I’d only ever flirted with the idea of seeing a major pop-star live. I like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake enough to think about going to their shows. I’ve seen Kanye on the Saint Pablo tour, but he’s a rapper. I’ve seen Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco at major arena tours, while they’re still mostly relevant, but both are still (mostly) considered rock bands. Lady Gaga was like my first kiss, kind of great-kind of awkward and underwhelming.
Maybe I was just exhausted, because Gaga went on late. Maybe I go to too many shows and just no longer get the same buzz. I didn’t have a bad time, but the punk ethos in me really got caught up in a certain formulaic nature I couldn’t miss. Gaga shows are great, because they need to be for a few reasons: 1. They’re expensive. To be field level at Citi Field costs upwards of $300, and it doesn’t go down much from there. If you go to one concert a year, Lady Gaga is an appealing choice, and you can drain your concert budget on a few tickets. 2. It could be a number of people’s first show. There were definitely a bunch of littler Little Monsters there, and they’re sure to be lifelong Gaga fans now, and for good reason.
Gaga is a tour-de-force of a performer. She sings and dances with enough feeling to really resonate with a large crowd. Her old hits sound just as good as the new ones. “Poker Face” was oddly emotional for me. Maybe, I was just nostalgic. “Joanne” and “Million Reasons” are both mega-power ballads meant to be played in stadiums Citi Field’s size. Her choreography and costumes are both unsurprisingly amazing. “Bad Romance” is easily the climax of the show, and a reminder that Gaga’s biggest hit will never be forgotten.
Despite Gaga’s excellency, there is a major level of disconnect between her and her audience. Maybe that just stems from me sitting in the upper-deck, but it’s hard for the stage to hold your attention when the jumbotrons have concert-film cinematography showing the whole time. Even if you do watch the stage, you can’t take in the breathtaking choreography from the upper-deck. Also, everything about Gaga’s show sticks to a finely-tuned script. The setlist is stuck to a T. There’s no variation at all. While it’s a tribute to Gaga’s talent that she can create the same show every night, the show does allow her to throw in a little variation here and there. One would think Gaga would throw in a touch of a classic New York song. I wasn’t expecting LCD Soundsystem, but she could of sang a line of Sinatra or Billy Joel, especially since she calls New York home.
The biggest issue that came out of the show is the huge level of disconnect, which I was expecting. Most of the time at a big arena show, it’s hard to not feel a level of disconnect. Gaga had her moments that seemed to really be genuine, like when she mentioned Tony Bennett was in attendance. She also referenced living in New York during her onstage banter, but to a cynic, it seemed like she was probably just adjusting the same thing she said on stage every night.
Really, the most unfortunate part of Gaga’s show was the size of the venue. It was so simple to depersonalize the whole event, because everything was far. This tour would have been perfect on a smaller scale. Joanne is a much more personal Gaga album, and it would have fared better at the Barclay’s Center or Madison Square Garden. Maybe next time, I just need to be field-level.