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Madonna, the icon of gay icons, performed her last show of 2015 on her Rebel Heart Tour in Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on 21 December. The tour continues from mid-January in Asia and North America.
We got as up close and personal as is possible with Madonna from a front-row seat.
A 45-minute delay did begin to become bothersome but the fickle audience (myself included) instantly forgave any diva moments and erupted into orgasmic cheer as the curtains fell away to the intro performance of ‘Iconic’. Lowered from the ceiling in a cage, gyrating on poles and staircases, it was clear that – even at the age of 57 – Madonna has still got it.
The Rebel Heart Tour set list is split roughly 50/50 with songs from the latest album (Rebel Heart) and previous hits including some of our favourites: ‘Deeper and Deeper’, ‘Music’ and ‘Holiday’ (as the encore).
The set and styling for the Rebel Hear Tour feature religion and sex heavily – being signature themes for Madonna, albeit somewhat tired ones. For example, there are scantily dressed, pole-dancing nuns in a medley of ‘Holy Water’/’Vogue’. That particular number finishes with Madonna at a table, evoking The Last Supper, singing the last line of the song ‘Jesus Loves My Pussy Best’ as one of her dancers (playing the part of Jesus) goes down on her. Equally, during the interlude of ‘S.E.X.’ we witness an orgy of topless dancers thrusting on beds – perfectly choreographed, of course.
During the ‘Living for Love’ performance, I was pleased to see Madonna avoid her previous Capegate moment, so clearly there’s been plenty of practice. Another Rebel Heart Tour highlight was the ‘Music’/’Candy Shop’ medley, which has multiple smooth set changes and a small amount of improvisation with her pianist, where Madonna plays her vagina as a piano (naturally).
Quieter performances, such as the acoustic sets of ‘La Isla Bonita’ and ‘La Vie en Rose’ show Madonna can carry a tune. And, at the end of ‘Unapologetic Bitch’, as has become the tradition of this tour, a random audience member was brought on stage, danced briefly with Madonna, and was presented with a banana.
During the Glasgow night, a true Scotsman (i.e., wearing kilt with no underwear) had this privilege. We caught up with him later on at one of the after-show parties and it transpired that this was, of course, all pre-planned and because of the late start it wasn’t known until the very last moment whether they would have time to include the spectacle.
Just as Madonna disappeared for her encore, the power was cut to the set and the main flood lights came on in the SSE Hydro. Not the first time this has happened to Madonna, the determined diva showed she would complete her set and reappeared on stage donning a Scottish flag and a pink Santa hat. Though she could barely be heard (from the lack of power to the amps), the audience sang the words to ‘Holiday’ as Madonna and her dancers performed the finishing number with as much gusto as the opening one.
Known for her strong work ethic, Madonna’s dancers were also rigorous in their performance, for example being thrown from a spiral staircase, swinging on 10-foot stilts and scaling giant LED screens.
Whilst it’s disappointing that some songs seemed to be mimed, she did demonstrate that she can carry a tune. Madonna has immense energy onstage, impressive for a set list lasting over two hours.
Overall, it’s clear Madge still has the stage presence that makes her the performer-cum-provocateur of our time.