Pain is an equalizer. It lets you connect with people on a personal level. Yet it does not define you as a person, and however you choose to deal with it belongs to you. – This truth spoken from Lady Gaga to her Austin fans embrace the sentiment of her fifth studio album and tour, Joanne.
The persona she has adopted for this more autotelic project strays somewhat from her chart pop albums to a more intimate introspection of the balance of love & loss, and of pain & strength, yet undoubtedly continues to connect with enough of the Gaga that mainstream fans have always embraced. Lady Gaga has always presented true artistry across the board connecting with fans through self-reflection and reinvention and transferring that identity and confidence to her audience. She has become a maternal symbol rallying for inclusion, acceptance, individuality, empowerment and equality – promoting both self and societal validation of it – housing a fandom not only of reverence for the music but for the message she projects. Her performances mirror that artistic power, bringing pop formula with true artistic depth. She is an artist for her fans and stayed true to this promise on the Joanne tour, but also opened up a deeper personal level of catharsis with this album adding a new raw emotion into the mix.
For a pop superstar to open up to this level, to such a large following of devoted fans, brings hope, understanding, and strength through the beauty of her raw vulnerability. It speaks to so many and translates acceptance and change to society through that. Lady Gaga not only puts on an amazing performance but lends a huge role to the arts through her messages and her philanthropy on and off stage.
The show was divided into a set of seven acts full of lavish costumes, choreography and stage theatrics, and video interludes exploring a range of emotions. Lady Gaga performed many of her mainstream hits but almost all of Joanne in its entirety, emphasizing the background and process of its inception – how it was curated from her own life and family. It revealed a raw truthfulness in her exploration of pain and created a more profound bond with her fans sharing her view of the human condition.
Lady Gaga played to all of those fans in Frank Erwin Center performing along a set of bridges rising and lowering onto elevated platforms within the audience in a fluid show of choreographed high energy -both Gaga and her fans coming full force to the sold out show in glitter and glam. Each act built in intensity, speaking more to her message with much fire – literally and figuratively- added in. Every 3-4 songs brought about a new outfit – from fringe to sparkle to sheer bodysuits – all the while bringing the avant-garde beauty she’s known for representing in her art. A couple of times throughout the show she stopped and made a dramatic pause for the applause – frozen in fierceness – taking in all of the love from the crowd. She returned it too, asking fans if they knew how much she loved them, professing she is constantly figuring out how to be better for them through her music and message. This is what has gained Mother Monster not just a solid following but one of mutual respect and teaching.
She brought a loving acknowledgement to the fans of the LGBTQ community who came out to see her show and extended a peaceful message of compassion towards those in attendance otherwise not for equality. Lady Gaga then belted out an inviting rendition of “Come to Mama” from behind an illuminated piano. A portion of the show was dedicated to the strength and memory of a close friend she had recently lost to illness. Gaga held her own emotional strength in her heartfelt acoustic performance of “Edge of Glory” for her. She was hanging on both the moment and her tears memorializing the spirit of her friend with her fans, before rocking out to the anthem “Born this Way” in front of a rainbow colored backlit stage.
The last three acts highlighted the essence of her tour namesake – a reflection of her in her work – bringing it straight from the heart. She reminded the audience that the only way to win in life is to be true to yourself. The message of non-violence was heavily spread, favoring self-improvement and self-acceptance as a benefit to society and dedicating the show to all those lost due to violence this year. While pain was seemingly thematic, love stood out and stood strong throughout the entire powerful performance. That love was materialized with the “monster-grams” tossed on stage by her adoring fans. Gaga opened and read aloud one inspirational fan letter before stepping off stage to hug the writer and autograph her Joanne tattoo. “The best thing we can do is to be kind to each other and fix each other with our love” – and that is what Lady Gaga admittedly does in her art – works to fix the pain with her love, giving her fans everything and being by their side. A heavy task for an artist to undertake, yet truly one from the heart.
The variety of hats she donned throughout the show represented the new perspective she’d gained in life and that perspective is apparent in her new album. Dedicated to the strength of everyone’s Joanne, the night ended with an encore of “Million Reasons.” With a million reasons to quit, it takes one to stick around and for those who stuck around to catch the show that night they not only witnessed that single reason for this artist, but were likely to have found one of their own from that performance too.