It has taken madonnalicious a couple of days to let the whole experience sink in (and to catch up on sleep), but now we can give you our report on the opening night of the Sticky & Sweet Tour in Cardiff.
Firstly madonnalicious wasn't looking forward to seeing the show in a stadium as they always seem so big and impersonal and you can never get a great view. Our tickets were checked, and a hole punched in them (Hey! That was meant to be a souvenir and you just put a hole in it Mr Ticket Checker).
Our hands were then stamped to allow us access to the gold circle, and we walked down a rampway into the stadium, which with the roof closed almost seemed intimate! We were greeted with the site of the stage, which had a catwalk with a large round end and some LED screens on the middle of the stage in the shape of a cube. A set of two round LED screens were also spotted high above the catwalk podium.
The gold circle was smaller than expected, and madonnalicious settled in a spot about 10 metres from the stage about halfway down the catwalk, stage right (any closer and madonnalicious would have trouble seeing over everyones heads!). The majority of the crowd was bunched up around the catwalk, with more space towards the sides of the gold circle.
There were rumours circulating in the crowd that Madonna was due on stage at 8.30pm, but we were expecting the show to start at 9.00pm as is the usual for Madonna tours. Not sure where all these reports came from that said the show would start at 7.30pm (the tickets only stated a 'gates open' time).
Another rumour was that Chris Martin from Coldplay would be playing the piano in Devil Wouldn't Recognise You. Strange and not true!
Despite reports to the contrary in the press we struggled to see any empty seats in the upper tiers - the empty seats in the lower bowl are not sold as seats but are for the use of the general admission ticket holders (who obviously chose to stand instead). madonnalicious has rarely seen a stadium so full!
At about 8.50pm the first set of lights were switched off - screams - wait another five minutes - another set switched off - more screams - further five minutes - then it all went very dark very quickly....behold she is coming soon! Screams, cheers, whistles, and the hairs stood up on the back of your neck!
The start was a surprise as madonnalicious had been expecting a Steven Klein video as on the previous two tours, instead we got computer animation playing on the screens, hints of tick-tock played as the screens began to open in a way we weren't expecting. Images of candy and razor blades, wheels and cogs (reminiscent of the Blond Ambition opening). Dancers appeared on platforms being raised at the far sides of the stages, and then the LED screens slid open to reveal Madonna sitting on the throne as she launched into Candy Shop.
Candy Shop looked the same routine as the promo tours - but it does work well as an opening number, with Madonna cheekily playing with her cane. Next up was the Beat Goes On - and the first wow-moment of the night - a very large white pimp-style car glided onto the catwalk with Madonna and dancers sitting in it and on it - with Madonna wearing a white top-hat.
Then came Human Nature, Madonna stood on the end of the catwalk with a guitar. Some strange vocal effect (madonnalicious is unsure whether we liked it or not) was put on her voice as the 'infamous Britney' video was played on the screens (including the LED screens above the catwalk podium). Britney, wearing a hoodie, was trapped in a lift, waiting, lying on the floor, standing up, on the phone, pacing around. As Madonna came to the end of the song singing, 'I'm not your bitch...I'm not your bitch' - the song ended with a close-up of Britney answering back saying 'It's Britney bitch!' Great applause from all the crowd - and for all those fans worried that Britney being featured in a Madonna show wouldn't work - it did work, and worked well.
Now for Vogue - the song was mashed in with elements of 4 Minutes and it sounded great, a full-on dance routine with dancers started at the end of the catwalk that worked it's way to the end stage for some compulsory voguing of course!
Now it was the Die Another Day video interlude - shot by Tom Munro during the tourbook photoshoot. While this was playing a boxing ring was set up on the catwalk end and two dancers came on dressers as boxers and danced/boxed their way from the main stage to the boxing ring - they fought, we watched!
Old School - now this was the section madonnalicious had most been looking forward to! The screens were filled with primary colour designs by Keith Haring and Madonna skipped onto the stage in knee-high socks, red silk shorts and a tracksuit top. This section looked like it was going to be fun! Her DJ (with his Swarovski crystal encrusted headphones) appeared on stage with his decks and a pole - which Madonna proceeded to pole dance on! Blimey! What then followed was the most energetic sequence yet. Double Dutch skipping - madonnalicious stood there holding our breath hoping no one messed up - but it looked perfectly executed. Well done everyone!
A heartbeat appeared on the screens as the intro to Hearbeat began, as Madonna lay on the stage, with a couple of her dancers changing her shoes like they were performing an operation - very tongue in cheek! Now it was time for a song most fans had never seen or heard live in the UK - Borderline. It was a rocky/guitar based version - taking us back to Madonna's early days in her band in New York City.
She's Not Me - wow! Another stand out piece of staging. Madonna is confronted with four different previous incarnations of herself. Like A Virgin Madonna, Material Girl Madonna, Open Your Heart Madonna, Express Yourself Madonna - all standing at the four corners of the catwalk end. Madonna went up to them, pushed them, pulled them, it even looked like she was strangling one of them at one point and ended ripping the wig off of the Express Yourself Madonna - which she then put on herself. We were all shocked thinking - boy is she angry with someone! Then followed a breakdown/dance routine on the catwalk podium floor (very similar to Let It Will Be on Confessions Tour).
