Lady Gaga’s stop in the Sunshine State was a magical event that truly provided “Shock and Awwww” surprises. Last month, Tampa artist, Cam Parker, created a giant mural of Lady Gaga on Franklin Street in downtown Tampa, Florida. He hoped she would check it out in person prior to her sold out night at Amalie Arena. He didn’t get his wish but he came very close. As the concert reached its dramatic climax, Gaga found Cam in the crowd and she held up a smaller version of the mural’s painting. She declared to the 17,000 plus in attendance “That’s a real artist there, look at this beautiful art”. Before playing the night’s final song, “Million Reasons”, Gaga declared “I’m going to make sure I keep this backstage with me as another reminder that I got a lot of good reasons to stick around,” and as she pointed to the artist she announced “Baby, you are one.”
The Joanne Concert Series has kept a similar format on each stop of the tour. Seven unique acts made up of three or four songs, a transitional music video as Lady Gaga changed outfits, and the dramatic conclusion with “Million Reasons” as the encore. But what wasn’t expected was the way she dropped her guard and artistic facade and garnered such a personal connection with the audience and let her voice and words dominate the evening. From the opening moments when she dedicated the show to her aunt who passed away, “Don’t call me Gaga, call me Joanne tonight!”, many of the expected theatrics were replaced by heartfelt admonitions of hope, acceptance, belief in yourself, and love. Sure there were a couple of outrageous costumes but for many of the songs it was Stefani in a no frills black catsuit sitting at a piano or adorned in her aunt’s now-famous long white jacket.
The Tampa show featured a call to arms to sign a Florida petition that would restore the rights of felons to vote. She even told the crowd she wouldn’t be upset if they took a break from the concert to sign the petition! The concert stage was ever-changing. A rising platform that would tilt back and forth as a choreographed number was performed, a giant snake-like walkway that created a path to the other end of the arena flow, and pyrotechnics galore.
The biggest concert highlights were after “Bad Romance” when she was showered with flowers and cards and she read a personal letter from a fan who often attended the Orlando Pulse Night Club where a terrorist attack occurred just a year ago. She gave him a hug. The inspirational “Edge Of Glory” came with a short speech to the crowd to pursue your dreams and never lose hold of what’s important to you. She gave the camera obsessed fans a personal peep show when she seductively posed off the stage prior to “Paparazzi” and her heartfelt dedication to aunt Joanne moved many in the audience.
“Shock and Awwww” – where the biggest surprise of the night wasn’t a crazy costume, an outrageous stunt, or a rant about Donald Trump. Lady Gaga let down her guard and left a bigger impact with her personal storytelling and evolution on stage.
Side note: Today, Lady Gaga confirmed a residency at the MGM Park Theater in Las Vegas starting in 2018. Gaga announced to her Little Monsters, “It’s always been my lifelong dream to be a Las Vegas girl, We did it! Meet Me in Vegas!”
**All photos by Mike Pease of Mike’s Daily Jukebox