The Queen of Pop only recently had been confirmed as the headlining act for the second ― and final ― night of Pride Island, New York’s weekend-long music festival that coincided with the last weekend of Pride Month. (Saturday night featured another legend, Grace Jones.) Needless to say, the anticipation was palpable as thousands of fans angled for a vantage point on Manhattan’s Pier 97 in the hours ahead of Madonna’s performance.
Fittingly, Madonna adopted the eyepatch-wearing spy guise of her new album, “Madame X,” entering the stage in a black trench coat amid a troupe of identically dressed dancers to “Vogue,” her 1990 smash inspired by Harlem’s ballroom scene.
From there, the pop icon steered clear of her classic hits; perhaps most noticeably absent was “Like a Prayer,” which marked its 30th anniversary this year. Instead, she delved headfirst into politics, starting with 2003’s “American Life,” which sparked controversy at the time of its release for its explicitly anti-war message. She then segued into “God Control,” a new, 1970s-styled dance track that has divided audiences with its gun control theme and violent video.
This year’s Pride Month was a more celebratory affair than ever, given that it also marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the symbolic start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. In honor of the historic occasion, New York was chosen as the first U.S. city to host WorldPride, a global LGBTQ rights celebration.
This year’s significance wasn’t lost on Madonna, who has always enjoyed a sizable LGBTQ fan base and took a moment between songs to express her own gratitude to the community.
“Fifty years, people,” she told the crowd. “Fifty years of freedom fighting. Fifty years of putting up with discrimination, hatred and intemperance. Fifty years of blood, sweat and tears. Fifty years of not bowing down to fear. We have been on this journey together, and I am so proud and honored to share this historical evening with you.”
“Since I came to New York as a wee little girl, I have always been embraced by queer nation,” she continued. “I always felt like an outsider, but you made me feel like an insider. You must know how much I love and appreciate everyone here tonight. All members of the LGBTQ community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
She concluded her four-song set with the “Madame X” ballad, “I Rise,” which she previously said had been written “as a way of giving a voice to all marginalized people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind.”
As Madonna and her dancers left the stage, a display of fireworks punctuated the performance.
The starry crowd included the likes of designer Donatella Versace ...
... as well as Frankie Grande, who gushed about the night (as well as his Pride Month as a whole) on social media.
Madonna was among of bevy of A-list stars to appear at various Pride Month festivities in New York.
On June 14, Taylor Swift swung by the Stonewall Inn for an acoustic performance of her smash, “Shake It Off,” with an assist from “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Last week, Lady Gaga delivered a rousing speech at Pride Live’s Stonewall Day Concert. Bette Midler performed at the Javits Center for New York’s World Pride main event Saturday.