HOWEVER many bland, well-meaning epithets you care to throw at her – living legend; icon; pop pioneer – Madonna has always been smarter and more interesting than such labels would suggest.
Madonna | Rating: *** | SSE Hydro, Glasgow
That’s why she’s survived at the top for so long.
A solid gold pro, she gives the people what they want, but usually with a twist. A perverse crowd-pleaser. So, while her tenth worldwide concert tour, commissioned in service of her latest album, Rebel Heart, delivers all her standard tricks – camp, dancer-flanked, choreographed spectacle and knowingly provocative Catholic blasphemy – it’s possibly her most shocking show yet: amid all the arena-pop hoopla, Her Royal Madgeness came across as human.
As sexy nuns pole-danced and the Last Supper was desecrated – the usual shtick – she sang live (for the most part) and happily engaged with the crowd. Her guitar and ukulele were wielded prominently. Not that “playing a proper instrument” is an arbiter of authenticity – Madonna is above such snobbery – but the more intimate moments, when she strummed True Blue and Who’s That Girl, were highlights. A legend made flesh.
Even her repeated claims that she loves Scotland sounded sincere. Unlike most visiting Americans, she actually pronounced “Glasgow” correctly. She was funny, heartfelt and charmingly crude.
However, for some unknown reason she arrived on stage at least 40 minutes late, so when the show inevitably overran – it was getting on for midnight - the Hydro bluntly cut the sound off during her Saltire-draped Holiday encore. Delightfully, she ploughed on regardless.
“Nobody f***s with the Queen,” she’d boasted during Like A Virgin. Apparently you can, especially in Glasgow. I’m sure she still loves us, though.