Lady Gaga Takes Her Dive Bar Tour to New York City Streets on Eve of 'Joanne' Release
Lady Gaga's long-awaited fourth solo album, Joanne, came out at midnight on Friday (Oct. 21). But the New York City-born dynamo wasn't going to wait that long to give her hometown fans the type of show they might've seen stumbling through a West Village dive bar a decade ago. On the second date of her three-night Bud Light Dive Bar Tour, Gaga hit the Manhattan stage just before 11 to rip through a visceral six-song set full of new songs and unbridled emotion that later spilled onto the street with the singer performing two more songs from a second floor balcony for those assembled on Bleecker Street outside.
Before the set kicked off, a member of the venue staff came out to arrange the crowd, to the bemusement, amusement and praise of the shorter members of those assembled, moving taller people towards the back and making sure everyone could see. For such a small venue, it was a nice touch; there was no bad view in the place whatsoever, but it set the stage for everyone to enjoy the experience. And then the woman of the hour arrived.
Stripped away of the elaborate get-ups and trappings of Mother Monster, Gaga emerged rocking denim short shorts, black knee-high boots and a sheer body suit with a vintage Bud Light logo (which Gaga said she used to wear ”back in the day”). Gaga body-rolled across the stage -- one she has been performing on since age 15 -- for set opener “Diamond Heart,” a rock-pop number on which she sings, “An asshole broke me in," using the mic stand for support while giving the song the full force of her considerable vocal powers.
Gaga then introduced collaborator and “Uptown Funk” purveyor Mark Ronson for the, ahem, funky, anti-naysayer track “A-YO,” with both on guitar, and a trumpet player joining in with her five-piece band. The most intimate moments of the set came between songs, when Gaga broke down the significance of each deep cut and recalled her humble beginnings as a struggling artist in the concrete jungle.
For the album’s title track, Gaga slipped on her leather jacket and shades while taking a seat on a stool and grabbing a guitar. She paid homage to her late aunt, Joanne Stefani Germanotta, whose name inspired the album title and who died of lupus 12 years before she was born. “This tragedy stayed with my family a very long time,” she told the crowd. “I come from a long heritage of very hardworking, blue-collar Italian-Americans.” Flaunting her New York roots, she described how her grandparents came to the U.S. of A by way of Ellis Island. “I wrote this song not only in her honor, but for so many people who have lost ones they loved, or maybe, their pending loss,” she continued before thanking Ronson for writing the track with her, which she then dedicated to her father, Joe.
“When you make a song with somebody on a deep level who embraces you truly as an artist and as a woman in music," she said, turning to Ronson, "he really lifted me high and showed me a lot of dignity, and I’ve worked in music for a really long time and so I just want to say thank you to you for that.” Later in the set, Gaga continued to praise Ronson for sharing his talents in the creation of Joanne. “I just wanna give a wonderful thank you to Mark. I’ve always wanted to make music with him,” she offered. “And I was right. I like being right.”
An immediate fan favorite was the emotional and nostalgic track “Grigio Girls” -- which she introduced first by thanking Bud Light for allowing her to play a song named after another alcohol brand, to laughter from the crowd: "I believe that Grigio is a grape, not a brand.” She then shared how the song was inspired by her “dear friend” Sonja, present at the show, who has Stage 4 cancer. “We just wanted to be strong for you always,” Gaga said. “So we formed this pact when we needed to, we would call together the Grigio Girls and cry it out. This one’s for you and I hope that this message spreads all around the world to spread love, compassion and healing to people around you and to not be afraid of deep things because people are suffering and they need to know that you care.”
Lady Gaga then hopped on a black Yamaha Motif XF8 keyboard for the previously released heartbreak ballad “Million Reasons,” which had attendees singing along with her. She followed up with another Ronson collaboration, the happy-go-lucky jam “Just Another Day,” prefacing the performance with an anecdote of how the DJ/producer was also a native New Yorker and had gone to the same pre-school as she did. “Even though we didn’t know each other then, when we were writing this record, I would imagine us as kids kicking it around in the city.”
Bringing down the house indoors was not enough for Gaga, however, who just after midnight took her performance outside to the bar roof -- "Who knew there was a roof out here?" she quipped -- among the fire escapes of adjourning apartments to the delight of fans that could not make it into the venue. “We felt bad that we couldn’t fit you all in,” she said, with Ronson beside her. She did an encore rendition of “Joanne,” noting as she pointed to the night sky, “I just thought, you know, maybe if I got to sing this song outside that maybe Jo could hear me up there.”
She then introduced the track “Angel Down,” a slow-tempo, guitar-driven song, almost Dylan-esque, she penned with past collaborator RedOne. “We love it so much and it’s my absolute dream to sing it in the streets of my home.” In a previous interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, she revealed that the lyrics were about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012. “Shots were fired on the street / By the church where we used to meet / Angel down, angel down / But the people just stood around,” she sang.
"You have to put your phones away and listen to your friends and be with your family," she said as the night came to an end. "And if you can't be with them, then be with your friends, and if you don't have any of them, then God bless you."