The first of Madonna’s two Dublin concerts on her MDNA world tour was hardly a sellout but, with 300 million album sales to her credit, the Queen of Pop did not seem at all bothered.
The show opened with bell-ringing, Gregorian chant and a giant incense burner swinging back and forth across, the stage before Madonna arrived to perform a perfectly rambunctious Girl Gone Wild.
The 53-year-old Madonna demonstrated her fitness by back-flipping from a staircase into her dancers’ arms. it was just the first in a series of elaborate set-pieces and myriad costume changes that saw Madonna showcase songs old and new with a troupe of performers that included her children Lourdes and Rocca.
“Bang bang, shot you dead/Bitch out of order, bat out of hell,” she sang on Gang Bang. Blood splattered across the backdrop as Madonna wrestled vigorously with a dancer on a bed on stage.
The opening salvo of up-tempo numbers gave way to a more subtle Heartbeat — dancers in gasmasks prowled the stage while the backdrop showed scenes from a graveyard.
But moments later, Madonna re-emerged as leader of a marching band to rework her 1989 track Express Yourself, mashing it up cheekily with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way monster hit of last year, pointing up one song’s all-too-obvious resemblance to the other.
As darkness fell, Madonna eased into her performance. “I’ve never been in Ireland when it didn’t rain,” she joked between songs. “What the fuck?” The crowd seemed not to mind the drizzle or her language as she launched into Justify My Love, Vogue and Erotic.
Madonna may have flashed one breast in Turkey last month, and the other in Paris last week, but in Dublin, she was more concerned with showing off her Gaeilge.
Earlier, Madonna had invited a few hundred of the early arrivals into the stadium and up on stage, where she exchanged Irish phrases with them before performing a selection of tunes that included Celebration and Give Me All Your Loving.
There was always the possibility that she might expose herself later, and late in the gig, she flashed the cheeks of her backside, and her thong, and writhed about stage as she performed Like A Virgin. But that, thank God, was as far as it went.
A brilliant gig.