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Madonna draws 1.6 million fans to Rio

Free show on beach closes out pop icon’s Celebration Tour

By Muri Assuncao, New York Daily News
Published: May 9, 2024, 6:04am

RIO DE JANEIRO — Madonna knew they had been waiting — and she made them dance, get up and do their thing.

The pop diva wrapped her critically acclaimed Celebration World Tour on Saturday night with an emotional finale in front of 1.6 million fans on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach.

The 81st and final show of Madonna’s 12th concert tour — which celebrated the artist’s 40-year career and paid homage to her New York City roots — gave concertgoers much of what they’ve come to expect since the show kicked off at the O2 arena in London on Oct. 14: a theatrical spectacle, tear-inducing moments, a considerably late start and four decades of generation-defining hits.

But on Saturday, the Queen of Pop once again showed the world why she’s still deserving of the title.

According to the city’s tourism agency Riotur, the crowd of 1.6 million fans who took over the sands and sidewalks of the world-famous beach — about 100,000 more people than previously expected — easily broke her previous record, when 130,000 fans saw her second music tour, Who’s That Girl, in Paris in 1987.

She’s also the first female artist to perform in front of an audience of 1 million people, according to Luiz Guilherme Niemeyer of Bonus Track, the Brazilian production company that brought Madonna to Rio.

Nearly 5,000 law enforcement officers were on standby for what some locals dubbed “the show of the century.” Several streets were completely taken over by fans, many of whom camped out for days to secure a good viewing spot.

Besides Madonna’s faithful LGBTQ fan base — several of them wearing clothing representative of a different Madonna era, such as Blond Ambition-themed cone bras or Erotica-days S&M gear — Gen X mothers and their children danced to pop music classics including “Everybody,” “Into the Groove,” “Vogue” and “Holiday.”

She also paid tribute to all the lives lost to AIDS while singing “Live to Tell” during one of the show’s more powerful moments.

The emotional and introspective moment consisted of photographs of Madonna’s friends, mentors and fellow artists who died from the illness flashing on large screens behind her. On Saturday, that list also included late Brazilian artists, including the singers Cazuza and Renato Russo and the writer Caio Fernando de Abreu.

Later in the show, Madonna welcomed to the stage Brazilian superstar Anitta, who served as a judge in the show’s highly Instagrammable — and often NSFW — ballroom runway segment.

Pabllo Vittar, another Brazilian pop culture giant, also made a surprise appearance during Saturday’s show. The global drag superstar helped Madonna kick the energy level into ecstasy levels as the duo sang Madonna’s 2000 No. 1 hit “Music,” a new addition to the tour set list, alongside drum players from the city’s samba schools.

The “wonderful” show proved that Madonna “has always been ahead of her time,” Mirelle de França, a 50-year-old journalist and longtime fan of the artist, told the Daily News.