THE lights flicker to the deafening roar of 20,000 New York Madonna fans packed into a hot and sweaty Madison Square Garden - the arrival of ‘The Queen’ is imminent.
It is hard to believe amid the glitz, the hype, the unbridled hysteria and adoration of the crowd, that we are back where it all began more than 30 years ago.
Madonna legend holds that the then unknown Italian-American wannabe rocked up to Times Square with just 36 dollars in her pocket and a dream of being a superstar.
And as the frenzied excitement threatens to shake the very foundations of the building, I think it is safe to say she can tick that one off her list.
Yes Madonna is back on the road for her 10th world tour - Rebel Heart - named after her 13th studio album released at the end of last year.
This is the fourth show on a mammoth 70-gig extravaganza which will take in America, Europe, the UK, Asia and Australia.
Rebel Heart kicked off in Montreal, Canada, last Wednesday amid much speculation as to whether the veteran singer, now in her fourth decade of entertaining, would be up to the job.
As the first reviews started to trickle in it was clear not only is she still very much up to it, but that she is still as slick and polished as ever.
And why would that come as a surprise? This is the woman who after being dragged backwards off a flight of steps at the Brit Awards a few months ago, was back in full cape doing the same stunt in front of thousands last night - minus the stumble this time.
Madonna has set the bar very high for herself and make no mistake expectations are very high in every arena and stadium she sets up her stage.
But as the show gets underway to the unmistakable Madonna mix of tight choreography, stunning sets and sheer star presence it is clear Rebel Heart will not disappoint.
The stage lights up before a backdrop of flashing Madonna shots in varying guises as an image of the star asks “are you with me?” - a resounding ‘yes’.
An army of medieval warriors carrying cruciform spears arrives before Her Madge descends from on high in a fortress-like cage to launch into the opening track ‘Iconic’.
It’s a fitting start because it’s not the lights, the costumes or the eye-popping spectacle which has just unravelled which draws the first gasps, but the arrival of Madonna and the knowledge that for the next two hours devoted fans will get to breath the same air as their idol.
As elaborate and flamboyant as Madonna’s performances are, there is one thing they are not, and that is gimmicky.
After all, who needs flying cars, pantomime palm trees, giant tongues and blow-up hotdogs when there is really only one thing worth looking at on this platform - the most iconic pop performer of our generation.
She leaves the tacky props to those less ingrained in pop legend, there really is little comparison to be made between the 57-year-old powerhouse and the ever growing community of Rihannas, Katy’s, Taylors and Gagas.
Madonna displays an astonishing ability to evolve without appearing dated, the show contains all the elements of raunch, religious iconography and cheeky innuendo you would expect from the one-time ‘Queen of Sleaze’ but at no point does it ever seem cheesy.
Whether she’s cavorting with male dancers a third her age or gyrating in a thigh-revealing flapper-girl getup, with every swish and flex of her athletic body she leaves the viewer in no doubt that she is in absolute control not only of her brand, but of how she is perceived.
When she grinds up and down a go-go pole trampling female dancers decked out as semi-clad nuns, she is not being slutty but is once again testing the boundaries of social acceptance.
As Miley Cyrus has us cringing at her elongated tongue and childish ‘twerking’, Madonna, 35-years-her senior, has academics still pondering her message and infallible relevance as a cultural icon, expertly juxtapositioning sexuality and religion, vulnerability with power.
The show moves through a carefully-constructed set of themes - Joan of Arc, Samurai to Tokyo Rockabilly, Latin Gipsy and Party.
Madonna fans will know this format of old having been used by the star on every world tour since her 1990 Blond Ambition spectacle.
One difference this time round though is that Madonna’s energy, though staggering, is slightly less pumped.
The dance routines look less exhausting to watch and many of the numbers have been slowed down to ballad pace for this tour.
But she is 57 for goodness sake, an age at which most of us would be starting to think about comfy slippers and early nights.
And that’s not to say she doesn’t bust some impressive moves, you try hanging upside down on a pole and singing without dropping a note.
Another standout in this show is that Madonna, for the first time on a major world tour, appears more laid back and happy on stage.
There is less intensity in her presence and a softer, cheerier, ‘let’s just have a great night’ vibe to the whole thing - perhaps she is mellowing, after all let’s face it, she’s nailed it.
Downsides - it would have been nice to hear Like A Prayer, for any old-schoolers this is now the one we all hope for, and it’s a shame she missed out Ghosttown and Joan of Arc from the new album.
But the show will not disappoint British fans who have another two months to wait until the Queen of Pop lands on our fair isles to play London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
There is something here for everyone, the young and old, die-hard fans and those who just like Madonna’s music and fancy a good night out.
Rebel Heart plays London’s O2 Arena on December 1 and 2; Manchester Arena on December 14; Birmingham Barclaycard Arena on December 16 and The SSE Hydro in Scotland on December 20.