(TEL AVIV) -- Madonna kicked off her highly-anticipated MDNA tour, her first in almost three years, in Israel's Tel Aviv, the cultural capital of a country she loves. Performing in Israel can often be controversial: several famous artists have backed out of touring there due to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But Madonna didn't shy away from the issue, taking time out in the middle of her set to call for peace in the region.
"I chose to start my world tour in Israel for a very specific and important reason," she told the crowd. "As you know, the Middle East and all the conflicts that occur here and that have been occurring for thousands of years...They have to stop...You can't be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world, OK?"
She added, "We are all human beings. We all bleed the same color. We all want to love and be loved....If we can all rise above our egos and our titles and the names of our countries and the names of our religions...and treat everyone around us...with dignity and respect, then we are on the road to peace, OK?
Madonna continued, "So, start today. Start now, each and every one of you. You are the future. We are the future, and if there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world, OK?" Her comments were greeted with cheers.
The elaborate stage production, which started over 30 minutes late, was not totally sold out --- there was space at the back of Ramat Gan stadium. The festivities started with monks ringing a church bell, and an altar onstage. Madonna appeared in a confessional, and then broke out of it, kicking things off with her song "Girl Gone Wild." The first part of the show featured Madonna and her dancers brandishing numerous guns for the songs "Revolver" and "Gang Bang." During other parts of the show, she appeared wearing a red and white majorette outfit, and also in a Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed cage-like bustier.
The set list was a mix of old and new tracks, and included Madonna's much-discussed mash-up of her own hit "Express Yourself" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," with a few lines of her song "She's Not Me," from the 2008 album Hard Candy, sung repeatedly -- and pointedly -- at the end. Other songs performed included "Papa Don't Preach," "Like a Virgin," "Vogue" and what proved to be the most popular number of the night, "Like a Prayer," which featured a gospel choir.
Two of Madonna's four children, Lourdes and Rocco, performed in the show as dancers, according to press materials given to reporters, but they were difficult to spot.
After leaving Israel, Madonna heads to Abu Dhabi, then on to Europe and North America. She'll wrap things up in early 2013 in Australia, a country in which she hasn't performed in more than two decades.
Here's the set list for the show, according to the fan site Madonnalicious:
"Girl Gone Wild"
"Papa Don't Preach"
"I Don't Give A"
"Best Friend/Heartbeat" (Interlude)
"Express Yourself" (Ft. "Born This Way")
"Give Me All Your Luvin'"
"Turn Up the Radio"
"Open Your Heart"
"Justify My Love" (Interlude)
"Erotica / Human Nature"
"Like a Virgin"
"Nobody Knows Me" (Interlude)
"I'm a Sinner"
"Like a Prayer"
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