Madonna flies the flag for Hong Kong: bauhinias, breasts and bravado

Crowds lap up superstar’s stunning performance at Asia World-Expo as Madonna announces she’s starting a revolution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 1:20am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 February, 2016, 12:51pm

Bauhinias, breasts and bravado: welcome to Madonna’s first Hong Kong show. “It’s the year of the monkey, right?” she asks, appearing momentarily sweet and innocent.

In her tightly choreographed show, there’s little room for improvisation. But after courting controversy in Taiwan last week for her politically charged message, she is willing to taunt an expectant and enraptured local crowd. “We’re starting a revolution, we’re fighting for what you believe in. So if you’re a Rebel Heart, put your f**king monkey hands together,” she proclaims.

It’s a wry nod, almost too subtle for a megastar more accustomed to thrusting her groin in the face of vagaries. Then the crimson bauhinia appears, draped across the shoulders of a shirtless dancer.

READ MORE: Madonna in Hong Kong: thousands of fans gather in glittery garb to watch superstar perform at Asia-World Expo

The crowd erupts and Madonna appears to have become the Messiah. It’s the parting shot at the end of a night of Madonna asserting her relevance and cultural immortality amid a set of relentless dance floor anthems spanning three decades, combined with raunchy, religious iconography.

With 32 years in the industry, ten mammoth world tours and 13 albums under her belt, the undisputed Queen of Pop had yet to indulge a Hong Kong crowd on a city stage.

Tickets for tonight’s appearance sold out within 30 minutes – the fastest-selling concert in Hong Kong’s history, prompting another Asia World-Expo date to be added to the Rebel Heart tour.

When she disappeared offstage to change costume, the dancers came into their own in beautifully choreographed routines.

READ MORE: Hong Kong’s 30-year relationship with Madonna: it’s complicated

Whether you think she’s a trendsetter-turned-tagalong, or zeitgeist-mining genius, there’s no denying that without Madonna, live music wouldn’t be what it is. Extravagant dance routines, a backdrop of pyrotechnics, cutting-edge visuals, and a carousel of costume changes are now the modus operandi for major popstars worldwide.

In these uninhibited times, it’s easy to overlook her achievements. A forebearer and sort of fairy godmother for the #freethenipple era; an age where kink and nudity can be artistic expression and political awareness, and a pop star can be simultaneously object of lust and pillar of revolution.

The prolific pop star’s first performance in Hong Kong proves that the longer something is withheld, the more rabidly it is desired and enjoyed.

The show culminated in a bacchanalia of Great Gatsby proportions, featuring chameleonic dancers suddenly shimmering and swinging in flapper gear. Music and Candy Shop were given a roaring 20s makeover while Madonna – somewhere in the glittering melee – was momentarily outshone by a topless dancer evoking “black pearl” Josephine Baker.

Taking to a vintage microphone, the singer suddenly reigned in the fiesta with a powerful solo rendition of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, oozing with romantic languor. No one was allowed to catch their breath for long as the revellers steamed on towards the pulsing grand finale, Unapologetic B***h.

Encore and closer Holiday was a free-form freak-out of lights, colour, feathers, streamers, and that fluttering, red flag. It was both parting shot and starting gun: Hong Kong finally got to bask in Madonna’s glow, but it was far too much fun to be a one-night stand.