More than 33,000 fans applauded the queen of pop, Madonna, at her concert on Thursday night at the Ramat Gan Stadium — the inaugural show of her new MDNA world tour. The pop queen proved, once again, that she arrived on the scene long before Lady Gaga, and that she plans to keep her regal title for years to come.
The concert started an hour late, with a dramatic shutting off of the lights and a countdown. Fans almost stopped breathing as intricate video art appeared on screens and a gospel choir began singing. Moments later, Madonna appeared on stage. The ecstatic crowd burst into applause, some screaming and crying from the excitement.
Madonna emerged in a confessional booth, breaking through its glass window using a rifle, which she then aimed at the audience. She wore a skin-tight black outfit to sing her first song, "Girl Gone Wild," accompanied by her dancers dressed as monks. She moved quickly into one of her current hits, "Revolver," which she opened with a prayer in Hebrew.
Madonna and her dancers acted out a choreographed shoot out. At a certain point, she disappeared and returned in minimal clothing and heels. Madonna sang the classic "Papa don't preach," proving that not only the wild Lady Gaga knows how to tangle with masked men tying her with chains and grabbing her.
Christian motifs were woven throughout the concert, including churches, God and crosses as decoration. The show also included protest video art to accompany a number of songs. The queen of pop took advantage of the stage to address political issues during the concert. After the sixth song, for example, she told the audience that, "I chose to start my tour here in Israel for a simple reason. The conflict in the Middle East has to end. You can't be a fan of mine and not want peace. If you make peace in the Middle East — there will be peace in the whole world."
While some artists have opted to boycott Israel because of its policies toward Palestinians, the 53-year-old Madonna's ties to the Jewish state have only strengthened in recent years. She made personal pilgrimages in 2004 and 2007 along with other kabbalah devotees. She wrapped up her 2008-2009 "Sticky and Sweet" tour with two shows in the Holy Land, her first in 16 years. During that show, she wrapped herself in an Israeli flag and called Israel the "energy center of the world."
Madonna, who is not Jewish, has been dabbling in kabbalah for more than a decade and has adopted the Hebrew name Esther. On previous trips to Israel she visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest site where Jews can pray; and the grave of a revered Jewish sage.
The concert line-up was a perfect balance of older classics and songs from Madonna's newest album. Among the classics, Madonna performed "Vogue" and her hymnal-like hit "Like a prayer," which she also performed during her last concert tour. In a somewhat surprising move, Madonna did an acoustic version of "Like a virgin" accompanied only by a piano.
One of the highlights of the show was a medley of "Express yourself" which she laced with a line from Gaga's hit song "Born this way." Madonna wore a marching band conductor's outfit at this point, ending the bit with the song "Respect yourself," adding a jab directed at Lady Gaga saying "that's not me."
At the close of the show, Madonna's son Rocco joined her on stage for his own little dance number, earning applause and appreciation from the audience. Madonna ended the show with the words, "Shalom, salaam."
After Tel Aviv, the MDNA tour moves on to Abu Dhabi, Istanbul and then around Europe, North and South America. Her last tour grossed more than $400 million.