on stage and offers her £1,000.
She’s momentarily stunned. “Do you work for me?” she asks.
The stage invader explains that he flew from Montreal. “I don’t care, you walked on my stage without permission,” Madonna states, before mentioning she’s firing her security.
The picture eventually goes for £1,500 – despite people further back pledging 10 times this amount – and she hurries proceedings along.
“Put your money down, there’s a f***ing iron curtain waiting for me!” she says in reference to a warning about stage times from Westminster Council.
When the fan obliges, she notes: “These are fifties, my God you guys are so cheap.”
Throwing the wad of cash to the back of the stage, she declares,”God bless America!” and crashes into “American Life”.
It’s still absolutely brilliant and, yes, the rap is amazing.
‘We’ve just shared STDs.’
The set once more redressed, she hosts a party in Lisbon, draping herself over a baby grand piano to sing “La Isla Bonita”, changing the lyrics to ‘my Portuguese lullaby’.
“Medellín” follows, with Maluma making an appearance on the duet via screens in windows.
She goes into the crowd and sits with an Italian fan who’s dressed as her. Drinking his beer she says: “We’ve just shared STDs.”
There’s a costume change for “Frozen”, which she performs behind a screen projecting an interpretive dance by daughter Lordes.
It’s one of the simplest yet most effective moments in the entire show and is, quite simply, stunning.
When the screen lifts for “Come Alive”, she looks a bit like a barefoot Edina Monsoon and is joined on stage by the choir, all dressed in robes.
She offers a “last thought”, stating that “not everyone is coming to future”, taking a seat to play the piano she’s been writing over all evening.
Screens project images of burning forests and destroyed cities, while futuristic dancers jump all around her.
Covered in gold crosses, Madonna arrived for the grande finale.
Of course, it’s not quite over – a giant disco ball fills the venue with light as “Like A Prayer” begins, with sets of steps forming a giant X for the choir to walk up.
The queen comes on in a hooded robe, covered in gold crosses.
When she removes her eyepatch and sings the final word, ‘home’ she looks radiant and genuinely happy.
It’s 10.55pm, but there’s still one more song to come – “I Rise”, with Madonna dressed in a military jacket and flanked by dancers and projections. The screen rises to reveal a pride flag the size of the stage.
We told you Madonna said gay rights.
She walks through the crowd, fist raised, as her entire ensemble follows, chanting “I will rise”.
Her last words ring throughout the venue: “Thank you London, good night!”
The queen has left the building. Get a ticket before Madame X leaves the country.
The full setlist:
Express Yourself (A cappella)
Papa Don’t Preach (Intro only)
I Don’t Search I Find
Fado Pechincha (cover of Isabel De Oliveira song)
Killers Who Are Partying
La Isla Bonita
Welcome To My Fado Club
Sodade (cover of Cesária Évora song)
Rescue Me (Interlude)
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Like a Prayer