By John Hand
BBC News Online
Madonna begins the UK leg of her Re-Invention world tour on Saturday in Manchester.
Madonna's Re-Invention tour kicked off in Los Angeles at the end of May
BBC News Online's John Hand - a Madonna fan for two decades - explores why some fans will pay any price to see their pop idol.
It has become something of a mantra during this long, occasionally hot summer.
My response to the many disbelieving questions: I am going to see Madonna's current tour eight times, I flew out to see her perform in Las Vegas and Chicago, I have spent far too much money - but I have not taken leave of my senses.
After 20 years as a fan, and the fear that a "greatest hits tour" also signals her final foray on the road, it seemed appropriate to see Madonna perform in the land of her birth.
So an equally inspired friend and I flew to Las Vegas in May for the second stop on what is Madonna's sixth major tour.
I was too young to go to the 1984 Virgin tour, but I have seen and bought the (overpriced) T-shirt from all four subsequent world tours.
Re-Invention tops them all - as it should - at up to £150, tickets cost as much as the previous five shows put together.
Unlike the Drowned World tour - a fantastically theatrical show that nonetheless left many fans disappointed at the decision to focus almost entirely on new material - the Re-Invention tour happily marries past and present Madonna.
Those who remember the early days of pink wigs and wandering facial moles can savour reworked versions of some of her oldest hits - thrashy guitar-heavy versions of Burning Up and Material Girl, the sentimental splendour of Crazy For You and spikier 21st Century editions of Express Yourself and Papa Don't Preach.
And just as she has always done, Madonna makes sure everybody leaves the arena feeling they have seen a true showman in action.
The choreography is typically imaginative - starting with a sinew-straining yoga display for Vogue, that has audiences struggling to believe that here is a 45-year-old mother-of-two.
The imagery comes as thick and fast as the hits it accompanies: video footage from Iraq during an angry anti-war rendition of American Life; Madonna strapped in an electric chair for Die Another Day; and cabaret antics for Hanky Panky and Deeper And Deeper.
EUROPEAN STOPS ON THE RE-INVENTION TOUR
London, Earls Court (2)
London, Wembley Arena (4)
Slane Castle, Ireland (1)
The omission of some of her most famous hits - Like A Virgin, La Isla Bonita, True Blue and Ray Of Light - is a disappointment but, then again, she does have 57 chart hits to choose from.
Luckily, Into The Groove, Crazy For You and Holiday all survive the cull and feature in the show's energetic final section, kicked off by Edinburgh-based bagpiper Lorne Cousin.
Overall, Re-Invention retains the best of the Drowned World tour - the theatrics, the element of surprise, the themed costumes and choreography - but it is a far more rounded concert experience for the dedicated fan.
But why see it more than once?
I continue to recant the explanations that have barely failed to convince bemused colleagues: I just happened to want holidays in Las Vegas and Chicago, different friends wanted to join me at different shows, I have spent similar sums following my football team, and - the clincher - every night on the tour is a unique experience.
But something tells me they are not convinced.
Madonna's stunning choreography includes her famous yoga moves
So I can only seek solace and understanding from those with an even more severe case of Madonna-mania.
Clare Parmenter, London-based webmaster of leading fansite Madonnalicious.com, has tickets to see all six London dates this month.
But she feels she already knows the show intimately, thanks to the hundreds of dispatches from US fans who have emailed personal reviews to the Madonnalicious site.
Clare, 31, is hoping Madonna continues the banter she has enjoyed with fans on recent American dates.
"She seems to be more confident than at the start of the tour and is enjoying it. It's not often she gets to speak directly to her fans, so I'm hoping there will be a different message for us every night."
There is. By the time I reach Chicago, I'm mentally ticking off the changes that have improved the show since the Vegas date, six weeks earlier. Most notable is how much more fun Madonna is having with the crowd.
My final witness for the defence is Ian Twinn, a 29-year-old PR consultant from London, who is clocking up 19 dates of the tour.
He reassures me: "You have to see the show a few times to notice how much it changes from night to night. The reaction of the crowd is key - she feeds off the energy of the crowd.
"It has cost a lot to see so many shows, but it has been worth it. I have met some fantastic people along the way."
"And you're always guaranteed a great show when Madonna is on stage."