Wrigley Field, Chicago
Friday, August 25, 2017
Superstar artist/actress Lady Gaga is no stranger to stadiums, starting with her performance at this year’s Super Bowl where she emerged as the ultimate victor thanks to a show-stopping set anchored in patriotism and tolerance. However, when her sold out Joanne World Tour landed at Wrigley Field, she just so happened to make history again, this time for being the first woman to ever headline The Friendly Confines, and for almost two hours, demonstrated she has equally big balls (her word) as any of the guys.
Granted, the latest long player that shares the tour’s namesake hasn’t exactly lit the globe on fire compared to her earlier solo works or stunning jazz collaboration with Tony Bennett, but in concert, it came to life alongside many of this decade’s most defining pop touchstones. Although comparisons to Madonna, David Bowie and Liza Minnelli have trailed Gaga since her 2008 breakthrough, the 31-year-old born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is truly an astounding entertainer who’s now occupies a lane entirely her own.
Bringing along a stage stacked with hydraulic platforms that frequently elevated the leader and her dozen dancers, plus six Broadway-styled acts complete with their own fashions and themes, the singer/songwriter barreled through a series of dance-floor fillers, gritty rockers and piano ballads. And no matter the vibe of a track or her aerobic level, Gaga appeared to sing, no, make that slay nearly every note, suggesting she wouldn’t have needed a single prop other than a microphone and spotlight if there weren’t stands of fans several bases away.
Even so, every section was on its feet well before the countdown clock expired and “Diamond Heart” introduced the evening with a full electric band, who continued pumping additional muscle into “A-Yo” and “Poker Face.” The mood moved towards a western/Latin motif as “John Wayne” and “Alejandro” emerged, though the club-ready beats were right around the corner when “Just Dance” and “Applause” let loose.
Yet the true test of Gaga’s vocal talents occurred when she landed behind the piano for the equality-based “Come To Mama” and a stripped down, reflective take on “The Edge Of Glory” (dedicated to both her longtime musical director and a dear friend she lost to cancer). Her emphasis on messages climbed to the next level during “Born This Way,” which has perhaps been most extensively embraced in LGBT contexts, but really applies to anyone beaming with pride over their beliefs and individuality.
Little Monsters also got to see a guitar playing Gaga’s more vulnerable side throughout the country-leaning “Joanne,” about an aunt she never met who died from lupus at a mere 19, though the glammed-up “Bad Romance” seemed to secure the most eyeballs thanks to its claw-adorned choreography. Surprisingly, the standard portion of the show closed with the brand new, bubbly smash-in-the-making “The Cure,” prior to an encore of the piano ballad “A Million Reasons” when Gaga once again let her voice be the center of attention as she blinked back tears over just how far she’s come in a relatively short amount of time.
-Review by Andy Argyrakis
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