It’s been a successful year for Lady Gaga. After headlining the critically-acclaimed Super Bowl LI Halftime Show (aka the "most-watched musical event of all time") and the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, she embarked on her Joanne World Tour. Her concert at AT&T Park in San Francisco is a milestone - though she’s traveled the world to perform for almost ten years, this show marks her stadium debut. Like most shows on her world tour, her San Francisco concert was sold out. Little Monsters flooded the baseball park to see Mother Monster’s first time in San Francisco since her Monster Ball Tour in 2009.
Gaga performs a mix of songs from Joanne, hit singles, and, as a little surprise, two tracks from Born This Way. For songs from Joanne like “John Wayne,” “Perfect Illusion,” and “A-YO,” Gaga wears a country-inspired black, fringed leotard with a matching cowboy hat. She performs her hit singles with familiar themes - “Just Dance” with a keytar (an instrument she’s used on the song since The Fame), “Love Game” with a brand new disco stick, and “Bad Romance” with an all-white, eccentric ensemble and pyrotechnics. The energy shifts from time to time, Gaga closing an act with a high octane song like “Applause” before sitting in front of her neon-lit glass piano to play a ballad like “Come to Mama” and “The Edge of Glory.”
Many fans, however, are curious about one thing - who is Joanne and why are there a song, album, and tour named after her?
While performing the titular song, Gaga tells a story: her aunt, Joanne, passed away from Lupus in 1974. Years after her death, pain continued to haunt her family. This pain was passed down for generations until it was passed down to her through the name. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, or as the world knows her, Lady Gaga, would continue to live in a cycle of pain related to her aunt’s passing. “I think every day about the person I’ve that I've become, and all the pain, all the strife,” she explains, “and it has one name: Joanne.” Her album, especially the song “Joanne,” is a release of that pain and a way to channel her grief through music. As she begins to sing a song about her aunt, the sky is lit with a bright, pink light, which blends in with the San Francisco fog to create a mystifying and haunting atmosphere. “I might have wrote this song for me and my family,” she says in the middle of singing “Joanne,” “but even if it makes any small difference to any single one of you, it’s worth it. To everybody’s Joanne… I got you.”
Whether you’re a casual Gaga-lover who knows her big hits like “Poker Face” by heart or a Little Monster who can bust out the choreography for lesser-known songs like “Scheiße,” Lady Gaga has a way of making you jump from your seat, cry while waving the flashlight on your phone with the masses, then get back on your feet to dance.
The show, however, is not perfect - Gaga arrived more than an hour late, prompting her to cut down an entire act dedicated to “Bloody Mary” (a fan favorite from Born This Way), “Dancin’ in Circles” (a fan favorite Beck-produced song from Joanne), and “Paparazzi,” much to a thousand of her Little Monsters’ dismay. Millions had also hoped to experience the floating catwalk-projector-hybrid during her indoor dates from the Joanne World Tour - something noticeably absent in San Francisco.
Despite these minor flaws, Lady Gaga proves, without a doubt, that she is a living legend. She may be known for her eccentric outfits and flashy shows, but once you strip the keytars and disco sticks, you will find a beautiful voice from New York City with a dream, a message, and a mission. A stellar performer, she has proven this year that she sits in the same pantheon as Madonna and Beyoncé. Her talent, coupled with her Diamond Heart, makes Gaga a positive role model to her Little Monsters. After the show, she was spotted giving money to homeless persons around the venue, an act that solidified the words she preached to 39,500 people who came to see her show:
“I know I’m a white woman standing up here tonight…” she declares during "The Edge of Glory,” “but I promise you that I will speak love into this world every day and I will remind myself every single day to speak love to every color, to every background, to every religion, no matter what. And I dare you to do the same.”