I was obsessed by Madonna as a girl growing up in the 80s. I still know all the words to every song on the True Blue album. Like many sustaining a love affair for decades, my interest has peaked and waned over the years.
But Wednesday night’s concert at the O2 reminded me of Madonna’s huge star power, revealing an artist at the peak of her talents. In her first night of the London leg of her Rebel Heart Tour, the Queen of Pop was as youthful, relevant, inspirational and as goddamn sexy as ever. Nobody else has even come close to stealing her crown in the thirty two years since she burst into our hearts and minds with her bleached blonde hair and attitude although there have been many imitators.
Madonna’s voice was superb, her dancing sensational, the stage sets were out of this world spectacular – veering from Zeffirelli style opulence to New York disco cool. It was dizzying to watch as film backdrops showcased Madonna though the years as her hot dancers strutted and performed acrobatics across the stage. Yet at other times it was just Madonna and her guitar and you felt as though she was singing to you in your front room.
Material from her new album Rebel Heart, which has been reviewed positively by the critics, took up the best part of the show, including a highlight of Heartbreak City shifting into Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, but there were enough updated versions of old classics to ensure the whole of the O2 got up to dance. After an emotional plea to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS on World AIDS day, Like a Prayer brought the house down.
Madonna’s charisma shone throughout and when she came back on stage for her exuberant encore of Holiday I was an eleven year old girl once more, my role model a fierce warrior woman who was never going to come second place to any man – or woman. Singers dressing like porn stars today seem to forget that Madonna was always in control of her sexuality. Nobody was telling her what to do. Any mistakes were her own.
Madonna’s appeal has always very much been in her strength, her fearless ‘don’t give a shit what you think’ attitude. But what was clear to me at the O2 was also her showmanship, her professionalism and the sheer joy in music, dancing, laughter and love. Everyone left the show inspired, uplifted and ready to kick some ass. Isn’t that how a true artist should make you feel?
Long Live The Queen. May she ever reign over us.
By Karen Attwood
With thanks to BMW and Iris Worldwide for hosting