Kerry Meech 30/07/2006

There are not many things Madonna can confess to not having done before but surprisingly, playing a concert in Wales is one of them; it is perhaps apt, then, that the first European date of her final world tour, The Confessions Tour, would bring her to the Millennium Stadium.

Over Madonna's career she has produced some of the most notoriously provocative moments in popular music history, who can forget the Sex Book, the banned video to 'Justify My Love', the coned bra, THAT lesbian kiss? Critics may be quick to bear judgment but there is still no denying Madonna's title as 'Queen of Pop' and tonight's performance only reconfirmed what we already know…she is in a league of her own.

The theme of disco and dance was apparent in almost all aspects of the show, from the track selections of support Paul Oakenfold to the mirror ball egg which Madonna appeared on the stage to open with 'Future Lovers' which seamlessly morphed into the Donna Summer classic 'I Feel Love'. Of course there wasn't just the mirror ball egg, she also had the obligatory greased up dancers in leather bondage gear which she dutifully straddled, well it would be rude not to.

Classics such as 'Like A Virgin', and 'Erotica' were remixed for the concert to give a newer, fresher disco feel to them which succeeded in bridging the gap between the old school Madonna fans who were actually alive when she first appeared on the '80s music scene, and those who have perhaps only witnessed Madonna in her recent bouts of reinvention.

The combination of music and choreography made for a spectacular spectacle, with dancers appearing on roller-skates whilst the white-suited Madonna struck the infamous John Travolta pose whilst singing 'Music' to the 'Disco Inferno' tune. The concert was full of moments like this, where you were left wondering how she managed to pull-off such an over-the-top performance without miming, and believe it or not, she didn't mime once, even when she was sliding upside down from a pole during 'Like A Virgin'. The calm eye of the storm did appear however in the form of 'Substitute For Love', 'La Isla Bonita' and 'Paradise (not for me)' where the lack of commotion on stage made you fully appreciate just how good the songs are when stripped of the showiness of choreography, costume and stage props. At times it even seemed that Madonna was relying on her old pal, the 'shock-factor' when she didn't really need to. Of course I am talking about the well-reported crucifix stage prop where Madonna is suspended in the air wearing a crown of thorns on a mirror-clad crucifix whilst singing 'Live To Tell'. It's not that it didn't work as a symbolic image of the way in which thousands of people die from AIDs each day (before there had been a film montage reporting on AIDs), it just seemed like a rather tacky way of doing it, but then perhaps Madonna would argue that was the point?

The audience were also given a sneaky peek into how Madonna may have looked when fronting 'Emmy', the first band she was ever in, when she graced the stage playing an electric guitar to 'Ray Of Light' and 'I Love New York', both of which saw the huge mass of the audience bouncing in time, this was only increased further when she started singing 'Lucky Star'. The mixing together of one of Madonna's earliest releases with one of her most recent, 'Hung Up', provided the finale of all finales, with Madonna stripping away her costume to reveal a tiny, glittery, purple leotard. Her working of the crowd (I want you to all scream “Time goes by so slowly!”) twinned with the release of hundreds of golden balloons from the rafters created a euphoric end leaving many of the revelers running for the nearest nightclub to continue their quest. This leaves us with one important question, what's going to happen to popular music when Madonna retires?

We'll find out in 2008.