Madonna rocks the arena in a samurai-inspired outfit, telling fans: “London has a very special place in my heart”
Madonna’s tumble during her Brit awards performance at the O2 earlier this year was an inauspicious launch for Rebel Heart, her first album to miss No 1 in two decades.
There were no such mishaps when she returned to the venue nine months later for a two-hour show that made you feel exhausted on her behalf.
At 57, she still had the energy to cavort with a coterie of muscular dancers, while her voice sounded stronger than ever. There were supportive cheers when her cape was removed — this time without the singer falling down a flight of steps.
Despite that TV trauma, Madonna seemed happy to be back in the city where she lived for several years. “London has a very special place in my heart,” she told fans.
She recruited Idris Elba as support DJ and pulled Graham Norton on stage for dancehall tune Unapologetic Bitch, a cringey coupling that culminated in the pair simulating a sex act with a banana.
Fortunately, the budget was more evident during the rest of the performance, which featured her descending in a cage amid a spectacular Samurai warrior sequence for bleary club track Iconic.
With a further eight songs from her latest album, it was a slightly maddening set list that almost completely ignored the Nineties. But at least Rebel Heart takes inspiration from her past. Holy Water incorporated a burst of Vogue, while the robust ballad Heartbreak City segued into Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.
This tour also revisited her outrageous approach to religious iconography, including pole dancers combining a nun’s veil with knickers and a version of the Last Supper in which Madonna appeared to be the dessert.
Despite her undoubted fitness, perhaps there was a little more time spent lurking at the end of the ego ramp and strumming a guitar or ukulele than before. But it was joy to witness her during ebullient renditions of Like A Prayer, Material Girl and the finale of Holiday. After more than three decades in pop, she’s still going strong.