PHILADELPHIA -- As she kicked off the U.S. leg of her "MDNA Tour" in Philadelphia, Madonna said she was happy to party in the USA after touring Europe for three months.
The pop icon told the crowd Tuesday night they should "never forget how lucky you are to live where you live and to have the freedom that you have." She made the comments after talking about the arrest of three members of the punk-rock female band Pussy Riot. The women were sentenced to two years in prison after performing a "punk prayer" at Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral in which they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from its leader, Vladimir Putin.
"In my travels around the world the one thing I truly witnessed is we in America have freedom of speech, freedom of expression," the singer said.
Madonna, who toured most of Europe from June to August, has called for the Pussy Riot members to be freed. Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel also have spoken in the women's favor.
"I don't think that it's a coincidence that I'm in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed," Madonna said at the Wells Fargo Center to nearly 20,000 fans. "We are in the land of democracy."
Russian activists recently sued Madonna for millions of dollars, claiming they were offended by her support for gay rights during her show in St. Petersburg. A law passed in February makes it illegal to promote homosexuality to minors, and the author of that law has pointed to the presence of children as young as 12 at Madonna's concert on Aug. 9. (Minors also attended Madonna's U.S. show.)
When speaking about Pussy Riot, Madonna said that about 80 gay men were jailed in St. Petersburg because of their sexual orientation. She told the crowd that the arrests were unfair, and they booed in her support.
Then the 53-year-old told the U.S. audience: "Don't get fat and lazy and take that freedom for granted."
Madonna kicked off her concert late on Tuesday, apologizing to the crowd, who began to boo before she hit the stage around 10:30 p.m. EST.
"We had many changes to make from Europe to America, and I wanted the show to be perfect for you because my fans deserve it and quite frankly I deserve it," she said.
She performed for nearly two hours, starting in a skin-tight black ensemble with a gun in hand as she sang the song "Girls Gone Wild" from her latest album "MDNA." She transitioned to "Revolver," as she and her background dancers held guns and bullets appeared on the backdrop. (Madonna posted on her website that she does not condone violence or the use of guns and she's using fake guns in concert as a metaphor for strength.) During the next song - "Gang Bang" - she shot a man and spat what appeared to be liquor in his face, while blood spats and bloody hands appeared on the screen.
The dark mood escaped as Madonna changed into a red and white marching band get-up, singing "Express Yourself" and "Give Me All Your Luvin'" as a marching band played to the crowd. She sang some of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," pulling up her skirt to reveal her red shorts.
Madonna's performances of "Celebration" and "I'm Addicted" were also colorful, as laser lights beamed and the venue became nightclub-like. Madonna's best vocal performance, though, was during "Like a Prayer," which featured more than 30 back-up singers in robes. She got the best response from the crowd when she performed "Vogue," as the dancers and Madonna - now in a corset, long gloves and her hair pulled back - strutted in black and white onstage.
She got racy during "Like a Virgin" and "Human Nature," taking off her shirt to reveal her bra, and pulling down her pants to reveal her thong (she wore fishnet stockings).
"Sometimes it's easier to show your (butt) than show your feelings. Maybe tonight we can all live dangerously," said Madonna, who had the words "No Fear" on her back.