Madonna kicks off `Sticky and Sweet' tour in UK

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) - August 23, 2008 An army of fans wearing pink cowboy hats and boas waited nearly two hours for Madonna's concert to get under way, erupting into screams at the first song - "Candy Shop" - from her new "Hard Candy" album.

Some had been lining up since Friday to see the four-act show. It carried the usual Modonna fixtures: sequins, fishnets, and bondage-style outfits drawn from the 3,500 items of clothing reportedly whipped together by 36 designers specifically for the "Sticky and Sweet" tour. Promoters promised a "rock-driven danstastic journey" supported by a traveling crew of 250 - including a chiropractor, personal trainer and a masseuse.

The show itself includes eight costume changes, 16 dancers, and $1.85 million worth of Swarovski crystals. It is billed as a musical mishmash of "gangsta pimp," Romanian folk, rave, and a nod to the blonde material-girl's roots in the 80s New York City dance scene.

Those roots go back three decades to when the aspiring singer reportedly showed up in city with just $35 in her pocket. Despite celebrating her 50th birthday just last week, the world's top-selling female recording artist is still writhing, shaking and shimmying in the limelight - taking her place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March.

But the singer's personal life has been disturbed by the publication, earlier this summer, of a gossipy memoir written by her brother Christopher Ciccone, speculation about her relationship with New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriquez and rumors that her marriage to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie is on the rocks - something she hotly denies.

Madonna's tour was eagerly anticipated in Britain, where the pop superstar - known here as "Madge" - has made her home. "I can't wait for it to start," Gemma Thomas, a 24-year-old fan from Merthyr, Wales, said before the concert. She said Madonna should not retire soon. "I hope it's not her last tour."

Tabloids clucked approvingly at the more than 600 hours of rehearsal time and the monthslong exercise regime said to have gone into the show, with the Sun saying the singer was in "incredible shape" and crowing: "She's still got the old Madgic."

However, others wondered at the singer's carbon footprint, questioning the amount of carbon dioxide pumped out by ferrying Madonna's wardrobe, makeup, and freezers (for ice to soothe the dancers' aching feet) across the world.

After Cardiff's opening concert, "Sticky and Sweet" moves across Europe, hitting London's Wembley Stadium on Sept. 11 and Paris on Sept. 20. From there, it goes to North America in October before wrapping it up Dec. 18 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It is Madonna's first tour since striking a deal with concert promoter Live Nation Inc. worth an estimated $120 million over 10 years. The partnership gives Live Nation a stake of future music and music-related business she generates, including touring, merchandising and albums. Madonna's last tour was her 2006 "Confessions."

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