Madonna in Abu Dhabi: first night

After coming on stage an hour and 40 minutes late, star lives up to hype

Knowledge story, The Knowledge

Yes, she came on stage an hour and 40 minutes late, long after Benny Benassi stopped showering us with David Guetta tracks. This was unusually tardy, even for Madonna. And, yes, it was warm. But it was certainly not as warm as we were all dreading it would be when we first heard about the June gig date back in February: the humidity levels remained relatively kind to us, and the fans, 'cooling stations' and promised 'Yas Island breeze' all made a difference.

And yes, she played a fair few 'old ones'. Ten of 22 to be exact, spanning 'Papa Don't Preach', 'Express Yourself (feat. Born This Way and She's Not Me)' - a five-inch-heel-high dig at Lady Gaga's familiar-sounding track - 'Open Your Heart' ,'Justify My Love', 'Vogue', 'Human Nature', 'Like A Virgin' - albeit a stripped-down, maudlin, take on the chirpy '80s original - and 'Like A Prayer.' 'Material Girl' and 'Erotica' were also played, mixed in to newer tracks.

And yes, of course Madonna shocked us. After opening with religious chants and an incense pot that swung above some of the crowd, she proceeded to run about with an AK47 during 'Revolver', before shooting a man in a Kill Bill-style motel room during the clearly-shock-tactic-motivated 'Gang Bang'. Of course, other gasp-inducing moments included her stripping down to her underwear and inviting everyone to 'act dangerously', flirting with girls (as well as her current squeeze, 24-year-old Brahim Zaibat, during a flash of 'Erotica'), and men dressed as women - in corsets. Indeed, moments of 'I'm a Sinner', particularly the religious-references included in the dance routine, played precariously with local boundaries.

But then, there were also plenty of surprises we couldn't have predicted (at least, those of us who'd avoided reading the tour's first night reviews). There was the flying marching band during 'Give Me All Your Luvin', that drifted high above the lucky few in the stage's triangle pit area. Indeed, there was the stage itself, and how far the two catwalks stretched out into the Golden Circle. And finally, there was the appearance of her 11-year-old son Rocco, and his - very focussed! - participation in several dance routines.

Yes: she kept us waiting for an hour and 40 minutes. But she certainly kept us all enthralled for an hour and 50. While the energy of the set may have been a bit patchy for some towards the back of the arena (that 'Like a Virgin' rendition...), for only the second date of a production of this scale, the show was spectacularly polished (we spotted just one accidental drop of the mic. And we're guessing the dancer that passed it to her knew about it afterwards…).

And, most importantly of all on a school night - the traffic wasn't too bad at all on the way out. Panic not, those heading to Yas Island tonight!

Click here for Madonna in Abu Dhabi pictures

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