It’s hard to believe that around this time last year I was in a packed London Palladium, sandwiched between fabulous fellow journalist Lucy O’Brien and Everything but the Girl’s wonderfully droll Tracey Thorn, for the opening night of Madonna’s Madame X show.
It was a remarkable event, made even more so by the fact that Our Lady of Perpetual Pop was bang on time and in full focus, rather than an hour later than advertised and just some spec on an arena stage.
Looking back on it now, it’s got me thinking how Madonna must surely be the greatest live performer of all time. I’m not necessarily talking about the voice, which can waver when she’s in the age-defying midst of a dance routine; more it’s about those dance moves, the artistic remixing and reframing of songs and thematic groupings of them, plus the sheer joy she clearly still gets from being in front of a live audience.
It’s also got me thinking of the many Madge shows I’ve seen over the years, since the exuberant Who’s That Girl tour at both Roundhay Park in Leeds and Wembley Stadium in London in 1987, followed by the jaw-on-the-floor brilliance of Blond Ambition in Paris in 1990.
Since then I’ve been privileged to attend the opening night of the Drowned World Tour in Barcelona and catch the Confessions show in Los Angeles (dancing next to Salma Hayek, no less). I went back to Paris for the Re-Invention World Tour and was in Cardiff for the first leg of Sticky & Sweet a month before sound problems at Wembley saw some ticked-off fans clamouring for a refund.
It was not such a privilege witnessing the MDNA extravaganza in Hyde Park, which had its moments but was way too arty for the outdoor setting and, with too many album tracks in support of arguably Her Madgesty’s worst long-player, failed to connect with fans beyond the ‘golden circle’. But she redressed the balance by featuring the more-than-usual quota of oldies in the Rebel Heart setlist.
I was living abroad when The Girlie Show premiered at Wembley Stadium so I’ve only seen it on DVD. More times than I can count, actually, and in my opinion - an opinion which is sure to annoy some of the diehards out there - it’s her best-ever live show. Yes, even better than the astounding Blond Ambition.
Here then is my highly subjective ranking of the Queen of Pop’s world tours:
1. The Girlie Show
2. Blond Ambition
4. Who’s That Girl
5. Drowned World
6. The Re-Invention Tour
7. Sticky & Sweet
8. Rebel Heart
I've left off The Virgin Tour because it only played North America. And with no blu-ray release or TV broadcast yet for the Madame X show, I’ll need a few more viewings to asses its ranking.
For what it’s worth, though, you can find the review I filed at the time here