Lady Gaga’s still got it.
The big-hearted pop diva known for her flamboyant showmanship and devoted LGBTQ following treated fans to nearly two hours of song, dance and spectacle Friday night at KeyArena.
Fans of all ages filled the venue — including Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, who was celebrating his birthday along with other family members. Seated at the piano, Lady Gaga dedicated an intimate, solo version of “Dope” to him, then led the audience in a “Happy Birthday” sing along.
Except for that and a few semi-acoustic segments, the show was a throbbing, high-decibel blend of pop, rock, R&B and electronic dance music.
The enormous stage sprawled nearly the entire length of the main floor, with ramps, bridges and catwalks connecting various platforms. Blizzards of confetti, a bubble machine, trap doors, three video screens and an entourage of more than a dozen dancers added to the Las Vegas-like production.
The main portion of the stage featured a white, igloo-like castle housing her band. Elevated sections of the interconnected stage resembled ice formations.
Fans included preteens, baby boomers and even elderly couples who were more than simply curious. Many of her core female fans, in their 20s and 30s, wore outrageous outfits and accessories (pink wigs, purple boas, clamshell bras, tiny skirts, dominatrix gear, etc.), but few could out-Gaga the lady herself. Her costume changes were so frequent that one had to be done right on the stage.
Gaga had been forced to postpone a concert in May because of bronchitis. She made it clear that Friday’s show wasn’t just a makeup date, but a chance to reconnect with fans who missed her last spring and hung onto their tickets.
“I was so sad when I couldn’t play that night,” she said, adding with a smirk, “I’m one of the few pop stars who doesn’t lip-sync. I couldn’t pretend.”
Though she has always shown a strong affection for the army of fans she calls Little Monsters, the connection to them Friday was especially strong. After she sang “Judas,” fans in the pit below the stage tossed clothing, shoes and personal letters.
She read a couple of the letters aloud, revealing painful stories about childhood rejection and abuse. “You don’t have to feel alone,” she assured. One concertgoer, appearing on the video screens, was nearly overcome by emotion when offered an invitation to her backstage party.
Lady Gaga sang a moving, heartfelt version of “Born This Way,” her LGBTQ anthem, and urged fans to text their $10 donations to her Born This Way Foundation, founded in 2011 to foster a society in which “differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated.”
Sticking close to the set list she has performed in other cities, the pop star opened with “ArtPop,” “G.U.Y.” and “Donatella.”
For “Venus,” she wore an enormous blond wig that gave her the look of a lioness. Fabric props resembling enormous sea scallops sprouted from pods on the extended stages. During “Do What U Want,” she sat on a throne that looked like an enormous, chrome plated hand.
Other highlights of the high-energy set included “Just Dance,” “Paparazzi,” “The Edge of Glory,” “Sexx Dreams,” “Alejandro” and “Bad Romance.” After closing with “Swine” (for which she wore a sequined pig mask), Lady Gaga returned for an encore – and a moving solo version of the vagabond-themed “Gypsy.”