Even when Lady Gaga releases mediocre music, she knows how to sell it live.
Part of the fun is showing up to see how she will do just that. Whether playing one song for Windy City Gay Idol's talent competition in 2008 or selling out mega-stadiums in 2017, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanottawho broke the glass ceiling Aug. 25 by becoming the first female headliner at Wrigley Field*has always given it her all. There were some stellar moments in a sold-out show that could have only been slightly improved.
The Little Monsters packed Wrigley Field on Aug. 25 with many dressed appropriately for the occasion. Longtime collaborator DJ White Shadow spun tunes for about an hour to prepare the audience for a good time.
With "Diamond Heart," she kicked off a well-thought-out setlist that mixed the new songs with past pop hits. She cut out "Paparazzi" for this stop of the Joanne World Tour for time constraints and no Tony Bennett songs were to be heard. There was no time for cover songs with cramming in so many favorites in the set, which lasted just under two hours.
There were video montages, guitar solos from her band and short breaks while she switched costumes behind the scenes. The crowd was dazzled by fire explosions and fireworks in the background.
The show added international flavor for "ScheiBe" and "Alejandro." Things moved along with "Poker Face," "Telephone" and "Just Dance." Speaking of dancing, it was not a dance-heavy concert but was instead about Gaga having personal moments.
Gaga connected with the audience easily by just being herself. She continually tried to give the title to other peopleincluding a ghost of her late friend Sonja Durham, who she said was onstage earlier.
Gaga smartly had a piano placed in the middle of the dance circle to be closer to her diehard followers. While in the middle of this, she cried until snot ran down her face for a touching rendition of "The Edge of Glory." She held a note out so long for the track that it brought down the house and proved the reason to see her play the slowed-down version live. She explained that if people don't see her mascara running in her career, then she is not doing her job. Many of her pop contemporaries should learn a lesson like this and drop the aloof act. People want to feel a connection to accompany the music and somehow Gaga pulled it off in a stadium of epic proportions. Simply sitting down, strumming a guitar and confessing about past addictions goes a long way in conveying a story.
She thanked several people in between songs, ranging from her dad to everyone buying a ticket. If you have seen her play at smaller venues, you realize the challenges a concert this size can bring. A headset would have allowed her to move more freely. The dancers had to hold the microphone in front of her while she played her keyboard guitar, and that became a bit tricky while descending stairs. Another awkward moment happened when she jumped on a dancer and rode him piggyback for no reason. Two things to admire, though, are her gusto and desire to be the consummate performer. She didn't stop the act following any small mistakes, and went full out until the moment she was offstage.
The title track from her latest album, Joanne, may not be the best song in her catalogue, but she kept it personal telling a lengthy story that hopefully translated well to the cheap seats. If you were lucky enough to snag a ticket in the front, it was a rare intimate moment and felt like Gaga was speaking directly to the riveted audience.
She stopped to talk about her LGBTQ crowd then acknowledged that everyone was welcome. The pop singer inserted facts about Chicago as often as she could, such as a shout-out to a dancer who is from the area; she also congratulated the Chicago Cubs on being world champions.
Want to sell more merch, Gaga? What fans wanted was the Cubs jersey with Lady Gaga written on the back that she wore for one tune. Green Day got that memo by mixing in Cubbie paraphernalia at its table the night before. Don't worry about her deep pockets, as the tour is expected to earn $100 million before it ends. Talk about giving her a "Million Reasons…"
The thing is she puts her money where her mouth is. Earlier in the day, she quietly hosted via her mother a BBQ for youth suffering from homelessness and recently gave money to schools to help underprivileged students have supplies.
This superstar continues to push the envelope in what it means to be an artist in an industry that tends to be a heart less machine. When she sang the gay anthem "Born This Way" the stadium lit up like a Pride celebration complete with rainbow lights to finish it off. This segment showed that her loyal LGBT fanbase will always be by her side and the queen can perform at our functions until her last dying breath if she so chooses.
Look for the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two on Netflix on Sept. 22 while Joanne carries on for the rest of the year.
[* Note: Cyndi Lauper was the headline performer at Wrigley Field on July 22, 2006 for the Closing Ceremony of Gay Games VII in Chicago. She was joined by several other bands and performers.]