Lady Gaga Concert Review
In a year when I’ve seen everyone from Bob Dylan to Iron Maiden, I went into last night’s Lady Gaga show in Las Vegas expecting an entertaining but scripted pop concert. I underestimated her.
Gaga’s Joanne tour transcends the contemporary pop landscape to create a visual spectacle that showcases a surprisingly deep well of songs. Finally taking the stage two hours after doors opened (her Little Monsters seemingly more patient than me), Gaga took control of the sold-out T-Mobile Arena for the second time in 2017, an amazing feat in itself given the lackluster ticket sales for other arena acts in this town. Borrowing the script that Madonna wrote in the 1980s and wearing outfits influenced by everyone from Cher to Bjork, the two hour show deftly maneuvered between highly choreographed dance anthems and emotionally open ballads without losing any momentum.
Breaking the show into “Acts”, each segment of the concert became a show within a show as Gaga and her dancers worked various areas of the arena on elevated platforms connected by bridges suspended from the arena ceiling (which were still lower than my seat in the rafters). All the expected hits were present from “Poker Face” to “Paparazzi” but it was Gaga’s more emotionally open songwriting on Joanne that gave the pulsating arena an unexpected intimacy. Settling in behind a neon accented clear piano (imagine a Tron light cycle turned into a piano!), “The Edge Of Glory” brought a hush over the audience as Gaga’s vocals hit notes most of today’s pop stars wouldn’t dream of going for in a live setting. Just as quickly, the crowd was back on their feet chanting along to “Born This Way” which warrants consideration as this generation’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Between songs, Gaga preached a message of love and inclusiveness. Even the most jaded old rock-n-roll fan (which is most of us music critics) would be hard pressed to find fault with how she wields her stardom. She has championed those who feel different throughout her career and her concerts are a place where everyone feels safe being who they are. Isn’t that why we all fell in love with David Bowie in the first place? Musically, Lady Gaga’s songs reflect and acknowledge the influence of every corner of popular music to create her own distinctive musical tapestry. “Bloody Mary” and “Alejandro” were reminiscent of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” and “La Isla Bonita” respectively in sound and presentation, but at other times, I heard hints of everything from Def Leppard to Shania Twain. A few searches on YouTube for covers of her songs reveal the exceptional craft behind the glitter and fashion. These songs are built to last.
When I saw Madonna in 1987, she was graduating from club anthems like “Holiday” to more serious material such as “Live To Tell” and Lady Gaga seems to be at the same crossroads with Joanne. Last night, four of the final five songs pulled from the new album and the encore “Million Reasons” found her alone at the piano. It was a confident set list that did not shy away from her own growth as an artist and person. Judging by the audience’s reaction, they are going to be with her every step of the way. The disco stick will always be in the closet when she needs it but last night’s concert was far more significant for the promise of where Lady Gaga will take us next.