Madonna is touring again – aged 61! She's suggested she's keen to project an image of “eternal youth” - though in the UK singles charts her releases do struggle these days. 'Medellin', the Latin-flavoured lead single from her new 'Madame X' album, struggled to briefly peak at No 87.

On stage Madonna, however, remains a major draw. She can still fill big stadiums. But on her current 'Madame X' tour Madonna is playing smaller venues. Tickets started at around £450 for her London Palladium dates from 27th January. Yet demand for seats was such that she had to add nine extra nights to the six originally scheduled.

Big names in small halls always generate excitement. I had the opportunity to join a preview at Brooklyn's attractive old opera house. The rules were strict...all phones were impounded and security officials searched everyone at the entrance. Just as Madonna's people hate to see touts profiteer from ticket sales when the revenue could go to their boss, so they won't allow anyone to post fuzzy photos or videos on social media. This might seem officious but it does help make the Madonna experience feel more theatrical - a genuine one-off evening.

What doesn't feel special is Madonna's determination always to be late. Typically, she doesn't appear until two or even three hours after the time on the ticket - and many of the (mainly late middle-aged) crowd find this unacceptable. As one tough New Yorker commented, “Years back we'd accept it but we are older now and, love her as we do, this is not acceptable behaviour...sheer arrogance! I'll be leaving early.”

Nevertheless, when the show finally started it had momentum. Madonna enters from behind a big American flag. She sings 'God Control' and dancers appear. The action is surprisingly compelling, intense. There are pre-recorded videos merging with the live action in a hybrid art form and it is all a magnificent spectacle of dance, film, design and music. Madonna delivers many songs from her new 'Madame X' album but prudently goes back quite regularly to past hits like 'Express Yourself' and 'Human Nature'. There's an impressive chorus of 11 black women and girls including three of her six children – though it must be well past their bed time!

The show is visually wonderful though musically rather thin and Madonna plugs her new album rather too hard featuring twelve tracks from it compared to just seven from all her other previous work. Professional as they are, for Madonna's fans, the new songs just don't compete with the flashy yesteryear sounds of 'Papa Don't Preach' or 'Like a Prayer'.

Madonna's team stress that this new tour is all about “intimacy” - and you do get to see Madonna, the superstar, relatively close-up. Yet she still feels distant. It's impossible to ignore Madonna's charisma and highly skilled stagecraft though. The overall spectacle is impressive and her supporting dancers and singers are the best big money can buy. The design and stage management is amazing and the music is okay.

But that timekeeping is a major problem. If I'd saved up to splurge £450 plus for my seat, I'd be outraged if an artist kept me waiting three hours after the promised starting time.







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