One more night of sin before the Holy Father comes to town: On the eve of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia, the woman named after the Virgin Mother, a woman who has used rebellion against the Catholic Church as fuel for her three-decade career as a pop provocateur, served as The Pontiff’s opening act in South Philadelphia.

Madonna brought her Rebel Heart tour to a not-quite-sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd on Thursday night, with the 57-year-old dance pop superstar attracting a largely female crowd, mainly in her demographic range, that skewed younger and more multicultural among gay male fans.

The show opened with the new album’s overbearing and strained “Iconic,” with a filmed intro in which Madonna copped to “an insatiable desire to be noticed.” Prerecorded video segments featured Mike Tyson and Chance the Rapper, and ill-conceived costuming positioned our heroine as half ninja warrior, half Joan of Arc.

That set the stage for a night of self-mythologizing, which included the new album’s “Bitch I’m Madonna” and “Unapologetic Bitch” – clearly currently her favorite word, often used as a term of endearment to express love for her fans.

The show got better and somewhat less heavy-handed from there. But Madonna is never one for subtlety in her theatrical presentation. She surrounded herself with video screen flames in “Burning Up” – an oldie but goodie from her 1983 debut album, played early in the set – and acted out the double entendres of “Body Shop” while writhing on the hood of a classic hot rod onstage.

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