Madonna took the stage in London on Saturday in the long-awaited debut of her surprisingly poignant new ‘Celebration’ world tour, which had been delayed after she suffered a serious health scare during the summer.
In the opening night at the O2 Arena, the singer – who turned 65 in August – delivered a show that was at times more somber than celebratory, with tributes to some of the late icons with whom she ascended to stardom, like Prince, Michael Jackson and Sinead O’Connor.
The “Like a Virgin” performer also addressed her health troubles, saying it had been “a crazy year for me.”
“I didn’t think I was going to make it, neither did my doctors. That’s why I woke up with all of my children sitting around me,” she said.
Madonna battled a bacterial infection in June that caused her to cancel the first leg of the “Celebration” tour in North America.
“I forgot five days of my life – or my death. I don’t really know where I was,” she added, going on to thank her children for saving her, as they do “every time.”
“If you want to know my secret, and you want to know how I pulled through and how I survive, I thought, ‘I’ve got to be there for my children. I have to survive for them,’” she said.
In another solemn moment, victims of the AIDS epidemic splashed across the arena’s giant screens, as Madonna sang verses from her emotional ballad “In This Life” off of her 1992 album “Erotica.” Notably, her friend, the late artist Keith Haring, was displayed as the show shifted to her 1986 hit “Live to Tell.”
“Celebration,” of course, also had some joyous interludes, like when Madonna’s daughter Mercy James appeared behind a piano, flawlessly rendering the opening notes to “Bad Girl,” also off “Erotica.”
Her other daughters Lourdes Leon – who was celebrating her birthday – and twins Stella and Estere also got in on the fun, during the performance of Madge’s timeless 1990 hit “Vogue.”
Dancers wore masks and costumes meant to distill her most career-defining moments, those tied to her No. 1 hits and not. Indeed, it should be noted for Madonna’s die-hards that the tour is not at all reserved only for her chart hits. More esoteric songs – like 1994’s “Bedtime Stories” – got major love, too.
The show featured sumptuous lighting and video wizardry. Madonna often faced away from the audience, performing to a camera that then projected a flawless-looking Madge back to the crowd.
Ultimately, though, “Celebration” had a surprisingly pared-down feel, as the iconic entertainer took some time to reflect back on her unparalleled career and personal journey, as well as the journeys of others who touched her along the way.
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