Madonna goes in and out of fashion but one constant remains: her tenacity. Less than a year after being almost decapitated during the Brit awards when dancers yanked her cape and sent her flying backwards, Madonna returned to the O2 for a concert that proved that theres nothing like a near-death experience to reinvigorate the Queen of Pop.
Three years ago, Madonna played a less than impressive concert at Hyde Park. What a difference a terrifying accident makes.
Dancers dressed as Crusaders marched on to the stage before a golden cage descended from the rafters containing Madonna. The crusading hordes made way for Japanese Samurai as the woman of the moment ran through Bitch , Im Madonna before a monk handed her a guitar for Burning Up. (Madonnas religious references had distinctly medieval overtones this time round).
Whatever next? A parade of naughty nuns, of course, pole dancing around crosses wearing wimples and frilly knickers. It would have been shocking were it not so impressive.
Madonnas great skill has always been to hold a grand vision that depends on the talents of others, and so it was here.
There was a section for which she vacated the stage entirely to make space for a dancer who did remarkable things with a strip of cloth and others who performed a car mechanic routine that appeared to be based less on taking the car in for its MoT and more on memories of playing Danny Zuko in a school production of Grease. Its so good to be back right here where I belong! she said, before performing a version of True Blue on a ukulele while surrounded by the worlds least scary team of car mechanics.
Her accident at the Brits clearly hadnt spooked Madonna either. She writhed on a spiral staircase for a cover of Love Dont Live Here Anymore, zipped about on a skateboard for Body Shop, and generally gave her health and safety experts a hernia.
Nobody f***s with the queen! she said, creating mass hysteria, before singing Like A Virgin while doing some non-virginal singing on an hydraulic platform.
Everything about this concert exuded confidence, from a samba medley of Into the Groove and Dress You Up to a remarkable set piece during Illuminati in which dancers flew about atop poles.
A Thirties Cabaret-style routine against an art deco set during Music and Material Girl gave way to a defiant re-creation of the cape-removing matador sequence that almost polished her off at the Brits. She even gave a confessional, admitting that she sucked at marriage, before singing La Vie En Rose. I have to admit, even I have outdone myself, she gasped. And when she sang Like A Prayer, surely the best irreligious gospel song ever written, it was impossible not to agree with her.
Even Graham Norton agreed; bizarrely, he joined Madonna on stage for Unapologetic Bitch. On a good night, nobody can touch Madonna and this was one of her best.