To up the tempo again, it was time for Music - the same mix and routine as done on the promo tours - so no great surprise but the mix with Fedde Le Grand's Put Your Hands up for Detroit is always good to hear.
Another video interlude followed and this one was a bit odd to be honest - again we were greeted with computer animation on the screens as Eurthymics Here Comes the Rain Again played - with only very slight hints of Madonna's song Rain. A kind of strange fantasy land and creatures were on the screen as two dancers appeared - almost like butterflies on the side of the stages as they were raised up on platforms. Too little Madonna in that segment, maybe if Madonna was featured on the video screens it would have been more satisfying.
The two LED screens had been lowered over the catwalk and the sound and flashes of very loud lightning and rain filled the stadium, with computer animation rain falling down the LED screens as a piano - with Madonna on top - was raised up on the catwalk end. Thank goodness the stadium roof was on otherwise we would have been experiencing the Welsh rain for real! A good vocal performance of Devil Wouldn't Recognise You followed with Madonna standing on the piano (with musical director Kevin Atunes playing piano) - and although we guess it was meant to be atmospheric - we were wishing for LED screens to raise so we could properly see Madonna....it was a little frustrating basically looking at a black cloak behind a black screen for the whole song.
Spanish Lesson! The marmite of Hard Candy - you either love it or you hate it. Madonna had now removed the black coat and her colourful gypsy outfit was on display. A rousing version of the song with the dancers all wearing black hooded cloaks followed. Now Madonna moved to the catwalk end again and performed a simple yet effective performance of Miles Away - with more or less the same video footage that was featured during the promo tour.
By now the dancers had changed into their colourfully gaudy satin shirts as La Isla Bonita started up - with the help of a Romanian gypsy band. This was the same version as was performed at Live Earth - a slightly bonkers version of the song but something great to dance to with friends! We then had the Romanian musical interlude with the band on the catwalk podium - which left some people baffled. To madonnalicious it sounded like the Hokey Cokey - so we just had a good knees up in the gold circle - to the bemusement of some fans around us!
You Must Love Me - the part of the show to make you cry (if you are inclined that way) - a very strong vocal performance with Madonna on guitar surrounded by the Romanian band and Monte Pittman. The video screens played footage from Evita, of the funeral procession and the mourners - very moving.
Now for the political part of the show - the video interlude 'Get Stupid' - images of destruction, waste, war, and some of the more unsavoury political characters in history, Hitler, Mugabe....and John McCain - as his face flashed up an audible collective gasp from what seemed like the whole audience was heard - boy this is going to cause some trouble! Then as the clip went on - which featured some brand new footage of Madonna singing the song - we were shown images of people who had tried in the past like Kennedy and Lennon, and some new faces who maybe could change the world in the future such as Oprah and Obama! It will be interesting to see how this clip fairs when the tour hits the USA in October just before the election!
The 4 Minutes video begins, smaller LED screens move into place on stage and the promo tour version (minus a real Justin Timberlake) is performed. Madonna is now wearing her 'futuristic rave' outfit and seems to have had a child cut her fringe! A look that is going to have to take some getting use to - but it certainly fits in with the theme!
Now Like A Prayer - always a crowd favourite but this mashed up rave version (mixed with Felix's Don't You Want Me) is an absolute stomper and a totally unexpected version. Laser beams now fire patterns on the ceiling (how is that going to work at an outside venue madonnalicious wonders?) and we are now in the middle of a rave. Who would have thought it? Madonna does rave! Backing singer Nicki Richards does an excellent solo in the song at the end of the catwalk.
Madonna says 'Do you want more?! YES! Now it's the request section' - people shout, she replies 'F*ck that, I chose the songs'....When the tour first starts Madonna never says much - just sticks to the script - however by the time she reaches the US Madonna will not be able to stop talking!
The guitar is strapped onto Madonna and Ray Of Light begins - a computer animated game of chess take place on the video screens behind as a rocky version of Ray Of Light (similar to Live Earth) is performed.
Now Hung Up starts, it's the same version as seen on the promo tour - and this together with Ray Of Light feels a bit of a guitar heavy end to the show. The songs chosen for the final section of the show couldn't have been better - just their arrangements seemed to let it down - or maybe madonnalicious had too high expectations for this section.
And now the final song - Give It 2 Me - a remixed version! A computer animated game appears on the screens - including an animated M flying around shooting lazer guns from the top and with rockets on the bottom! By the end of the song the whole cast come on stage - we dance, we jump, we sing and we cheer, and then it's over. Game Over the screens say. The lights come on and we linger around - not wanting this to be over. Eventually we reluctantly leave before being swept up with the discarded rubbish!
madonnalicious doesn't remember seeing such a smiling, happy, bouncy, energetic Madonna on stage - and even the more serious sections of the show were more moving than dark and disturbing. Complaints from some fans in the press that Madonna didn't say thank you and goodnight will probably be addressed as the tour continues.
Now madonnalicious may have sounded a bit critical in some sections of this review - but don't let it fool you - we cannot wait to see the show again. Being of short height madonnalicious felt that they missed out on some aspects of the show - but will be able to soak up all these missing pieces when sitting our seat next month!
Thanks to madonnalicious reader Paul for the great pictures from Cardiff that illustrated this report.