Madonna review, London Palladium: An eyeball-twisting audiovisual assault with more action than a Marvel movie
Anticipation fizzes around the London Palladium tonight, because this is the debut of the London leg of intimate shows – she cancelled her first earlier in the week due to a knee injury. It would have been hard to play her steely, eye-patched spy at half tilt: there are handstands, a bit where she slides down a grand piano like Roxie Hart and, of course, plenty of straddling her exceptional dancers. Like her 2019 album, she appears as Madame X, a bondage secret agent who threads various nods to her career through her new globetrotting mish-mash of trap, Latin-pop and Afro-Lusophone folk.
This is a show of two halves: the first is an aggressive blast of political messaging and theatre noir that is also a comment - and Madonna doesn’t do subtle - on being under attack herself. She opens with her disco ode to police violence, “God Control”, dressed in a glittering revolutionary outfit; then she’s on the run, pushed and shoved between her cast like a pantomime villain during new song “I Don’t Search I Find”, as phrases like “f*** off” flash overhead. There is more action than a Marvel movie: comic interludes, blowjob innuendos and a bizarre charity auction – during which she proclaims that “Madame X is also a saint” and a ballsy fan gets onstage to try and hand her £1000 cash (she quips that she’ll have to fire her security).
“Vogue”, meanwhile, feels fairly low impact, but other flashbacks are a reminder of her sustained influence on pop culture. At one point, her dancers and three young daughters - Mercy, Stelle and Esthere, dressed in slick Nineties fashion (now fashionable once again) - gather beside her to chorus, “I’m not your bitch” after a rendition of “Express Yourself”. You could say that it’s a cheap shot to bring her family into it, but when she sings her earth mother banger “Frozen” as her other daughter, Lourdes, dances on a projection screen around her, it’s genuinely moving.
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