January 30, 2020
London PalladiumFrom a fake riot to a brilliant staging of Frozen, the pop artiste is at her most experimental – and intimate
Madonna review – London residency short on hits but big on British banter
A curious mix of anticipation and trepidation hangs in the air of the London Palladium as the audience dutifully stash their mobile phones in locked pouches and await the arrival of the biggest-selling female recording artist of all time. The Madame X tour arrives in Britain trailing a different kind of controversy to the one you might expect from Madonna. There have been cancelled shows, talks of health issues, hotly contested reports of slow ticket sales, and stories of audiences booing and even attempting to sue her for turning up on stage hours late. And there are the grumbles about a setlist that’s bullishly heavy on tracks from her most recent album and takes what you would politely describe as an intriguing approach to her back catalogue. She sings the bare minimum of big hits – Vogue, Like a Prayer, Human Nature – with Express Yourself and La Isla Bonita reduced to interstitial roles (the former performed as a sweet, but brief a cappella duet with her daughter Mercy), and American Life performed in full.
Still, it occasionally serves to remind you that some of Madame X is better than its relatively muted commercial response might suggest – Medellín sounds like the hit single it wasn’t, as does the gorgeous album track Crazy. This is presumably part of the point – the other part being a certain screw-you intransigence designed to underline that we are in the presence of an artiste, not a pop star.
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