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Lady Gaga performs during her Joanne World Tour at Rogers Arena on Aug. 1, 2017, in Vancouver.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

Artist
Lady Gaga
Venue
Rogers Arena
City
Vancouver
Date
Tuesday, August 01, 2017

If you're a pop star who has built her career on out-there showmanship bordering on performance art (in addition to infectious hooks and vocal talents), then it's a safe bet that your live show will be consistent with that kind of kick-ass, highly staged aesthetic. So when Lady Gaga launched her Joanne World Tour in Vancouver Tuesday night, nobody was expecting ho-hum.

Still, wow.

The production on this show was jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising, stunning and seamless, with intricate choreography along with pyrotechnics, and a complex, ingenious design. A multiplatform main stage that took on countless configurations was as shape-shifting as the singer has been herself. Lighting pods hanging from the ceiling became video screens, then descended to become catwalks (and then flipped onto their sides to become video screens once again), giving Gaga and her gang of fantastic dancers bridges so they could spread out to smaller platforms across the floor and finally to the other side of Rogers Arena, where a jagged-heart-shaped light-up piano awaited. The whole place was her stage.

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The show went off without major hitches (there were teeny hiccups; the odd bit of feedback, too-long pauses between sets, that sort of thing) although the expected 8:30 p.m. start time was pushed back to about 9:15, following an announcement explaining that "final preparations" were taking "a little longer."

Sorry for the cliché, but it was worth the wait.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta released her album Joanne last fall, inspired by her namesake, her father's sister Joanne, who died when her father was a little boy in 1974 – 12 years before the singer was born.

"I named my record after my father's sister because what I realized is for all of us, there is grief passed on from generation to generation, from our parents, from our grandparents. Things that happened to them that were passed on to you," she told the packed, adoring and flashy-fashioned crowd.

"When I look back on my life, there's a series of events that took place that blasted me. And I walk around a lot wondering if I'll ever feel the way I used to feel. What was my life before the fame? What happened after? What happened during? And all the things that made me who I am as a young woman. So if you can all just take a moment and give yourself some mercy for that moment that blasted you so hard you can't remember who you were before. For me that moment has one name, and it's Joanne," she ended, her voice breaking, before launching into the title track, sitting on a stool with a guitar.

Her voice was ballad-beautiful and strong on this and other vocal-flaunting songs such as Angel Down and Million Reasons, so you can't really complain about the obvious backing tracks on some of the wilder stuff.

At just over two hours, the show included a number of other songs from the new album – including A-Yo, Dancin' in Circles (the first time this was performed live), Perfect Illusion and a rocking John Wayne – as well as monster hits spanning her career.

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There were no anti-Trump tirades from the singer who rallied for Hillary Clinton during the U.S. election campaign; the only time things got political (not that she nor her audience would necessarily see this as political) was when she made a plea for gay rights.

Noticing a gay pride flag that someone tried to toss on to the stage (it's unclear if this was a plant as it seemed a little too perfectly timed), Gaga asked a security guard to give it to her, then held it up.

"Needless to say, I have a lot to say about this issue," she said on the piano stage at the far end of the arena. "But the most important thing that I have to say about it is that everybody's got to love each other. … So for any of you who don't believe in equality that are here this evening, come to mama." She then played – of course – Come to Mama, a singalong show-stopping version of The Edge of Glory, and finally her LGBTQ anthem Born This Way, which saw a perfectly timed return to the main stage across those catwalks, down a staircase and finally under the stage.

Countless costume changes – some onstage, most off – required numerous breaks for she of the many bodysuits. There were extended musical interludes and video sequences that depicted Gaga, for instance, in an old-time convertible blasting out pink smoke, Gaga on an Escher-type staircase cube and Gaga in her dressing room clawing at a transformative inhaling device.

Gaga is all about her Little Monsters – her fans – but at times the bantered platitudes bordered on patronizing, cheesy, even juvenile. "Just remember that I believe in you!" Really? What do you actually know about us?

In the final, glorious set, Bad Romance was followed by The Cure and then Million Reasons. This finale felt like a kind of on-theme epilogue from Gaga: Bad romance (or bad whatever), Little Monsters? Here's a cure. And a million reasons to know you'll be okay.

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Lady Gaga is in Edmonton Aug. 3, Montreal Sept. 4 and Toronto Sept. 6 and 7.

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