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Giddy Rio braces for huge Madonna show on Copacabana beach

BI Desk || BusinessInsider

Published: 12:55, 5 May 2024  
Giddy Rio braces for huge Madonna show on Copacabana beach

Photo: Collected

Rio de Janeiro was brimming with excitement Saturday ahead of pop queen Madonna's highly anticipated free concert on famed Copacabana beach, with 1.5 million enthusiastic fans expected to turn out.

"Are you ready?" the 65-year-old American superstar posted on her Instagram account seven hours before the show celebrating her 40-year career as a musical, style and cultural icon.

The final stop of "The Celebration Tour" follows weeks of intense preparation, involving thousands of people and generating a fever pitch of excitement in the iconic Brazilian city, with talk of little else.

"I'm a mess, I haven't slept well, I've been listening to Madonna all week," 29-year-old sociologist Ina Odara told AFP. Tattooed on her shoulder is a phrase from the pop idol: "All that you ever learned, try to forget."

"Madonna helped me leave the Catholic Church, think about many things and change my relationship with my family," said Odara, a trans woman, standing near the huge stage -- twice the size of any used previously on the tour -- built on the beach.

At nightfall, the "world's largest dance floor" will light up, with a succession of DJs performing.

Hours before the show, throngs of fans were already dancing to Madonna's songs blasting from speakers on the stage.

Police patrolled almost every corner in an attempt to minimize the usual mass robberies.

If things stick to schedule, at 9:50 pm (00H50 GMT Sunday), the pop queen will stride onto an elevated walkway from the emblematic Copacabana Palace hotel, where she is staying, to the stage for one of the most important performances of her career.

- A 'virgin' and a mother -

After 80 performances across Europe and North America, the Rio concert will provide a crowning touch to a tour that took on sudden urgency when the singer in June suffered a life-threatening bacterial infection.

Since the 1984 release of "Like a Virgin," Madonna has released an album every two or three years.

Her shows, with their spectacular productions, set a high bar. But the ever-provocative Madonna has also provided unforgettable moments, like when she kissed Britney Spears at 2003's MTV Music Video Awards.

Her irreverence led to a tumultuous relationship with the Catholic Church, with Pope John Paul II urging fans to boycott her over her provocative 1989 video "Like a Prayer," seen as blasphemous.

In Rio, the singer will, over a span of two hours, portray ALL the Madonnas: the "Material Girl," the bride, the rebellious Catholic, the virgin, the cowgirl, and others.

She will affirm her motherhood as well: four of her six children will share the stage with her.

- 'Oi, Rio!' -

Two rehearsals on the eve of the concert, held in view of beachgoers, offered some clues as to what can be expected.

Madonna sang "Nothing Really Matters" and "Burning Up," as well as "Live to Tell," in homage to AIDS victims.

The singer Pabllo Vittar, backed by a group of young drummers, also took part in the rehearsals, as did funk queen Anitta, who in 2020 recorded "Faz Gostoso" with Madonna.

The audience can also expect to hear hits such as "Material Girl," "Papa Don't Preach," "La Isla Bonita" and more than 20 other songs.

The concert should provide an economic boost to Rio, which contributed 20 million reales ($4 million) toward the $12 million cost of the production.

Authorities say the concert should pump a far larger sum -- 293 million reales, or $57 million -- into the local economy.

On every corner in the Copacabana neighborhood are billboards, souvenirs or T-shirts bearing images of Madonna or of the conical corset designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and made famous by the diva.

Since the singer's arrival in Rio on Monday, hundreds of her fans have swarmed outside the Copacabana Palace.

The excitement spiked Thursday night when Madonna unexpectedly appeared for a sound check, her face almost completely hidden behind a colorful balaclava.

That scene was repeated on Friday.

"Oi, Rio!" she called out in Portuguese to fans.

The response will come Saturday night from more than a million voices: "Oi, Queen Madonna!"