UK Daily Mirror: Madonna stole the show

July 11, 2005

Best - selling author and Daily Mirror writer MIRANDA SAWYER explains why Madonna's Live 8 performance proves the 47 - year - old is still the Queen of Pop.

ON A day when rock and pop veterans showed the new kids how to do it, Madonna stole the show.

Whether welcoming Birhan Woldu, the Ethiopian famine survivor saved by Live Aid's efforts, or berating VIPs in the "golden circle" in front of the stage - Lady Madge was in complete control.

All in white, an angel in strides, she led her band and dancers through an uplifting set that included Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light and Music.

Memories of a plump chick in leggings rolling about at the original Live Aid were forgotten as 21st century Madonna proved the older generation can do it better.

More than 20 years of performing means she know what she's doing and 47 years of life means she knows why.

Madonna, like Bono, understands the power of a perfect moment. And she was bold enough to seize it, combining both the Live 8 message and its medium, pop music, in a performance nobody watching will ever forget.

And it was a reminder of just how famous and special Madge still is. The girl has still got it - by the bucket - load.

Just weeks ago at the London premiere of Sin City, a red carpet paparazzi - fest where Brittany Murphy posed prettily alongside Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Michael Madsen and Jessica Alba, she stole the show.

When Her Madgesty and Guy turned up unexpectedly, it triggered a frenzy of photos. Her impromptu night out made the crowd's day and was covered in every paper.

And even the fuzziest of camera phone pictures couldn't disguise how great Madonna looked. In slick black gown, with beret, footless tights and T - bar shoes to remind us that she knows a) where fashion is at and that this wasn't her night (no upstaging premiere frock), she looked sparkly - eyed, glossy - haired and gorgeous.

Before Saturday night's breathtaking performance we were in danger of taking Madonna, a middle - aged working mother - of - two who just six years ago made London her home, for granted.

At the time, we couldn't believe it - the world's most famous woman has decided to move in with us.

Is that allowed? Shouldn't she be ensconced in some Beverly Hills enclave, some Miami mansion, New York penthouse, Cannes hideaway?

What's she doing in the UK, doing British things? Can that really be the Queen of Pop, in flat cap and baggy tracksuit, nipping along bus lanes on a bicycle?

Next thing she'll be extolling the virtues of drinking beer. Oh... "I love ale," said Madge last year. "I get drunk, but all it takes is half a pint. I'm a cheap date."

Yes, Madonna has fitted in just fine, adapting her efficient US habits to the UK's more relaxed way of life. When I interviewed her in 2000, she bemoaned British slackness - "At six o'clock, everyone goes home and no one works at the weekend and people go away for a month in the summer," she said, incredulously. But she also admired the way we enjoy "music and art and literature and nature".

Now, ever the culture sponge, she's taken on our characteristics. So we see Madonna going hunting (boo), going to a public gym (hooray) and writing children's books (hmmm).

A combination of a British marriage and British environment has changed her from distant superstar into a high - achiever who knows her way around, one who combines American drive with UK humour and a European appreciation of life's joys.

She's part of the British furniture these days. But has this familiarity bred contempt? Have we stopped caring what Madonna is up to? Judging by the crowd's reaction at Live 8, the answer is no - she's still one of the world's brightest, shiniest most talented celebrities.

A star who's famous because she's achieved more than any of us could ever imagine - unlike the wannabes wh hit the headlines after a drunken fumble with Calum Best.

Even in the short time she's been here, Madonna has produced a lifetime's work. She's released two albums, written four children's books, made one film with her husband and another with cult director Jonas Akerlund. She's starred in a West End play and progressed to the Third Series in Ashtanga yoga, which makes her one of the most advanced yogis in Britain. Enough to make you want to sit down for a cup of tea.

It's a shame her last album, American Life, was so ropey. Still, her forthcoming new one, reputedly called Defying Gravity (well, her body certainly does) is rumoured to be a return to form.

Saturday's performance was a corker, proving that with a back catalogue that Britney would kill for, a dancer's grace and a showwoman's sense of occasion, Madonna is one of the few pop stars who can pull off a stadium show.

There's been controversy about Kabbalah, a form of Judaism that's become an important part of her life since she moved to London.

And though Kabbalah seems hokum to most of us, Madonna is a devotee and if it makes her happy, what's the problem? If she's donating money to a non - violent cause, one that promotes peace, she's alright by me.

In her Re - Invention show, she showed a film of Palestinian and Israeli children holding hands.

It's not going to change any politician's mind, but it's better than pretending such problems don't exist, that it doesn't matter if the West turns its back on the Middle East.

Whatever Madonna does, she'll get attention, good or bad. She knows that, but it doesn't stop her having a go, trying new ideas.

Sometimes she succeeds, sometimes she fails. But she doesn't stop trying.

Live 8 proves her star still shines and reminds us how lucky we are to have her.
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