Madonna’s beautiful tribute to friends who died of AIDS on Celebration Tour has fans in tears

Madonna in a metallic outfit during her Celebration tour

Madonna, the Queen of Pop herself, dedicated an emotional performance on the opening night of her Celebration Tour to LGBTQ+ people who have lost their lives to AIDS.

The iconic pop star and LGBTQ+ ally kicked off her much-anticipated Celebration Tour at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday (14 October), and dedicated the performance of her acclaimed 1986 ballad “Live to Tell” to those who died during the HIV/AIDS crisis, including her personal friends.

While singing in an open-air box that moved across the stage, pictures of those who lost their lives at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s appeared on screens across the arena, including artists Keith Haring and Martin Burgoyne, photographer and director Herb Ritts, singer-songwriter Sylvester and legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

Madonna, 65, embarked on the moving tribute after performing the comparatively upbeat dance hit “Holiday”, which served as an anthem of respite for the LGBTQ+ community during the crisis.

During the performance, one of the dancers surrounding Madonna dropped to the ground, as if lifeless. The singer then placed a sheet over the performer and transitioned into the moving rendition of “Live to Tell”.

It is believed that over 39 million people are currently living with HIV as of findings in 2022, while 630,000 died from HIV-related illnesses worldwide last year. Estimates from the World Health Organisation put the total global death toll to at least 40 million as of 2022.

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Nonprofit organisation the AIDS Memorial thanked Madonna for recognising their work in the performance in an Instagram post, saying that it was “the greatest honour” to be part of the Celebration Tour.

Aidsmap executive director, Matthew Hodson, also praised the pop icon for her decades of allyship with the LGBTQ+ community, writing on X (formerly Twitter): “Madonna included HIV safer sex advice with her Like A Prayer album.

“There’s a reason why gays of a certain age will always stan Madonna. She had our backs when few others did.”

Fans reported Madonna’s emotional “Live to Tell” performance had them in tears, with one telling the BBC: “I lost friends to AIDS also. That really moved me.”

Over on X, another wrote: “Didn’t bank on myself BAWLING during ‘Live to Tell’ when Madonna put up pictures of the icons we lost during the AIDS crisis.”

Social media users praised the Queen of Pop for her “unwavering” support of the LGBTQ+ community, with a fan commenting that her dedication of “Live to Tell” “proved her allyship tenfold once again”.

The multi-award-winning artist proved yet again that she knows how to slay the stage – not only did she sing 47 legendary hits either in part or in full during the performance, Madonna also recreated 17 of her iconic archive costumes.

The opening night of the Celebration Tour treated fans to a number of cameo performances, including from Drag Race icon Bob the Drag Queen, who entertained on stage while technical issues were ironed out.

You can find out more about Madonna’s greatest hits Celebration Tour, with dates planned for the UK, Europe, North America and Mexico across 2023 and 2024, here.

To learn more about HIV and AIDS research, testing and treatment, visit amFAR or the Terrence Higgins Trust.