'Show-Stopping Spectacle' Or 'Lacking A Little Punch'? What The Critics Are Saying About Madonna's Tour

The Queen Of Pop's Celebration Tour kicked off at London's O2 Arena on Saturday night.
Madonna performs during opening night of The Celebration Tour at The O2 Arena on October 14, 2023 in London.
Madonna performs during opening night of The Celebration Tour at The O2 Arena on October 14, 2023 in London.
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Madonna is finally back where she belongs, taking to the stage over the weekend to kick off her highly-anticipated Celebration Tour.

The 35-city tour was announced earlier this year, but the Queen of Pop was forced to delay the start of it due to a serious bacterial infection that landed her in hospital for several days back in June.

But Madonna was on fine form as she began her show at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday night, where she played to 20,000 fans, and also spoke candidly her recent health scare.

Taking fans through her 40-year career, her set list included her most recognisable hits such as Into The Hollywood Groove, Holiday and Like A Prayer.

In addition, her children joined her on staged, Estere was voguing whilst her son David played the guitar.

The general consensus from critics so far has largely been positive, but they have honed in on some pain points – here’s what they all had to say...

Guardian (4/5 stars)

“[...] You could argue that the show loses its sense of narrative thread – you’d be hard-pushed to describe a segue that jams together Human Nature, Crazy for You and Justify My Love with readings from the Book of Revelation as anything other than puzzling – but what it lacks in clarity, it makes up for with its setlist.

“You could see the Celebration tour 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.”

Evening Standard (4/5 stars)

“Though the narrative of the show, a journey through Madonna’s life, started out strong, it weakened and became more confused as time went on. Technical difficulties early on also forced Madonna to muddle her way through a prolonged bout of stand-up for almost ten minutes.

“Still, it frankly wouldn’t be a proper Madonna show without a few surprise jokes about trading sexual favours for hot showers early in her career, nor a couple of musical curveballs. Forty years at the top of pop, and she’s still unpredictable as ever.”

“The concert was billed as Madonna’s first-ever greatest hits set and, on that front, it did not disappoint.

“Not every moment was so successful. The Bjork-penned Bedtime Stories felt superfluous, and did we really need a second version of Justify My Love (the obscure Beast Within remix, which quotes extensively from the Book of Revelations) when songs like Express Yourself and Frozen were discarded as snippets? The narrative, too, began to meander. After a strong autobiographical structure in the opening act, later sequences were hard to decipher.”

Independent 5/5 stars

“The O2’s sound system failed during the song, but the hitch – which the singer shrugged off – only added to the vintage vibe.

“The show’s high point arrives courtesy of an achingly beautiful rendition of 1986’s Live to Tell, during which Madonna floats above our heads as the screens fill with images of the many talented gay men lost to the Aids epidemic.”

“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 (and many of this crowd, teetering on the brink of delirium ever since the Madonna pop-up store opened in the adjoining mall this morning, seem set to do just that).

“This show is proof that there is no such thing as too much Madonna. True, the lack of a live band occasionally makes things lack a little punch.”

“For all of the genius production masterminded tonight by her creative director, the renowned producer Stuart Price, there are sections of the show that feel overwrought and, at one point, entirely misguided.

“The overwrought comes in a bizarre video interlude of The Beast Within, which sees flames engulf the stage and Madonna’s dancers looking like they’ve come straight from the set of Dune 2. It’s an undeniable spectacle, but it feels overlong.

“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.”

Daily Mail 4/5 stars

“If this show has a problem it’s that it’s rather too long, too self-indulgent – and has too many pretentious interludes...”

Madonna’s Celebration Tour continues at The O2 on Wednesday.


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