Lady Gaga pulls out all the fabulously bizarre pop stops at Wrigley Field
It was her second time playing the ballpark, though a far cry from the vibe of 2017’s Joanne World Tour performance.
Hollywood may have borrowed her for a while, but music has its leading lady back. And after a four-year break, Lady Gaga is showing how a pop star is reborn, in this case via The Chromatica Ball tour.
The limited trek — just 12 cities in North America — is in support of her 2020 “Chromatica” album that marked a successful return to Gaga’s dance-pop foundation and her beautifully bizarre aesthetic that turned a lot of heads early in her career.
The Ball, “not a tour,” as Gaga explained, arrived in the form of a very sold-out concert on Monday night at Wrigley Field, where any extra space was taken up by a Comic-Con level of winged/spiked/sparkled costumes that paid homage to the many eras of the 36-year-old Gaga.
It was in fact her second time playing the ballpark, though a far cry from the vibe of 2017’s Joanne World Tour performance, that occasion notable for being the first time a woman headlined the stadium — and for presenting a stripped-down mirage of the artist who once made headlines for wearing a meat dress.
Those subtleties were all gone on this night, in favor of cosplay, fetishism, alien-esque neofuturism, Dada theatrics and a flipbook of highly-produced video vignettes.
Announcing The Chromatica Ball back in 2020, Gaga originally explained the creative direction as a combo of art, fashion, dance, music, technology and poetry “and the way all those things work together.” Keeping her word, those cogs moved in unison with a Herculean effort of costuming, choreography, lighting and set design that will go down as one of her career best.
The two-hour spectacle was broken into five easily digestible acts, each ending with an interlude that was an intentional moment to focus on her incredible dancers and backing musicians, not the least of which was keyboardist Brockett Parsons and his amazing 360-degree piano arc invention.
The night started with a teaser black-and-white featurette padded with Rorschach Test synapses and a Tesla Coil reaction that alluded to the high-voltage experience about to come. Gaga soon entered wearing her first costume, a granite statue-like affair, eventually breaking free from the cocoon-like garb to jump into a mini greatest hits of “Bad Romance,” “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.”
Each segment that followed was even more of a revolving art project that kept taking darker turns, in lockstep with the difficult headspace Gaga has talked about being in while making “Chromatica.”
Act I seemingly took cues from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Gaga’s time in the “American Horror Story” franchise (and was a great promo for her Haus Labs makeup line). Act II’s pleather-palooza could be best described as a Grace Jones - Rob Halford co-headlining tour. Act III was Gaga’s Babylonian golden goddess moment. And Act V, the finale, was all rough-and-tumble rocker, ending with Gaga on her knees in front of a plume of flames that really makes you wish she’d someday explore her heavy-metal leanings.
But it was Act IV that was perhaps the most evocative. For this segment, Gaga walked down a makeshift roped-off runway in the outfield to ascend to a second stage in center field where a gnarly piano looking like a design of Guillermo del Toro awaited her.
For six songs, Gaga finally sat still long enough for her impeccable vocals to shine, her classical training coming through on a pared down “Born This Way” (dedicated to the ”brave” Pastor Carl Bean who wrote a song of the same name), “Shallow,” “The Edge of Glory” and a demure “1000 Doves.”
The latter is a club hit from her “Chromatica” album, but on this night, Gaga played it bare for the audience to “hear it like I wrote it.” She explained the song came to her while she was sitting on her porch in a bout of depression, chain-smoking cigarettes and crying about life.
That’s the beauty about Gaga. Her authentic human connection precedes any of her made-up characters. No matter what otherworldly getup she might don next, it’s really to tell her fans they, too, can be anything they want to be.
On this night she had one additional message to share, asking people to put aside their differences and come together for each other while also using her platform to talk about keeping women safe. And then she ended the show with one bit of positivity. “Don’t give up, keep going and believe in yourself,” she said. “We’re going to figure this s*** out.”
9/11 / Sour Candy
Born This Way
Always Remember Us This Way
The Edge of Glory
Rain On Me
Hold My Hand