A&E

Lady Gaga effectively mixes spectacle and songcraft

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Lady Gaga, shown here performing earlier in the tour in Vancouver.
Photo: Gatty Images/Kevin Mazur

Three and a half stars

Lady Gaga August 11, T-Mobile Arena.

Even as Lady Gaga’s studio albums have become more scattered and uneven, she remains a fantastic live act, distilling the best of her music, her fashion sense, her vocal skills and her charismatic personality into a two-hour stage spectacle. Gaga’s current tour is a bit more balanced than her last couple of solo outings, with an effective mix of recent songs and past hits. It helps that 2016’s Joanne is a stronger, more cohesive album than its recent predecessors, and the selections from that album that Gaga performed during her show on Friday at T-Mobile Arena fit in well with her more popular, well-known songs.

Even with weaker selections like Joanne’s “John Wayne” or the forgettable “Bloody Mary” from 2011’s Born This Way, the staging around the songs was creative and fun to watch, and Gaga’s dedication to always singing live gave the show an energy that some other pop productions lack. Her powerful voice is sometimes downplayed in studio recordings, but no one could deny Gaga’s vocal talents when she sat down at the piano for Joanne tracks “Come to Mama” and show closer “Million Reasons,” or a minimalist rendition of hit “The Edge of Glory,” performed entirely solo. In addition to piano, Gaga played guitar and keytar at different points, and never even resorted to a headset mic, instead holding her own microphone the entire time (except when one of her dancers held it during “Just Dance”).

Gaga fans are as drawn to the singer personally as they are to her music, and she took time out to offer positive affirmations at several points during the show, and opened up about the family trauma that inspired her to write the title track to Joanne (a tribute to her late aunt), which she dedicated to her father. The unique stage setup, with several mini-stages amidst the crowd, allowed Gaga to get closer to fans, as bridges descended from cloud-like video screens on the ceiling to facilitate movement from one platform to another. While previous Gaga tours have featured rudimentary storylines connecting the various songs, the structure this time is more straightforward, and at times Gaga was performing without any choreography, just standing in front of her talented backing musicians, focusing on her singing. Even then, parts of the stage were always moving, and the cloud screens always provided something for the audience to look at. But Gaga herself remained the most mesmerizing part of an impressively crafted show.

Setlist:

“Diamond Heart”

“A-Yo”

“Poker Face”

“Perfect Illusion”

“John Wayne”

“Scheisse”

“Alejandro”

“Just Dance”

“LoveGame”

“Telephone”

“Applause”

“Come to Mama”

“The Edge of Glory”

“Born This Way”

“Bloody Mary”

“Dancin’ in Circles”

“Paparazzi”

“Angel Down”

“Joanne”

“Bad Romance”

“The Cure”

Encore:

“Million Reasons”

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