In the past, Madonna’s tours have been news-making events tied as much to her latest music as to her cycle of stylistic reinventions. But Celebration is essentially the pop superstar’s Eras Tour, as Taylor Swift has styled her latest outing: a staged romp through decades of hit songs and signature looks, giving fans a chance to relive her career as a stages-of-life experience. (Seventeen of Madonna’s previous costumes were recreated for the tour, and some of the merchandise for sale includes replicas from past treks.)
With her Virgin Tour in 1985, Madonna introduced herself as a punk-glam dance star whose every crucifix pendant or flap of denim was zealously adopted by fans. Who’s That Girl (1987) and Blond Ambition (1990) grew increasingly elaborate as Madonna pushed the fashion envelope with looks like Jean Paul Gaultier’s memorable cone bra and set the bar for bold, imaginative pop megatours. The Girlie Show (1993), in which Madonna appeared as a dominatrix, was the accompaniment to a period of daringly explicit material like her “Sex” book and “Justify My Love” video, which was banned from MTV.
After an eight-year absence from the road, Drowned World (2001) reintroduced Madonna as a new mother, an electro-pop heroine and an acolyte of kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. In more recent years, her Confessions Tour (2006) cast her in late-70s disco style, and Rebel Heart (2015-16) found her playing guitar, in addition to executing the complex choreography for which she is known. Her most recent tour, Madame X, which was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, saw Madonna looking to reinvent her stage performance once again in a more intimate, almost cabaret form, mostly eschewing arenas for spaces like the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
For Madonna, the 78-date Celebration Tour is a chance to assert her star power in a year when live music has been dominated by Swift and Beyoncé — women who, like Madonna before them, have used talent and deep media savvy to remake pop stardom in their own image. In July, Beyoncé acknowledged the debt, when Madonna, making one of her first public appearances after her hospitalization, attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour in New Jersey. “Big shout-out to the queen,” Beyoncé called out during a performance of the “Queens Remix” of her song “Break My Soul,” which blends in Madonna’s 1990 smash “Vogue” — another hit that mined, and honored, gay dance culture of that period.
Madonna returned the acknowledgment on Saturday, playing a bit of the same remix during an interstitial moment.