With more than 10 years in the music industry, five solo albums, 207 awards (474 nominations) and a fanbase that supports each and every career choice she makes, Lady Gaga is a true powerhouse performer that doesn’t shy from creative expression. With her recent release of the album Joanne, Gaga took a different (somewhat softer) path to detail some of her most personal experiences through music that deviates from traditional pop – something Gaga concocted with near perfection. From beginning to end, the album Joanne (her fourth album to go number one on the Billboard charts) hits an array of emotion that touches on love, heartbreak, friendship, self discovery and empowerment in one single body of work that commands your attention through every song. After Gaga released Joanne, she performed at the Super Bowl, completed a role on American Horror Story, filmed A Star Is Born and delivered iconic televised performances that had fans begging to see the pop goddess perform on tour which became a reality as the singer announced the Joanne World Tour.
Initially, the tour sold out in a few minutes and if you were one of the lucky thousands to purchase a ticket – you know (or will soon know) that the Joanne tour is one of Gaga’s most impressive career moments thus far. I previously attended the ArtRave in Las Vegas with dazzling colors and pulse-pounding music, but the Joanne tour created an equally impressive production with an entirely different energy than her past tours. This time around Gaga had no opening act, but did include the Gaga staple DJ Whiteshadow before taking the massive San Francisco stadium AT&T Park. She was quick to address this was her first stadium tour performance in the US (which was met with high energy and the cheers of nearly 40,000 people in attendance) and as the bay area clouds began to roll over the arena, the concert commenced with the rock tinged album opener “Diamond Heart” that solidified she was going to put on a show.
As she completed the song, it led straight into “A-Yo” and the entire audience was on their feet as Gaga effortlessly played guitar and let us know she was excited to share with her friends in New York that she, “was smokin ‘em all in her first stadium performance.” The singer went into the song “John Wayne” with a beautiful fringe leather jacket and vocals that triggered me to sing louder than I anticipated because of the infectious hook and production. In between acts, Gaga left the stage for wardrobe changes and video transitions played that reminded us how the fan labeled personality “DarkGa” was present with an oxygen mask that acted as a drug to the singer, or an edgy Joanne who flipped off the camera while emitting a pink smoke from her vehicle. The videos served as visual transitions to different songs, but the creativity behind them had me begging for more visual influenced Gaga eras to come.
Gaga added the song Scheiße (a fan favorite from Born This Way) which was one she stated changed what it meant to her over the span of her career. She brought out some of her biggest hits (Alejandro, Poker Face, Just Dance, Telephone) to the tour but instead of the traditional arrangements Gaga adds differences to her live performances. While there are singers today who change notes or arrangements because they struggle to match studio development, Gaga is a mega-star who sounds even better live so she challenges herself to find new ways to sing riffs or different keys to make things feel truly unique to the tour – not your typical album sing-along which I respect most.
The New York born singer later belted a few more of the Joanne songs including “Come To Mama” which she stated was important especially today for society’s need to embrace one another without aggression or discrimination. The message had people hugging their neighbors as the singer prompted a few times, making the venue a place of love, peace and acceptance where you could enjoy music and feel comfortable. This message again surfaced when Gaga sang her juggernaut hit “Born This Way” (which by the way was possibly the best I have ever heard, so how does she keep raising the bar?!) and rainbow colors flooded the arena to ensure Gaga’s message of equality she has followed through with her entire career.
When almost reaching the end of her first stadium performance in the US, Gaga delivered the heartfelt ballad “Joanne” that she explained by delving into intergenerational grief that is very much an issue for many after the loss of a loved one. The song was a definitive highlight of her concert, bringing tears from many I was surrounded by (ok…myself included) and again when she serenaded us with “Edge of Glory” from her piano to the stadium lit up with phones like a sea of stars. The emotion was felt from Gaga and the 40,000 attendees, becoming a magical concert that went through a spectrum of music. The singer approached the final few songs with “Angel Down” another pivotal impactful song, then arguably one of her biggest hits “Bad Romance.” Gaga finally performed her Coachella release “The Cure” a summer jam that provides a 90’s R&B touch to Pop and is easily considered quintessential original music – best seen live.
Gaga may have delivered flawless vocals, but her rendition of Million Reasons was the moment that truly struck a chord with the audience as she walked her mother on-stage at her side. She detailed her mother’s crucial involvement in the Born This Way Foundation, resilience, and natural beauty, sharing this pivotal moment in her career with the woman who made her the woman she is. After the proper and heartwarming introduction, the singer songwriter finalized the San Francisco leg of the tour with the song that has become one of her most raw contributions to music (the aforementioned “Million Reasons”) making it a captivating way to finish a concert that already embodied creativity at its finest. If anything can be said about Lady Gaga after this Joanne Tour, it is that she is the voice of a generation, a remarkable singer/performer and an inspiration to many for fighting for her beliefs and a better world. If you want to feel a massive beam of love and musical brilliance in your life, the Joanne World Tour is absolutely the place to be – I would go again and again to watch anything Gaga puts her awe-inspiring energy into.