When Madonna picked up the guitar nearly seven years ago, nobody expected the love affair to last. After all, she has survived three decades on the pop charts through constant acts of reinvention. But on her Sticky and Sweet Tour, which opened on Aug. 23 in Cardiff, Wales and will see the Queen of Pop play nearly 60 stages across Europe and North America before heading off to South America later this month, the Queen of Pop is still at it, picking up the instrument whenever she gets the chance.

To the uninitiated, witnessing Madonna live in concert is a bit like gulping down a big bottle of hallucinogens. There are astronomically expensive stage sets, elaborate dance routines and things going on that are simply unexplainable in this century or any other. Just looking at the sheer numbers is staggering: 350 pounds of equipment, 100,000 feet of electrical cable, 12 trampolines, a white 1935 Model Auburn Speedster convertible, and 100 pairs of vintage fishnet pantyhose bought exclusively for Madonna through eBay. There are also virtual appearances by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Timbaland. At the center of all the pomp and pyrotechnics there are nearly 70 Gibson guitars.

At the tour’s Oakland, Calif., stop this past weekend the best moments came when Madonna strapped on her black Les Paul and let it rip. Wearing a white top hat and black leather boots, she did her best to channel Slash on “Human Nature”.



She boldly strummed along with her high-caliber backing band on “Miles Away.”



She even struck a Courtney Love pose for the beat-heavy “Ray of Light.”



The highlight, though, had to be when she busted out a hot purple SG and offered up a punked-up version of her early ’80s hit “Borderline.”



That Stooges tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony



obviously wasn’t wasted on her.

At 50, nobody expects rock and roll virtuosity from an icon who is already stretched thin between motherhood, pilates, Kabbalah, fighting off the paparazzi and running one of the world’s largest pop empires. But even if her enthusiasm for the instrument frequently trumped her actual skill it was hard not to admire Madonna’s fearlessness. With a little open tuning and lots of help from touring guitarist Monte Pittman (a member of underground metal greats Prong who was enlisted to give Madonna and her soon-to-be ex-husband Guy Ritchie lessons a few years ago) she actually manages to pull it off in front of 20,000 people every night.

MADONNA’S STICKY & SWEET TOUR SET LIST
"Candy Shop"/ "Beat Goes On"/ "Human Nature"/ "Vogue"/ "Die Another Day" (Remix) (Video Interlude)/ "Into the Groove"/ "Heartbeat"/ "Borderline"/ "She's Not Me"/ "Music"/ "Rain" (Remix) (Video Interlude)/ "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You"/ "Spanish Lesson"/ "Miles Away"/ "La Isla Bonita"/ "Doli Doli" (Dance Interlude)/ "You Must Love Me"/ "Get Stupid" (Video Interlude)/ "4 Minutes"/ "Like a Prayer"/ "Ray of Light"/ "Hung Up"/ "Give It 2 Me"