Lady Gaga has spent much of the past few years proving her versatility. Whether she was collaborating with Tony Bennett, screaming alongside Metallica at the Grammys, or headlining her own larger-than-life Super Bowl halftime show, she seemed to be hammering one message home: Lady Gaga can do more than your average pop star.
Her Joanne World Tour stop at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. on Tuesday — the first of three sold-out shows at the location — saw her straddling the many sides of her image once again. “I only act different because I don’t know how to act the same,” she said simply.
When she took the stage for the start of a two-hour extravaganza, she did so in full-on Joanne form — quite literally so, screaming into the microphone “My name is Joanne!” (who actually was an aunt who died before Gaga was born). Donned in a black leotard dripping in fringe, she belted out “Diamond Heart” and “A-YO” to what suddenly seemed like a rock n’ roll concert.
The first hour was a nearly non-stop feat of back-to-back performances, jamming though hits like “Poker Face,” “Perfect Illusion,” “John Wayne,” “Alejandro,” and an unexpected but widely appreciated fan-favorite “Born This Way” track “Scheiße.” With only a brief intermission (showcasing footage of Gaga racing around in a vintage car, spinning up pink dust that transitioned well into “John Wayne”), Gaga was in full superstar form. She defied gravity sky-high heels while standing on parts of the stage at 45-degree angles, hit even higher notes as flames whipped up alongside her in the high-energy “John Wayne” performance, and kicked at a dancer in a bit while screaming “Get the f— off me! Who are you?”
Fans who haven’t kept up with the Joanne era weren’t left out. As she took the stage in an outfit that wasn’t unlike the one she wore in her David Bowie tribute at the Grammys, she jolted the audience to their feet with “Just Dance,” “LoveGame,” and “Telephone.”
Near the middle of the concert, however, Gaga slowed it down, just barely getting political as she teased that there’s “a lot we could talk about” in regards to the state of America. She asked which of the audience was part of the LGBT community, and who wasn’t. “Well, everybody’s family here. We’ve all just got to love each other. The way things are going, we’ve just got to give love to all our sisters and all our brothers,” she said as she sat down at her colorful piano, launching into a performance of “Come to Mama.” That theme of family would persist throughout the rest of the show.
Gaga got deeply personal as she launched into a piano version of “The Edge of Glory,” a highlight of the night where her voice was perhaps its most impressive, expressing heartfelt appreciations for her sister, mother, and father, who happened to be turning 60 at midnight (“sorry for telling the whole world that you’re 60,” she quipped to her father, who was in the audience along with her mother). In the midst of the emotional performance, she also remembered her late friend, Sonja Durham, who died in May after a battle with cancer.
She would go back to her dramatic persona afterward, making a splash in red during “Bloody Mary” (another welcome surprise) and “Dancin’ in Circles” and fighting off dancers during “Paparazzi.” In an almost dizzying tonal change, she transitioned into “Angel Down,” dropping in slowly from a bridge from the ceiling, before telling a story to launch into “Joanne.” Sitting down with her guitar, she told the audience of “an intergenerational pain, a grief passed on by our grandparents, through our parents.” “For me, that pain has only one name, and it’s Joanne,” she said, strumming her guitar in a stripped-down break.
That break didn’t last long, however, before she unofficially ended the show with two of her most dance-worthy songs: “Bad Romance” and “The Cure.” As much of the audience filed out, she returned for an encore in her now-signature pink cowboy hat and a glittery long trench coat, singing “Joanne’s” “Million Reasons” before lowering down below the Forum stage along with her piano.
Though there’s much to be said about Gaga’s unfaltering vocals and high-energy showmanship, it’s also worth noting one of the most impressive parts of the show: the set. With bridges that lowered from the ceiling that allowed Gaga and her dancers to jump from the main stage to three other ones in the venue, the transitions were absolutely seamless. Though she’s only spending two nights there before returning again in December, it almost seemed like the concert was designed for the Forum and the dedicated fans there on this night.
Gaga will continue the Joanne World Tour at the Forum on Wednesday, and will return again on Dec. 18.