Free Madonna concert draws crowd of 1.6m to Brazil’s Copacabana beach

Last Updated: June 18, 2024By

Madonna Lights Up Rio!

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With the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue towering majestically from Corcovado mountain, Rio de Janeiro is no stranger to grandeur. But this past weekend, the city witnessed a different kind of celestial presence as Madonna graced its shores.

Saturday night saw over a million souls converge upon Copacabana beach, transforming its sandy expanse into a colossal dance floor for a special concert by the Queen of Pop, marking the culmination of her world tour.

“Right here, in the most gorgeous place on Earth,” Madonna, at a sprightly 65, addressed the tightly packed throng, gesturing towards the ocean vista and the looming mountains. “This spot is pure magic.”

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In the lead-up to the concert, the city buzzed with anticipation, fans lining up outside the stately Copacabana Palace hotel in hopes of catching a glimpse of the star. The city’s airport saw an influx of approximately 170 additional flights as devotees flocked in from every corner of the globe.

City officials tallied a staggering 1.6 million attendees, with some revelers catching glimpses from luminous apartments or hotels dotting the shoreline, while others bobbed on motorboats and sailboats stationed nearby.

As drones buzzed overhead and helicopters whirred, the songstress delivered a spellbinding performance, belting out classics from “Like a Virgin” to “Like a Prayer,” seamlessly transitioning through myriad sets and costume changes.

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Amidst colossal screens, Madonna kicked off the show with her 1998 anthem “Nothing Really Matters,” igniting an uproarious cheer from the crowd.

“Oi, Rio!” she exclaimed in Portuguese, met with a resounding chorus from over a million voices: “Oi, Queen Madonna!”

In a poignant moment, she paid tribute to the lives lost to AIDS while crooning “Live to Tell,” accompanied by a backdrop of monochrome portraits honoring those who succumbed to the illness.

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The extravaganza also featured performances by Brazilian pop sensations Anitta and Pabllo Vittar, along with emerging talents from local samba schools.

Described as the pinnacle of her four-decade-long career, the show boasted giant screens and 18 sound towers dispersed along the beach, ensuring all could partake in the spectacle.

Fans, some queuing for hours or even days beforehand, lauded Madonna’s performance. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” exclaimed one concert-goer to the BBC. “It’s beyond imagination, truly extraordinary,” she gushed.

“Madonna is beyond compare,” echoed another fan. “There’s no one quite like her.”

In light of a tragic incident at a Taylor Swift concert last year, where a young Brazilian fan succumbed to heat exhaustion, city authorities took precautions, deploying firefighters to mist the crowd and distributing free water to combat the balmy 27°C (81°F) temperatures.

A contingent of over 3,000 police officers was stationed around the concert area, reminiscent of past mammoth gatherings headlined by the likes of the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart.

Throughout Rio, excitement reached a fever pitch. “Welcome, Queen!” proclaimed Heineken ads plastered across the city, while bars concocted specialty “Like a Virgin” cocktails. The Copacabana district was awash with billboards, souvenirs, and T-shirts adorned with the songstress’s likeness.

As hotel bookings soared to an estimated 98% capacity, Rio’s security apparatus mobilized, with 3,200 military personnel and 1,500 civilian police officers on standby, bolstered by navy patrols scrutinizing vessels offshore. City officials projected a windfall of up to 293 million reais (£46 million) injected into the local economy.

With contributions from Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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