One day after the bloody massacre in Paris, Madonna gave a concert in Stockholm, Sweden – a concert she says she very nearly cancelled. But though Madonna chose to perform, she paused her show to deliver a tearful speech in remembrance of those who had so recently lost their lives.
“It’s been very hard for me to get through this show and not forget what happened last night,” she told the crowd. “So I need to take this moment to acknowledge the tragedy. The tragic killings, assassinations, and the senseless ending of precious life that occurred last night in Paris.”
Madonna explains to her audience that canceling the show ultimately seemed like a form of surrender, a tacit acceptance of victory achieved through terror. Nonetheless, she describes the fraught experience of holding a concert after such an atrocity: “In many ways, I feel torn. Like, why am I up here dancing and having fun when people are crying over the loss of their loved ones?”
And while Madonna spoke primarily in memoriam of the November 13 attacks, she also asserted the necessity of global tolerance in the face of tragedy. To “change the world,” she argued, demands a seismic shift in how individuals relate to one another, particularly when difference renders mutual understanding difficult:
“The way we change the world is not to elect another President, not to kill a hundred more people, the way we change the world is that we change the way we treat one another on a daily basis in the simplest ways. We must start treating every human being with dignity and respect. This is the only thing that will change the world.”
Madonna’s words were punctuated by voluminous cheers from the audience, but the venue fell silent upon her request for a moment of silence. At its conclusion, Madonna, in tears, absentmindedly requested a tissue from the audience to wipe her eyes and nose.
But of course, this is Madonna. Soon she gathered herself and, with the brief introduction, “This is what I know how to do,” glided into “Like A Prayer” with only acoustic accompaniment. As the crowd energized, so did her performance, the song reaching conclusion via a rousing, love-swollen sing-along.
“This whole show is about celebrating life,” Madonna told her audience. It seems that, for at least those brief moments, she and her fans together achieved that goal.
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