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If anyone is in doubt as to whether Madonna still deserves the reputation she once held as a world-class artist, I can tell you she very much does. In my mind, her stellar performance at The Forum on Tuesday solidified her iconic status forever.

The night started out great. Everyone was in their seat and the packed Forum was ready to rock at 9 PM because, well, shows at The Forum ALWAYS start at 9, right? Not Madonna. This diva goes on whenever she and her beyond-rehearsed crew feel like it. People warned me of this, but I didn’t listen. I should have.

Time started to pass. I mingled with the people around me, noticing the colorful crowd of young, old, gay, straight, weird, normal…you know, the type of crowd that would go see Madonna on a weeknight. To my left was a couple that works for Fox News. To my right, a gentleman who builds offices for AT&T. He got his ticket through a raffle and paid around $1,000 for the seat. Needless to say, I felt grateful to be there, although my patience was starting to wear thin as the minutes ticked by…

At around 10:30, the show finally began. The anticipation in the audience was obvious, and when Madonna took the stage, everyone more or less freaked out. It was almost like the beginning of a Medieval Times match. For almost 15 minutes, we watched soldiers march, Asian-doll-looking dancers twirl, and then finally Madonna appeared, locked in a cage. She freed herself from its captivity, and the (what seemed like Broadway-caliber) show began.

Instantly, from the second the lights dimmed and the band started playing the first song of the night, “Iconic,” the show was noticeably different and far from just “a concert.” It was truly like a Cirque Du Soleil performance. Everything was executed perfectly. The level of drama was consistent but not overbearing. There were fight scenes, dances on staircases that fell from the ceiling, pole swinging, and choreography from start to finish.

People were lowered into the stage, dropping from the ceiling, disappearing and reappearing all over the place. There’s no way rehearsals for a show like this were any less than grueling. Even the stage’s backdrop was colorful and had touch response, so dancers could run up to it and cause bright colors to burst onto the screen with the touch of their hand or body.

Madonna and her dancers had numerous costume changes and themes to attend to. Each song in the setlist had its own storyline with an introduction, rising action, climax, and falling action. She made sure every tune had a story not only within its lyrics, but also within its performed state. Her band was perfect, and you can tell everyone involved in the production is one big family with Madonna as its matriarch.

What’s great about her, too, is her confidence. She was saying stuff like “Nobody messes with the fucking Queen.” She would sit down, thank us for decades of support, and then say, “Fuck all this sentimental shit. Let’s keep playing!” Oh, and my favorite was “Let me tell you one thing: it’s lonely at the top, but it ain’t crowded.” Once in a while, she’d say something sweet, like “I feel like this is one of my homes,” in regard to The Forum. But then she’d continue, “I see the ceiling is getting lower and lower…or is that my ego getting bigger and bigger?” So cocky and awesome. Only someone like Madonna could get away with saying that.

All of her hit songs were played, but in different renditions, which kept it fresh. I personally love when artists do that. Each song sounded different from its album cut, but they were all still singalong-able and received with overwhelming enthusiasm.

Of course, there was plenty of sexual innuendo and dry-humping. They are, after all, Madonna’s specialty. Her dancers are the most exotic in the land. Each song involved hot and heavy dance moves, and ensured that each dancer, like Madonna herself, was raw and exposed.

I didn’t know what to expect when walking into The Forum, but I definitely fell in love with Madonna by the end of the night. Even her smile melts my heart — dear God. I went home and learned a couple tracks from the Queen on the ukulele, as she was playing one throughout the night. She even sang a song in French for her daughter — “La Vie en rose.” It was endearing and adorable.

Toward the end of the show, Katy Perry came to the stage for a quick spanking and duet during “Unapologetic Bitch.” It was a great scene. I say “scene” because it really was. A bit of dialogue and theatrics were included before/after/during each song, which is why Madonna shows are so expensive and rare. It’s a novelty to see such a performance.

Madonna gracefully ended the night by saying, “Goodbye, bitches,” and then launching into the encore: “Holiday.”

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