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10 Iconic Moments From Madonna’s Landmark Celebration Tour
Barry King / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

10 Iconic Moments From Madonna’s Landmark Celebration Tour

Dazzling visuals, staggering statistics, mind-bending merch: these are the most memorable moments from Madonna’s greatest-ever tour.


Since 14 October 2023, the opening night of Madonna’s Celebration Tour, at London’s O2 arena, the “Queen Of Pop” has captivated fans across the globe with her most ambitious and iconic live shows yet. Here are the ten key takeaways, as the marathon live jaunt ends with a free performance at Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach, on May 4, in front of an estimated live audience of millions.

Listen to the best of Madonna here.

10 Iconic Moments From Madonna’s Landmark Celebration Tour

28 fan favourites – or was it?

For such a complex show, estimating what constitutes a performance of a song – instead of, say, a brief homage – is a tough call. Certainly, many classics, such as Open Your Heart and Die Another Day, made a full appearance on London’s opening night, and were still in the set by the time the show made it to North America.

Having released more than 90 singles across her career, it was going to be impossible for Madonna to feature them all. Instead, for example, there was a brief snippet of Papa Don’t Preach, while Everybody even featured a nod towards the True Blue album cut (and fan favourite) Where’s The Party, and there were many other references that sent the crowd wild. On some dates, Madonna added new songs and swapped out others – for example, Rain was eventually replaced on later shows by her longest-running US No.1, Take A Bow.

She performed 79 shows in 39 cities

After cancelling the first stateside leg of the tour due to her 2023 hospitalisation, Madonna launched The Celebration Tour in the UK in October of that year. The rescheduled dates followed in December, with shows in the US and Canada running until April 2024, ahead of five nights in Mexico City and the closing date, at Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach, on May 4.

It was the most ambitious tour of her career

The Celebration Tour was the 12th tour of Madonna’s career, and the eighth with director Jamie King. The 4,400-square-foot stage is the largest constructed for any of her tours and was inspired by the grid layout of New York City’s Manhattan borough, with Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, East and West stages. A catwalk stretching 230 feet took Madonna 105 feet into the venue, and there was a sequence in which she was elevated high above the crowd for a poignant performance of her 1986 ballad Live To Tell.

The statistics are staggering: more than 200 crew in attendance; 24 onstage performers requiring a colossal 45 wardrobe trunks; 14 spotlights for the “Queen Of Pop” alone and more than 600 intelligent lights to illuminate the stage and arena, with over 8,800 lighting cues.

The show attracted a galaxy of special guests

The early Celebration nights in London featured most of Madonna’s children joining their mother on stage – a particular highlight was Chifundo “Mercy” James, who played the grand piano on the iconic 1993 hit Bad Girl. Rocco joined his mother in Sweden, while the Vogue sequence of the show saw the star joined by a series of guest judges who scored the backing dancers for their performances, in a sequence inspired by New York’s ballroom scene. Casting their votes were Ricky Martin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Diplo, Cardi B and Pamela Anderson, among many others.

The tour finally saw Kylie and Madonna perform on stage together

It was the moment fans had been dreaming about forever. The “Queen Of Pop” and Australia’s “Princess Of Pop” have long been admirers but have only met off-camera a handful of times. On 7 March 2024, at the Kia Forum, in Los Angeles, the world finally got to see the pair together – and even join forces on a spirited duet of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, before launching into a brief rendition of Kylie’s global smash Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. Let’s hope this is just the appetiser for a recorded duet in the near future.

Madonna’s iconic outfits were recreated for the tour

Although Donatella Versace created a new catsuit, and Jean Paul Gaultier made a new version of Madonna’s iconic cone bra in a mini-dress, Yohannes and Rita Melssen designed most of the Celebration Tour outfits that paid tribute to Madonna’s influence on fashion. “We wanted to reference everything that she’s done, and make something new out of that,” they told Vogue magazine.

“She is involved in every single process of the costume design,” said Yohannes. “She looks at all the fabrics, sketches and buttons. She cares about who the characters are, and the clothes telling that story.” Inevitably, there was almost as much attention paid to the fashion as there was the music, but little beat the show’s staggering opening sequence, which saw Madonna perform Nothing Really Matters wearing a headpiece by House Of Malakai, with a kimono by Eyob Yohannes.

Many of Madonna’s hit videos featured in a dazzling visual display

For an artist celebrated for her influence on film – and undoubtedly one of the leading pioneers of the music video – The Celebration Tour featured many sequences from Madonna’s classic promo videos. During Live To Tell, images of people lost to the AIDS crisis were projected around the crowd, while the Like A Virgin interlude created a visual reference to the long-standing friendship between the reigning “Queen Of Pop” and the late “King Of Pop”, Michael Jackson. Both dominated pop culture in the 80s, and, of course, Like A Virgin’s iconic production, by Nile Rodgers, owes just a little to Jackson’s Billie Jean, due to that classic bass riff.

Fans could get their hands on some incredible merchandise

There were 50 merchandise items for sale throughout The Celebration Tour, including vintage recreations of iconic items from previous tours, such as the Blond Ambition bomber jacket and incredible retro T-shirts. Early dates saw such demand that the Blond Ambition jackets sold out immediately, but new stock was eventually available online and at subsequent shows. This was the first Madonna tour not to feature a tour programme, but hopes remain that a film of the show will one day be released.

The Celebration Tour has been a massive critical and commercial success

After a launch video featuring Jack Black and Amy Schumer made The Celebration Tour official, anticipation was sky-high for Madonna’s first-ever greatest-hits tour. Conceived as part-show, part-theatre, each performance’s narrative arc neatly built from Madonna’s early New York days through to her 21st-century status as a musical icon – and her continuing run of hits, including 2015’s Bitch, I’m Madonna and 2019’s I Don’t Search, I Find.

Rolling Stone called the show “captivating”, and critical raves were inevitably matched by huge ticket sales – the European leg grossed more than $75 million alone, and saw almost half a million tickets sold. The final night, on Copacabana Beach, 4 May 2024, generated a crowd of 1.6 million fans, the largest audience of Madonna’s career.

The Celebration Tour’s legacy

Madonna has long been an artist focused on the future, but The Celebration Tour proved to critics, fans – and perhaps the star herself – that her immense back catalogue and cultural legacy can support innovative, fresh interpretation. Intense speculation remains about the upcoming catalogue project to reissue Madonna’s recorded body of work, and it will be interesting to see if she chooses to rework some of the material – as she has done so successfully on this tour.

For now, Madonna will likely take a lengthy break from touring and turn her attention to other aspects of her career. But who would bet against seeing her on the road again sometime in the future? The Celebration Tour has demonstrated how high demand remains for the chance to see the “Queen Of Pop” in the place that feels like it’s almost her second home – the live stage.

Buy Madonna box sets, vinyl and more at the Dig! store.

Original article: 26 April 2024

Updated: 9 May 2024

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