“Fifty years, people,” Madonna ad-libbed on Sunday night in Manhattan to a crowd of 7,000 rapturous, mostly shirtless fans.
The setting for this 30-minute concert? River Island stage on Pier 97 in Manhattan, better known as “Pride Island.” Madonna’s performance of four songs closed a week of festivities for World Pride, which included the June 28 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the gay liberation movement.
“Fifty years of revolution,” Madonna said in a short sermon that she delivered between songs. “Fifty years of freedom and fighting. Fifty years of putting up with discrimination, hatred and ignorance. Fifty years of not bowing down to fear. I’m so proud and honored to share this historical event with you. Fifty f–king years. It’s insane. Are you with me?”
Among the hands waving in the air were such notable attendees as Donatella Versace, shimmying from a VIP booth, CNN president Jeff Zucker, comedian Billy Eichner and “Pose” actor Billy Porter, decked out in a peach-colored dressed and rainbow sneakers.
“Since I came to New York as a wee-little girl, I have always been embraced by queer nation,” Madonna continued. “I always felt like an outsider, but you made me feel like an insider, like somebody. So you must know how much I love and appreciate everyone here from the LGBTQ community.”
Although Madonna’s set was short, as is tradition for the annual circuit party on the pier, it did reveal some glimpses of what her upcoming “Madame X” tour (which starts in September) could entail. The night kicked off with a pre-recorded video that explained how Madonna’s alter ego, “Madame X” (the title of her most recent album, released on June 14), was a secret agent with a series of identities such as “a dancer, a professor, a head of state, a housekeeper, an equestrian, a prisoner, a student, a mother, a teacher, a nun, a singer, a saint, a whore…”
Madonna then emerged onstage flanked by at least a dozen dancers, all dressed like her, in spy jackets. But only the real Madonna wore a sparkling patch over her left eye, as she launched into a performance of one of her greatest hits, “Vogue.” She followed the classic with a guitar-led rendition of “American Life,” before segueing into a partial costume change, kicking off her stiletto heels for a pair of combat boots that were presented to her by a man she called “leather daddy.”
“You’ve seen me simulating masturbation all around the world,” Madonna said. “Why would you have a problem with me changing my shoes, right?”
The second half of her act veered into the new material, which featured some of her more political messages and themes. Speaking to the crowd, Madonna said that the biggest problem in America is “gun safety and gun control which is disproportionately affecting marginalized communities.”
That led to Madonna performing her song, “God Control,” which featured her background dancers dressed as police officers wielding combat shields. Her final song, “I Rise,” was accompanied by imagery of the young students who spearheaded the March for Our Lives movement, along with the the word “resist.”
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