Lady Gaga is unquestionably one of the biggest pop stars in the world. And after finally seeing one of her live performances, it’s not hard to understand why.
Gaga visited Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday night on one of the final shows in the North American leg of her “Joanne” world tour. There were plentiful bells and whistles between a main stage up front, a secondary stage at the rear, two midpoint landing pads with retractable bridges to span the gaps, plenty of costume changes, lasers and pyro, and a cadre of 10 dancers.
Still, it was a pleasing development that all the spectacle was, in fact, quite secondary to the substance. Gaga herself is a bit of an awkward dancer, actually, but her vocals were clear and powerful, and her message never failed to resonate with her legions of adoring fans, known as “Little Monsters.”
Early in the proceedings, Gaga told the assembled, “You’ve all given me so much over the years. But tonight, I need you to give me one more thing: I need you to get on your mother[expletive] feet!”
And as the evening unfolded, no one found cause not to comply.
Opening song • After a 10-minute countdown timer, Gaga finally appeared and launched right into “Diamond Heart,” the lead track from her latest album, “Joanne.” She earned an early pop from the audience as she belted out the world-weary lines: “Some a--hole broke me in/Rag-dolled my innocence.”
Highlight • The title track “Joanne” is not my favorite Gaga song — it’s not even my favorite song from that album — but her soulful acoustic rendition of it Thursday was a heart-rending show-stopper. She prefaced it by noting that her middle-namesake, her father’s sister, died at the age of 19 (long before Gaga was even born) from lupus. Furthermore, she opined that she now wondered if she ever truly knew her father at all, given the pain he endured at such a vulnerable age, but that this song was her imagined version of what he might have said to his dying sibling. Anyone who did not grow misty-eyed at the line “Every part of my aching heart needs you more than the angels do,” may indeed be devoid of a soul.
Lowlight • Honestly, six costume changes — each requiring several minutes of instrumental interludes by her five-piece backing band, which were subsequently followed by several minutes of video setpieces — made for some uncomfortably long breaks and, frankly, a bit of audience restlessness. True, that’s a small quibble in the bigger picture, but it’s a quibble nonetheless.
Crowd favorite(s) • There was no shortage of hits to enthrall the crowd, but arguably the two most well-received of the night were the third song in, “Poker Face,” and the third-to-last, “Bad Romance.”
Best quotes • Gaga delivered perhaps the most chatty live show I’ve ever witnessed, but given that most of it was heartfelt and centered around the themes of acceptance and humanity’s shared connection in pain, that’s hardly a complaint.
Early on, she warned anyone there against their will or better judgment what was in store: “Who here is LGBTQ? [Loud cheering] Who here isn’t LGBTQ? [Loud cheering] Well, then, judging from those responses, I’d guess about 98 percent of you are very loving, accepting, affirming people. As for the rest of you, if you got dragged here by someone, well … it’s probably going to be a very uncomfortable 2 hours for you!”
And before her performance of “Joanne,” she noted that so many people can relate to its content because they too have experienced deep personal loss: “We all have a Joanne. I want you to think of your Joanne, and to go back to that moment in time when you got your a-- kicked so hard you can’t even remember what life was like before.”
In the crowd • The sold-out audience of Little Monsters paid tribute to their hero by aping her various incarnations from throughout her career. Sparkly, buttcheek-revealing hotpants and leotards invoking “The Fame” era were abundant, as were wide-brimmed pink hats from “Joanne.” And wigs of every hue were plentiful as well.
Next up at Vivint Arena • Comedian Gabriel Iglesias brings his rescheduled “Fluffymania” tour to The Viv on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets from the original April 22 date will be honored. New tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
- Diamond Heart
- Poker Face
- Perfect Illusion
- John Wayne
- Just Dance
- Come to Mama
- The Edge of Glory
- Born This Way
- Bloody Mary
- Dancin’ In Circles
- Angel Down
- Bad Romance
- The Cure
- Million Reasons*
* — encore