Concert Reviews

At 5 Foot 1, Lady Gaga Towered Over Globe Life Field

Lady Gaga's Wednesday night show in Arlington felt like a manifesto.
Lady Gaga's Wednesday night show in Arlington felt like a manifesto. Carly May Gravley
In many ways, The Chromatica Ball is a return to form for Lady Gaga. The pop star, who played Globe Life Field in Arlington Tuesday night, is the same pop culture tour de force who wore a meat dress to the 2009 VMAs, but her output has grown more diverse and, dare we say, subdued.

In addition to her burgeoning film career and jazz albums with Tony Bennett, her last solo LP, Joanne, was a decidedly stripped-back offering, favoring soft rock and country elements over her signature dance pop sound. 2017’s Joanne World Tour was notably her first tour not labeled a “ball.” With four years since her last headlining tour and eight since her last proper ball, fans were anxious to see Lady Gaga back in her element.

The anticipation was especially palpable at her Arlington stop, where for reasons currently unknown, the show did not begin until 9:45 p.m. Though no exact start time was given, doors opened at 7:30 p.m. and past shows on this tour appear to have started earlier. As excited as North Texas “little monsters” were to see their idol, some audience members discussed their worries about staying at a show, for which some had driven for hours, past midnight on a Tuesday.

Attendees quickly made peace with being tired the next morning, as Lady Gaga was well worth the wait. The Chromatica Ball is in support of her 2020 release Chromatica, with many of the songs and visuals coming from that record. However, the show felt bigger than just one album and served as almost a manifesto for the singer, combining her love of music, fashion, film and theater to pull together her sprawling catalog and create a cohesive statement.

The show, which was divided into four acts plus a finale, began in monochrome. Brutalist gray stage design and boxy costuming sharply offset the performances of some of her early pop hits, “Bad Romance” and “Love Game.” While a chorus of dancers and a live band had full reign over the stage, Lady Gaga herself spent much of this segment trapped in a dress.

She remained mostly stationary for an uneasy amount of time. She spent the song “Alice” (parts of its lyrics playfully changed to “Dallas”) tied to a table. She was carried by a dancer for most of “Replay.” This limited choreography called to mind her public struggle with chronic pain, which was the subject of the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two (she's actually 5 foot 1 inches) and a factor in her cancelling the final 10 dates of her Joanne tour. There was a time when it wasn’t certain if she’d be able to dance again like she once did.

This speculation seemed to intentionally play into Chromatica Ball’s themes of breakthrough and redemption and was finally resolved in “Monster,” when she joined her chorus and danced through song after song without breaking a sweat. The gray tones in her set (which constantly evolved through clever 3D projections) burst into color, with recent singles such as "Sour Candy” treated with a more flamboyant touch.

The ball reached a fever pitch with “Babylon,” as she donned a gold dress and headpiece and glided through the crowd to a second stage. When the song was over, the audience was given a minute to breathe as she sat at her piano in a custom piece made to look like the roots of a tree. The piano represented a transition in her set from progressive and art-pop club bangers to some of her more deeply felt work. There was no better song to mark this shift than “Born This Way,” her signature pride anthem, which here was given a more soulful arrangement peppered with encouragement to her LGBTQ fans in attendance.

Changing up “Born This Way,” one of her biggest commercial hits, was a show of pure power, with Lady Gaga displaying that with the bombastic production stripped back, her vocals and message still shine through and compel thousands to sing along.

Changing up “Born This Way,” one of her biggest commercial hits, was a show of pure power, with Lady Gaga displaying that with the bombastic production stripped back, her vocals and message still shine through and compel thousands to sing along.

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She remained at the piano for her songs from A Star Is Born, “Shallow” and “Always Remember Us This Way.” It’s during the latter where the message of The Chromatica Ball was most apparent: joy in the face of adversity.

“The human spirit,” she said at one point during the song. “That’s some shit.”

She expounded upon this by hitting on universal experiences, such as loneliness during the pandemic, before telling a personal story about her close friend, Sonja, who died from cancer a few years prior. She went on to dedicate a powerful arrangement of “The Edge of Glory” to her friend, prompting several audience to chant Sonja’s name.

(Lady Gaga also mentioned that Sonja was from Texas, making her previous comments in the show about Texas being special to her hit that much harder.)

Having shown she wasn’t afraid to hit on heavy topics, Lady Gaga expressed her love for Texas’ “purple, purple heart” and said she hoped it would “turn blue” soon. She addressed audience members who may feel uncomfortable hearing about politics during a pop show, saying the fact that they were uncomfortable meant they needed to hear it. She dedicated her next song, “Angel Down,” to Texans she felt weren’t being “kept safe.”

After shifting back into a party vibe with Chromatica tracks such as “Fun Tonight” and “Stupid Love,” Lady Gaga ended her set with the unofficial dance anthem of the year when no one was dancing, “Rain On Me.” After a show that touched on both her personal traumas and pain felt by the entire world, there was no better sentiment to end the whole thing on than “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive.” (We’re pretending she didn't come back for an encore with that forgettable Top Gun single — Proof that not every show needs an encore.)
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