Madonna kicks off `Sticky and Sweet' tour

CARDIFF, Wales Madonna's fans have been lining up outside Cardiff's Millennium Stadium since Friday to see the recently minted 50-year-old's four-act show, which opens Saturday night.

Promoters have promised a "rock-driven danstastic journey" supported by a traveling crew of 250 -- including a chiropractor, personal trainer and a masseuse.

The two-hour concert includes eight costume changes, 16 dancers, and $1.85 million worth of Swarovski crystals. Madonna employed 36 designers to help whip up some 3,500 separate items of clothing. The show itself is billed as a musical mishmash of "gansta 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 the 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 and speculation that her marriage to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie is on the rocks -- a rumor she hotly denies.

Madonna's tour is eagerly anticipated in Britain, where the pop superstar -- known here as "Madge" -- has made her home.

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.

Madonna's "Sticky and Sweet" tour begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday before moving across Europe, hitting London's Wembley Stadium on Sept. 11 and Paris on Sept. 20. It then moves 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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