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Tel Aviv - US pop icon Madonna launched her hotly-anticipated MDNA world tour with a show in Tel Aviv on Thursday, kicking off a roadtrip of more than 80 countries in what will be her longest-ever stint on the road.
Her shows promise to be an eye-popping extravaganza.
This is the 53-year-old Queen of Pop's ninth world tour, this time in support of her new album MDNA.
Announced in February, the tour - Madonna's first since her wildly successful Sticky and Sweet outing in 2008 and 2009 - will move from Israel to Abu Dhabi and on to Europe and the Americas.
Completely sold out
It is expected to draw to a close in early 2013 in Australia where the singer has not performed in more than 20 years.
Kicking off her latest tour in Israel was a natural choice for the Catholic-born singer who over the last decade has become deeply involved in the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah, which has brought her to the Jewish state on a number of public and private visits.
She last performed in Israel in 2009 during her Sticky and Sweet tour, when she met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.
Thursday evening's show at the Ramat Gan stadium, which has a capacity of 35 000, was completely sold out but a day ahead of the performance, the singer briefly met with members of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum and handed them 600 tickets.
"We spoke to her for a few minutes and we asked if she would say anything about peace," Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer told AFP, saying it was the forum's first-ever contact with the petite singer, who has largely steered clear of getting involved with political issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"She told us: I will say much more than a word about it."
Since she arrived in Israel a week ago on an El Al flight from New York, Madonna has reportedly spent much of time rehearsing, praying or attending Kabbalah events.
Her partner Brahim Zaibat, a French-Algerian model in his 20s, also flew in with her as did her four children, Lourdes, Rocco, David and Mercy, with pictures of them enjoying the beach splashed across the newspapers.
The first full dress rehearsal reportedly took place on Monday, with the ever-controversial songstress reportedly seen pointing a gun at the crowd, as her dancers writhe around with machine guns and rifles.
Four years ago, she was criticised by anti-gun groups after sporting a pair of Chanel shoes with heels shaped like pistols.
Another incident which caught the headlines was when one of her dancers called Lilou, tweeted a picture of himself at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City in which he wrote: "Don't want to say Israel but Palestine."
The flashpoint compound, which is the third holiest site in Islam, is the former site of two Jewish Temples and revered as the most sacred place in Judaism.
More than 4 000 fans have flown into Israel to attend the concert, with each paying between $62 per ticket, up to $620 for a VIP package including a seat in the specially-constructed Diamond area which is part of the stage.
Produced by Israel's Shuki Weiss with Live Nation, the Tel Aviv show is reportedly said to have cost an estimated $3.9m.
Ahead of her arrival, the Material Girl asked for the stadium to include sleeping accommodation for her and her family, a games area for her kids and a lounge in which she will be interviewed by US TV host Conan O'Brien, who has flown in specially, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.
As for the outfits, Madge has reportedly enlisted an ever-impressive list of designers to suit and boot both her, her band and her dancers for the MDNA tour, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Scott, Alexander Wang, Dolce & Gabbana, Fausto Puglisi and J Brand.
She will also be wearing Prada and Miu Miu shoes as well as footwear and lingerie from her Truth or Dare line, with her signature conical bra also set to make an appearance.
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