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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Madonna's music hits London
Madonna dedicated a song to her husband Guy Ritchie
Pop diva Madonna has played her long-awaited concert for 16,000 fans - her first major UK performance for eight years.

The superstar performed songs both old and new with costumes ranging from a geisha to cowgirl - and even flying across the stage.

Every night of the show at the Earls Court auditorium - part of a world tour - sold out on the first day tickets went on sale.

In the final hours before the concert, tickets were changing hands for up to 200 as touts took advantage of fans desperate to see the star perform.

Earl's Court arena
Madonna has sold out six nights at Earl's Court arena
Madonna did not disappoint them, appearing on stage wearing a punk-style mini kilt and bondage pants, as she emerged through a haze of dry ice.

She kicked off the show with the subdued song Drowned World/Substitute For Love.

The first of her six-night run of the Drowned World show coincided with American independence day, and Madonna marked it by telling fans: "God save the Queen."

The 42-year-old's voice did not waver during the show, even when she was carried aloft by 10 dancers to the disco beat of Impressive Instant.

She chose the London venue to dedicate the song I Deserve It to her husband director Guy Ritchie, who she married last December.

Drowned World Tour 2001
200 road crew
100 local staff
100 tonnes of equipment
2 Boeing 747s needed
"I usually slam straight into this song without a word, but I wanted to dedicate this song to someone very special to me," she said.

"I have been waiting months to do it in the city he was born in, so this is for my husband - and for every one of you."

But the show was far from over - she added to the action by straddling a mechanical bull during a country and western-themed segment of the show.

And she told the clamouring fans how delighted she was to be in London - where she lives part-time.

Madonna in dry ice
Madonna's costumes include a kilt
"Did I say how happy I am to be here? After travelling around Europe for the last month, no one speaking my language, goddammit, it's good to be here," she said.

Although most of the songs were from her most recent albums, Ray of Light and Music, fans were not deprived entirely of Madonna's earlier hits.

Dressed in a fake Dalmatian coat, she gave a modern rendition of her 1983 breakthrough hit Holiday.

The concert ended with comic Ali G, who appeared in her Music video, appearing on a video screen telling fans to go home, saying: "What are you lot still doing here?"

The concert delighted fans

After the show, fans outside the venue told BBC News Online they had been blown away by her voice, the costumes and the dance routines.

"She is just a living legend," Zara Lethbridge, 24, from Torquay, said.

"It was the most fantastic thing I have seen in my life.

"She looks amazing, her voice was spot on and the dance routines were out of this world."

Wesley Gibbons, 21, travelled from Manchester for the gig and said he would have paid 10 times the ticket price to see her.

Fans entering Earl's Court in Madonna's trademark cowboy hats
Fans sported Madonna's trademark cowboy hats
"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "The stage show was brilliant to watch and the crowd was absolutely buzzing."

But for many the show had come at a cost - some tickets had been circulated on the internet and by touts outside the venue for up to 200.

Liane Huse, 18, and her friend Hayley Cooper, 19, from London each paid 146 through a ticket agency for two tickets worth 45.

"They told us we would be half-way back but we're right at the back. That was the cheapest we could find," Huse told BBC News Online before the show.

A Madonna look-alike sang to fans from a limousine
A Madonna look-alike entertained fans earlier
Keith George, 29, from Battersea in London, paid 85 for his ticket and it was the fourth time he has seen Madonna.

"Every time I see her she gets better and better, " he said.

And it was not just the tickets that hit people's wallets - inside the venue T-shirts cost up to 65, vests were 45 and denim jackets, embroidered with the star's name in gold, cost 130.

Lower down on the price scale were mugs at 10 and fake tattoos.

Madonna had promised that the show would provide "a theatrical presentation of my music".

Madonna and Guy Ritchie
Madonna: Married Ritchie December 2000
She has also been practising her guitar playing intensively for the past eight months, in preparation for the show.

Despite her obvious love of performing, there have been rumours that the current tour may be Madonna's last.

In an interview with Heat magazine she said that her priorities have changed since she met her husband Guy Ritchie and had baby Rocco.

She spoke of her affection for Ritchie, saying: "I feel like he is my equal and that's hard to find."

The BBC's David Sillito
"It was the pop event of the year"
Madonna's fans
Reaction to the pop diva's London concert
The BBC's Phil Williams
"It was almost as if she wanted to show us that she can still be rock and roll"
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