15 October 2023

The Celebration Tour

“I’m gonna tell you the story of my life, but I’m gonna do it through music and dance, so I hope you enjoy it.”
— Madonna

The Celebration Tour, Madonna’s eleventh world tour, began last night in London. (The show was originally scheduled to open on 27th July, but was postponed after the singer developed a severe bacterial infection.) Madonna will be performing in Europe, the US, Canada, and Mexico, with the final concert being held on 24th April 2024.

Unlike Madonna’s previous tours, which have all promoted individual album releases, The Celebration Tour is her first greatest hits or retrospective tour. The title comes from her 2009 compilation album Celebration. It’s also her first tour without a live band, as the music and backing vocals are all prerecorded. With almost thirty songs performed live, a platform suspended above the crowd, and a spectacular lighting rig, it’s Madonna’s most elaborate live show, after the relative intimacy of the Madame X Tour.

The tour is effectively an autobiography, conceived after Madonna cancelled plans to write and direct a biopic about herself. Montages of clips from Madonna’s music videos, extracts from Truth or Dare, newspaper headlines, and archive photos—including some from the Sex book—provide an audio-visual collage of her forty-year career. She wears an updated version of her notorious Blond Ambition World Tour conical bra, designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, while she performs Vogue, Human Nature, and Crazy for You.

The full set list is: Nothing Really Matters, Everybody, Into the Groove, Burning Up, Open Your Heart, Holiday, Live to Tell, Like a Prayer, Erotica, Justify My Love, Hung Up, Bad Girl, Vogue, Human Nature, Crazy for You, Die Another Day, Don’t Tell Me, a cover version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, La Isla Bonita, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, Bedtime Story, Ray of Light, Rain, Bitch I’m Madonna, and Celebration (featuring the chorus from Music). On the opening night, she also sang an a capella version of Little Star

Other songs—In This Life, The Beast Within, and I Don’t Search I Find—appear as prerecorded interludes. There is also a prerecorded version of Like a Virgin, in a medley with Michael Jackson performing Billie Jean. (Madonna previously sang a Like a Virgin and Billie Jean medley on The Virgin Tour.) In light of the credible child abuse allegations made against Jackson, lyrics like “Touched for the very first time” make the medley particularly inappropriate.

Madonna’s previous world tours are Who’s That Girl, Blond Ambition, The Girlie Show, Drowned World, Reinvention, Confessions, Sticky and Sweet, MDNA, Rebel Heart, and Madame X. The Virgin Tour was performed only in the US and Canada.