Leave it to the queen of contradiction, Madonna, to kick off her world tour in support of MDNA in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday night by making a plea for peace in the Middle East during a show in which she brandished a machine gun and a revolver.
Performing in front of 32,000 fans at a sold-out Ramat Gan Stadium, Madonna dubbed the show a "Concert for Peace" and handed out hundreds of tickets to Israeli peace activists, according to Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz. The night was full of the usual mix of controversial images, bare-chested, buff male dancers and multiple high-fashion costume changes from the 53-year-old pop icon.
Madonna opened the concert amid images of both crosses and satanic symbols as she took the stage to perform "Girl Gone Wild," by breaking through the glass window of a confessional using a rifle, according to an Associated Press report. Wearing a black, skintight outfit, she performed the song accompanied by a troupe of dancers dressed as monks.
She followed with "Gang Bang," during which the huge onstage screens filled with blood stains and she brandished the firearms while wrestling with armed intruders. Another song, "Revolver," had Madonna swinging around a Kalashnikov rifle as her dancers spun around holding Uzi machine guns. Making good on her rehearsed shout-out/dis of Lady Gaga, "Express Yourself" bled into a bit of Mother Monster's "Born This Way," ending with the repeated refrain, "she's not me."
For that song and the first MDNA single, "Give Me All Your Luvin'," she was dressed as a marching band conductor and was surrounded by similarly dressed cheerleaders and drum majors.
The show also featured several appearance by Madonna's 11-year-old son, Rocco, who wore a monk's robe and shiny blue t-shirt and orange headphones as he danced along to mum's tunes.
Madonna is not Jewish, but is a devotee of the Jewish mystical practice of Kabbalah, and the AP reported that at one point in the show she wrapped herself in an Israeli flag and called Israel the "energy center of the world." According to Ha'Aretz, she also took an opportunity to address the audience about the prospects of long-elusive peace in the Middle East.
"You can't be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world," she said during the two-hour show at the start of her most extensive world tour ever. "We all bleed the same color. If we can all rise above our egos and our titles and the names of our countries and our religions, and treat everyone around us with dignity and respect, then we are on the road to peace. If there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world."