Joanne World Tour: “Come To Mama” and she’ll deliver a “Perfect Illusion”

167304-homepage-148461Earlier this week I took my mom and sister to see Lady Gaga’s newest concert in Toronto.  The Joanne World Tour is inspired by her latest album Joanne which, in my opinion, has a very different feel compared to her previous albums.  Of her previous concerts, I have seen Monster Ball, Born This Way Ball, and Artrave (twice); this was my fifth time seeing Lady Gaga in concert and I was expecting a slightly different experience from this particular concert given that Joanne strikes me as having more of a country/rock kind of vibe.  This difference was most noticeable for me before the concert even started.

My first impression of the whole experience was that everything had been stripped down.  This was still obviously a very Gaga kind of environment but it all felt very simplistic compared to her previous concerts.  There appeared to be less merchandise available for sale and it was all fairly subdued compared to the other Lady Gaga concert apparel that has been available in the past.  I felt there were even some missed opportunities as it might have been a good idea for them to sell hats similar to the pink Joanne hat that has become an iconic feature of this album (the only hats for sale were baseball caps and they didn’t even come in pink).  I noticed a couple of fans wearing light-up pink cowboy hats and something like that would have been a good item to sell at this kind of concert.  Speaking of the fans, more people were dressed to match the album and that meant that the fan costumes were a little less showy this time.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some fabulous over-the-top outfits, but mostly people were just wearing a lot of denim, cowboy hats, and pink – or just concert tees.

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The opening of the concert was probably the most stripped down of any Lady Gaga concert I have ever seen.  Basically, there was no opening -there were no opening acts at all.  Between 7:30pm and 9:00pm the audience sat around waiting for something to happen.  There was a little bit shown on the screens – an advertisement for Lady Gaga’s charity work and partnership with Staples, and another advertisement for her new Netflix documentary – but there really wasn’t a lot going on to keep people entertained.  For previous concerts there were at least advertisements being shown on the screens or pictures displayed encouraging fans to donate to the Born This Way Foundation.  There was a brief moment where the Born This Way Foundation was advertised but the screens were basically blank for the majority of that hour and a half.  The placement of the screens was also confusing as they seemed to be too high up and from where we were sitting they were obscured by sound and lighting equipment.  Once the show started, however, the placement of the screens made much more sense.

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The show began with a countdown which had the audience screaming in anticipation.  Once the countdown was over Lady Gaga burst on stage in a flurry of bright lights and rock and roll.  As always, Gaga’s touring musicians were absolutely phenomenal.  Gaga herself even played at least 4 different instruments throughout the duration of the show.  The dancers were also fantastic, as per usual, although there seemed to be fewer of them than there have been at previous concerts.  Also, there was no set on the stage.  Gaga’s sets are typically very grandiose and artistic but the stage was basically bare.  The opening felt more like a country/rock concert than a Lady Gaga concert.  But the stage didn’t stay bare for long.

Throughout the performance, different sections of the stage would rise up out of the floor.  But that’s not all.  These segments tilted WHILE THE DANCERS WERE ON THEM!  I definitely held my breath a few times when the dancers were mid-routine and the stage would suddenly start to slant sideways.  Even the other stage segments that were scattered around the floor rose up and/or opened trap doors.  The stage itself was rarely static and I believe this is probably one of the most sophisticated stages I have ever seen from Lady Gaga.

Even more sophisticated than the stage was the lighting. There were brilliant lights and pyrotechnics used throughout the show and it was an absolutely dazzling spectacle.  And then there were the screens.  Those tiny viewing screens shoved up in the corners that we had noticed before were almost unnecessary because there were screens everywhere else.  The back of the stage was a screen that moved up and down and both lit up with coloured lights and displayed short video clips and a live feed of the concert.  Remember how portions of the stage rose up?  There were screens underneath these floor segments that featured more lights and artistic/abstract gif-like clips.  There was a giant mass on the ceiling (my sister thought it looked like s slug) that housed some of the lighting equipment – its sides were projector screens that had additional artistic elements projected onto it.  But that’s not all.  There were segments of stage scattered around the floor but no walk-way to get to them.  That giant projector screen “slug” on the ceiling had flat catwalk pieces descend from it and fold into walkways connecting all of the pieces of stage.  These walkways were also projector screens and had matching projections on them as the “slug” in the ceiling.  Then the walkways rose into the air, flattened and turned into screens projecting a live feed from the concert.  The whole thing was spectacularly designed and utterly mind-blowing.

Lady Gaga herself was, of course, brilliant.  She certainly knows how to work a crowd and turned the concert into a wild party.  Gaga also delivered speeches about equality and moving personal anecdotes that had some audience members in tears.  She performed a variety of songs from Joanne and from her previous albums.  Some of these older songs were performed because she said that she had her first #1 hit in Canada and it was those songs that made her famous. By performing these older fan favourites it was her way of thanking the fans for all of their support.

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All in all, it was an absolutely fantastic concert and I would expect nothing less from Lady Gaga.  Even the staff at the Air Canada Center in Toronto were wonderful to deal with and we met some absolutely fantastic employees who added to our overall concert experience as they were not only helpful, but delightful to talk to.  Admittedly, there was a downside to the whole evening as the wait before the actual concert had me worried, but I knew that Mother Monster would not let her fans down.  Once again, Lady Gaga has put on a fabulous concert and I look forward to seeing her next one, whenever that may be.  In the mean time, I’ll most certainly be checking out her new Netflix documentary when it comes out.

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