I am a self-confessed Little Monster, and so start this article with the declaration of the bias which that inevitably brings. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to write upon this topic, as after seeing the Joanne World Tour in Birmingham this week, and subsequently her cancelling the ten remaining dates. I believe, yet again, that Gaga has broken new ground.
One of the main reasons Gaga’s shows are sell outs, is due to her unbelievable talent in production and theatricality. Not only is she musically talented, she is an actress, and the narratives that run through her music, are usually brought to life on stage in a sort of musical theatre. This is something that the Joanne World Tour failed to deliver, as much as it pains me to write that. What it did deliver however, was something truer, more special, and more real than we have ever seen from the devoted performer.
Lady Gaga recently released a documentary on Netflix (5 foot 2), which documented her struggled with the fame, and her numerous chronic health conditions including lupus and fibromyalgia. Her aunt, whom after the tour and latest album is titled, died of the former, and the documentary gave us a unique insight into her family history which was the inspiration for this next step in her musical career.
The show started with an airing of this short film, instead of an opening act. As it graced the screens in the arena, I felt like this was a choice she made to remind the fans that she is recovering after three months off due to her chronic pain. For me this started the concert with a tinge of sadness, which I regret to say, continued through the evening. My star was pushing herself too hard, and I was worried for her, but also in awe of the new demographic she was reaching by defying yet more boundaries through her art.
I work with young carers, many of whom care for a family member with illnesses similar to those which Gaga suffers with. I see the pain that this causes those people, and their loved ones, and how they battle on bravely with everyday life, and tasks that ‘well’ people take for granted. Gaga has always been a defiant and brave soul, from her work with the Born This Way Foundation, standing with Hilary Clinton in the US elections, championing women’s rights worldwide, and fighting for gay members of the US military against the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ legislation as part of her wider efforts for the LGBT+ community. Now, she is too a voice for those with chronic pain illnesses, but more than that, she is a visible symbol of hope for sufferers and their families.
This was my 9th time seeing her in concert. My first time seated, taking in the whole show instead of battling my way to the front with all of the kids. It gave me a unique viewpoint, as I could analyse and appreciate every small detail as opposed to getting lost in my fangirl haze. I could see and feel her struggle at several points throughout the performance. The dance routines were toned down, the stage slightly less athletically challenging, and the costume changes far less frequent and dramatic. But never have I felt closer to my idol, and for a true fan, none of that detracted from the magic of the night. Her talent speaks volumes on its own, and after years of hiding behind fashion to protect her true self, she is letting us all in, in memory of her aunt.
She has spent years battling against the industry, and acting out to call their bluff. It is her signature move and what makes her so attractive to millions of lost and rebellious souls that see her as their saviour. Now it seems, that due to her physical health, she is having to take a more silent and reserved stand and as a result is being true to herself and her artistry more than ever. I for one hope that she continues on this journey, and that with upcoming albums we see even more of the stripped back, acoustic Gaga, whose talent alone can touch the masses and inspire hope.
I spent the entire performance flipping from a beaming smile of pride, to sobbing tears. Any Little Monster will tell you how deeply they feel when in presence of their ‘Mother’, but that night was something different all together. It was like finally the veil of Lady Gaga was lifted, and the whole world can now see Stefani Angelina Joanne Germanotta – the woman behind the mask, and the woman Little Monsters have loved all along. I have nothing but absolute respect for her for cancelling the last ten dates of the tour. It was clear she needed some proper time to recover before her Las Vegas residency. She is teaching her fans to listen to their body, which is an important lesson. She may not have given the world a theatrical masterpiece with this tour, like those that have gone before, but she has given a whole demographic of people something so much more. She has given them Joanne.