By Michael Cerio
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It didn’t take long for Madonna to sexualize religion at her Rebel Heart tour stop Thursday night in Philadelphia. Dressed in nun habits and frilly underwear, four dancers wrapped themselves around elongated poles topped with crosses. They would eventually slide down to the stage, lying on their backs with hands folded in prayer as Madonna wove between her songs “Holywater” and “Vogue.” Cut to the Last Supper table, covered in chalices and half-naked dancers as the singer teased them with grapes. This is Madonna.READ MORE: Several People Injured After Tree Falls During West Philadelphia High School Reunion Party At Fairmount Park
As Philadelphia braces for a visit from Pope Francis, everyone wondered what role he would play in the thrice excommunicated icon’s show. As it turns out, it was far beyond stripping nuns and chiseled Apostle stand-ins.
“The pope is stalking me” she said as the crowd cheered. “Either he’s a copycat, or he’s in love with me.”
Half way through her set at the Wells Fargo Center, the Pope’s visit became a much more present talking point for Madonna. She wondered aloud if the Pope could climb atop a table like her before she dedicated the next section of the show to him because “I know he’ll appreciate it”.READ MORE: Man Struck, Killed By Vehicle In Northeast Philadelphia: Police
“That’s why I like the new Pope, because he’s open-minded” she announced before dedicating the gorgeous French song “Le Vie En Rose” to his holiness. “There’s not that much difference between me and the Pope.”
Beyond the Pope’s looming presence, only amplified by the fan dressed in full papal gear beside the stage, Madonna’s Rebel Heart show was heavy on new material, and themes.
After a video intro featuring Mike Tyson and a call to join her in a revolution, Madonna danced with Shogun warriors and Geisha girls. She would also tour through a Spanish bullfighting scene, playing the matador to shirtless horned dancers, make her way through a Mexican mariachi rendition of “Dress You Up”, and have a good old-fashioned wrap session on a stack of tires in front of a gas station backdrop for “Body Shop”.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Weather: Week Starts With Muggy Conditions Before Cold Front Arrives
For all the choreography and Epcot Center-esque parading through cultures, Madonna shined brightest when left alone. She strapped on a guitar and took to the center of the floor for a rocking “Burning Up”, and bounced around alone down the catwalk to “Like A Virgin”. For most of the evening Madonna played the ringmaster, half a step slower than the circus spiraling around her, but in these solo spots all the charm of the Material Girl made it tough to look away.