They fought for their rights — and partied.
The Amnesty International Human Rights Concert packed the Barclays Center with do-gooder pop stars and the fans who love them on Wednesday night. Lauryn Hill, Blondie, and the Flaming Lips were just a few of the big names who rocked out. One performer who attended art school in New York opined that the show’s organizers could not have picked a better spot.
“I think Brooklyn has always been a little rebellious to the neighborhood across the river,” said Isaac Slade, lead singer of the Denver rock band The Fray, which performed a handful of earnest hits, including “How to Save a Life.”
Another vocalist echoed the sentiment, arguing that the borough should serve as a model for the rest of the country.
“This is a hub of forward thinking,” said Dan Reynolds, frontman of the dance-pop band Imagine Dragons. “I have met more people in this area with open minds than maybe anywhere else in the U.S.”
Serial boundary-pusher Madonna was also in the house and took a moment ahead of the concert to introduce two recently freed former members of the protest-punk band Pussy Riot, whose visit to Brooklyn an Orthodox Russian priest from Bensonhurst famously called “satanic.” Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina filmed an anti-Vladmir-Putin music video in a Russian Orthodox Church in 2012 and spent two years in a Moldovian prison on hooliganism charges for their trouble.
“I do not take freedom for granted, and neither should you,” said Madonna, to thunderous applause. “The two women of Pussy Riot do not share this freedom with me, so we must commend them for their courageousness.”
In a press conference before the show, the freed agitators took advantage of their newfound celebrity to urge Americans to boycott and protest the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia arguing that Putin’s animosity towards gay people only got more toxic while they were locked up.
“What our government has been doing lately is expressing hate toward the LGBT community,” Tolokonnikova said. “We want Americans to keep their eyes open and not buy what Putin is selling them.”
Back in Russia, the still-anonymous remainder of the pair’s anarchist collective disowned them for breaking its code of remaining nameless and only performing “illegal, unexpected performances.”
“Protection of rights is incompatible with radical political statements and provocative works of art,” the anti-capitalist feminist separatists wrote in a statement, as translated by Google.
Nor in Prospect Heights was everyone was happy to see the rabble-rousing duo.
Amid the throng of concert-goers with human rights and the Cold War Kids on their minds, two pro-meathead protesters stood outside the Barclays Center, one brandishing a sign reading “Women Oppress Men in America, Lesbians Take Our Girls Away.”
“Why should I support Pussy Riot? What have they done for me?” asked heterosexual male activist Roman Shusterman of Coney Island. “What about Penis Riot?”
Despite, or perhaps to spite the counter-protest, the benefit show went off with righteous gusto.
During an interlude in the main event, actress Susan Sarandon delivered a speech calling for the abolition of the death penalty, then gave a special shout-out to the Barclays revelers.
“You are a good crowd — this could be a basketball game!” she said.