Madonna triumphantly returns as the revolutionary queen of the concert stage.
“Despite being widely billed as a greatest hits set, it felt more like an artist’s memoir in live show form.” So notes the British newspaper Evening Standard in its review of Madonna’s The Celebration Tour, which finally kicked off over the weekend with the first 2 of 6 sold out shows in London’s 20,000-seat O2 Arena.
The tour was pushed back several months from its original mid-July start in Vancouver, Canada by the severe bacterial infection that sent the 65-year-old superstar to the ICU for several days in late June.
The Standard blurb is probably the highest compliment the tour, the queen of pop’s 13th, can get. It’s not a standard line that can be used for any other pop concert. More notably, it further cements Madonna’s status as the greatest concert artist of all time—more than 30 years since the 1990’s groundbreaking Blond Ambition tour. She has elevated the pop show to performance art and has yet again found a way to reinvent it.
How, exactly, is the CelebrationTour groundbreaking? Here are some numbers.
15 countries 17 archived costumes recreated 24 onstage performers 40+ songs including snippets 78 shows 200 concert crew members 230 feet combined length of catwalk 600 stage lights 3,600 square feet of projection imagery
What critics and media say
Most of the other critics were just as enthralled by the show. Here’s a roundup of reviews.
The Arts Desk presents another take on the innovativeness of The Celebration Tour. “The show is biographical concept album as dance theater,” it notes, before raving: “It is a spectacle on the very grandest scale. It is eye-catching and fascinating, remarkable even, and, at its heart, Madonna’s driven creativity and ambition are ramped-up and on display.”
NME: “The whole thing is a thrilling reminder that Madonna isn’t just a pop star, but also a cultural force who genuinely changed the world by chafing against what society expects from women in the public eye. That’s something worth celebrating in the dazzling, dynamic and at times slightly discombobulating way she presents it here. Really, you wouldn’t have her any other way.”
Variety: “Tonight, the Madonna show goes on and, after that early hitch, it simply doesn’t stop, laying on spectacle after spectacle and show-stopper after show-stopper. With so many stages, set-ups and costume changes, you could probably catch this gig half a dozen times and still not spot everything. Furthermore, tonight she lays claim not just to her own history, but also to her influence on music and the wider world over the last 40 years.”
The New York Times: “For Madonna, the 78-date Celebration Tour is a chance to assert her star power in a year when live music has been dominated by Swift and Beyoncé—women who, like Madonna before them, have used talent and deep media savvy to remake pop stardom in their own image.”
The Guardian: “You could see the CelebrationTour as a capitulation, an artist in her 60s finally admitting her history is what really matters. Equally, you could view it as Madonna playing to her strengths: as Like a Virgin and Ray of Light boom out over the O2, those strengths seem very strong indeed.”
BBC: “The concert was billed as Madonna’s first-ever greatest hits set and, on that front, it did not disappoint.”
The Independent: “It’s a shame so few young people appear to be in the audience tonight because this is a show that proves Madonna still matters…We should never forget how much Madonna changed the world—hers is a life and a legacy worth celebrating.”
Attitude: “Celebration is as much about Madonna’s unwavering credentials as a live performer as it is her legacy on the generations of young stars that followed her. Her impact on popular culture is scattered throughout, with the inclusion of adoring soundbites from the likes of Britney Spears and Ariana Grande. With that said, the show is a reminder that there is—and only will be—one Madonna.”
Metro: “For just a few hours, we were utterly absorbed in Madonna’s world of unbridled empowerment. If we were to take away one lasting message from her Celebration spectacle, it would be this – there’s no stopping her enduring reign as the undisputed Queen of Pop.”
RollingStone: “A masterclass in arena production…Much like the singer herself, tonight’s opening show is two hours of overblown, indulgent fun that refuses to dance to the beat of anyone else’s drum. Here’s a true icon who, for the most part at least, is determined to show that her throne as the Queen of Pop remains roundly intact. A celebration, well and truly delivered.”
Here’s Madonna’s Celebration Tour schedule on her website.