Madonna makes historic show for 1.6 million people on Copacabana Beach, in Rio de Janeiro

By May 5, 2024

São Paulo, Brazil – The queen of pop Madonna made a historic show this Saturday in front of 1.6 million people on Copacabana Beach, a traditional postcard in Rio de Janeiro. The free show marked the end of The Celebration Tour, a tour in honor of the singer’s 40-year career. It was also the biggest concert that Madonna ever did. 

In just over two hours, she went through the different phases of her career and sang her main hits, such as Like a Prayer, Music, Vogue and Holiday. The show also had a lot of sensuality (she kissed one of her dancers, a trans woman), jabs at the Catholic Church and the traditional tribute to people who died of AIDS, with the inclusion of famous Brazilian artists, such as singers Renato Russo and Cazuza.

LGBTQIA+ icon, Madonna reaffirmed her support for the community in daring performances with homosexual dancers, transsexuals and drag queens. “The most controversial thing I’ve ever done was to stick around,” said the singer in a powerful speech at the end of the show.

In Brazil, samba couldn’t be missed either and Madonna danced with a drum set from a samba school. Brazilian famous singers Anitta and Pablo Vittar, a transvestite, also took the stage and danced with Madonna. The audience went crazy with the historic performance, which was broadcast live to millions of Brazilians.

Architect Júlio Cunha, fan of Madonna for over 30 years, traveled from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro just to see the queen of pop. He was at another historic performance of Madonna in Brazil, in 1993. “Madonna is revolutionary. Maybe younger people don’t know the size and importance she has always had for the LGBTQIA+ community,” he told Brazil Reports.

Madonna performed in front of 1.6 million people on Copacabana Beach. Image courtesy of Rafael Catarcione/Prefeitura do Rio

Cunha traveled by car to Rio de Janeiro and stayed at a friend’s house, Bruno Farias, who is also a fan of the singer. The two were part of the thousands of Brazilians who spent hours in front of the hotel where Madonna stayed, on Copacabana Beach. She arrived in Brazil on Monday, but only left the hotel to rehearse.

“The atmosphere in front of the hotel was incredible. Everyone singing and honoring Madonna. Almost a World Cup final,” said Farias, who attended a Madonna concert for the first time in his life: “She is my favorite singer. I always dreamed of seeing her show. And in my city, on Copacabana Beach, it made everything even more special.”

Teacher Diana da Silva went to the show with eight other friends, all residents of Rio de Janeiro. They arrived at Copacabana Beach around 11am on Saturday, to get a good spot and be as close to the stage as possible.

They waited under the hot sun for almost 12 hours until Madonna took the stage. “It’s tiring, but it’s a unique opportunity. Never again will Madonna perform for free in Brazil. We brought plenty of water to hydrate and we’ll hold on for Madonna,” she told Brazil Reports.

After the show, asked if all the effort was worth it, the teacher said yes and added: “It was the best show of my life.”

Madonna sang the main hits of her 40-year career. Image courtesy of Rafael Catarcione/Prefeitura do Rio

About the show

Madonna came to Brazil at the invitation of a private bank that is celebrating 100 years of operation in the country, in partnership with a beer brand. The show was free and had a mega structure, starting with the 2.4 meter stage and more than ten huge screens.

The city hall and government of Rio de Janeiro invested around R$ 10 million (USD $2 million) in the event, but reported that the show generated R$ 300 million (USD $60 million), which includes, for example, spending by fans with hotels, transport and food.

The security structure was bigger than that of the traditional New Year’s Eve in Copacabana: 239 cameras scattered along the beachfront, as well as drones, which did not record any serious incidents – 33 people were arrested, the majority for cell phone theft. Police also seized 160 sharp objects, such as knives and scissors.

At the end of the show, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes celebrated the success of the operation set up to welcome Madonna. “Rio is desired by the world! And we live here! Proud of this city and its residents,” he posted on social media.

Copacabana Beach on Saturday during Madonna’s concert. Image courtesy of Fabio Mota/Prefeitura do Rio