Madonna Pays Heartfelt Tribute to LGBTQ Community at Pride Island

Madonna WorldPride Getty 2019 - H
Getty Images/Kevin Mazur

Thousands of people gathered at Manhattan's “Pride Island” to cap off the city's massive WorldPride celebration.

"What are you lookin' at?"

Well, at Pride Island 2019, the annual queer pier dance in Manhattan in conjunction with New York City Pride, revelers were looking at one of the most beloved, iconic and vociferous LBGTQ icons: Madonna.

Madame X closed out day two of Pride Island at Pier 97, which was especially packed considering that New York Pride — already a massive event — was more than doubled thanks to WorldPride taking up residence in NYC this year, with June 28 marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots which kicked off the modern fight for LGBTQ equality.

Madonna opened with her Harlem ballroom scene-indebted smash “Vogue,” and the audience response was deafening. After that, the musical shapeshifter brought out a single it’s safe to say no one expected to hear as part of a limited-length set: “American Life.” That being said, while it’s not one of her 20 most iconic songs, the message of “American Life” has only grown more timely in the 16 years since its release, and its strangely compelling melange of squelching synths, strings and folk had the crowd rapt — especially when she dove head-first into the “soy latte” rap (which real Stans in the crowd parroted back to her perfectly).

Midway through her wind-whipped set, Madge spoke to the historicity of the moment and the significance to her life. “Fifty years, people,” Madonna said. “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.”

Before returning to performing, she shouted-out her early NYC days. “You really don’t know. Since I came to New York as a wee little girl, I have always been embraced by queer nation. 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.”

After that, the cops busted in — well, the police-themed dancers Madonna employs. They helped her create a visually powerful live performance of her Madame X highlight “God Control,” replete with detailed choreography and a disco groove that had the crowd gyrating and grooving. She closed with “I Rise,” a powerful anthem for both gun control and LGBTQ rights, after which fireworks exploded over Pride Island as starry-eyed attendees headed home. 

This story originally appeared on Billboard.