Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 20:49 UK

Madonna kicks off huge world tour

The two-hour show includes eight costume changes by Madonna

Madonna has begun her latest world tour in Cardiff, unveiling a stage show that involved 250 crew, £1m of jewellery, 16 dancers and eight costume changes.

It was the first of 51 dates for the pop superstar, who has just turned 50.

She performed around 20 hits from her 25-year career, with the show split into four sections - Pimp, Old School, Gypsy and Rave.

The Millennium Stadium's stage was flanked by the giant letter M on both sides, with the roof shut as rain fell.

But despite being the first date of the tour, tickets were still available shortly before the event.

The Pimp section of the concert was described as a "mashed-up homage" to 1920s deco and modern gangsta pimp, in which Madonna made an entrance dressed by Givenchy.

Two stages
£lm of jewellery
3,500 individual wardrobe elements
100 pairs of fishnet stockings
69 guitars
100 pairs of kneepads
12 seamstresses have been working in Cardiff to finish costumes for opening night
120 powder puffs
Large freezers to carry ice packs for Madonna and her dancers
Travelling on tour are a chiropractor, a personal trainer and a masseuse
12 trampolines for training by Madonna and dancers

The Old School show section saw Madonna return to her early 1980s downtown New York City dance roots.

There was a Romanian folk music and dance-influenced Gypsy section, before the Rave element, which had far eastern influences, emerging "all sparkly and sporty".

The tour is a major logistical operation, with the crew including 16 dancers, 16 caterers, 12 musicians, nine members of the wardrobe department, a chiropractor, a masseuse and a personal trainer.

There are 69 guitars, 30 wardrobe trunks, 18 clothing racks, 12 training trampolines, 10 cases of medical supplies and four large freezers full of ice packs.

Madonna's last full tour was in 2006 and became the highest-grossing by a female artist at the time, with ticket sales of $195m (£105m).

Her 11th album, Hard Candy, reached number one in the UK and US after it came out in April and includes the hit singles 4 Minutes and Give It 2 Me.

The tour takes in 16 European venues, including London's Wembley Stadium, before moving to North and South America.

Stadium boost

It is the first time the Millennium Stadium has been picked to start a world tour and stadium manager Gerry Toms said it showed the venue had the confidence of the industry.

He said: "There's lot of work involved in a new tour. A new stage configuration and lighting has been be going on for the past couple of weeks.

"The benefit for us is that we have a retractable roof, so we've been unhindered by the horrendous weather we've been having.

"They could have gone to anywhere in Europe buy they've got the confidence in Cardiff, not just the stadium, but Cardiff as a whole to deliver. We should take some strength from that."

A Cardiff council spokeswoman said most of the city's hotels were full although this was partly because it was a bank holiday weekend and not due entirely to the concert.

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