Before releasing her Billboard 200 chart-topping Joanne album back in October, Lady Gaga embarked on the three-city Bud Light Dive Bar Tour to bring her most personal songs yet to appropriately intimate venues in front of only a few hundred of her lucky fans. Now, as she prepares for the 60-date Joanne World Tour — where she’ll perform for tens of thousands in arenas and stadiums across the globe — she’s getting intimate one more time, announcing a brand-new Dive Bar Tour stop in Las Vegas on July 13 before passing the Bud Light bottle to two new artists.
“All the time, I think about how I started out in my career, and I was just playing in bars downtown in New York — and you miss that, you know?” Gaga told Billboard in a recent phone interview about why she wanted to get back to the bar. “It’s a very wonderful, intimate connection that you get to make with the audience.”
This time around, she’ll share that intimate opportunity with two yet-to-be-announced artists, who will headline their own Dive Bar Tour stops in Los Angeles on July 26 and New Orleans on Aug. 30. And if fans can’t make it inside one of the three tiny venues, all of the shows will stream live on Bud Light’s Facebook page. “We’re thrilled to be teaming up with our friend Lady Gaga once again and we’re excited to bring two new musician friends on the tour with us this summer to take the tour to the next level and engage consumers everywhere,” Bud Light vice president Andy Goeler said in a press release announcing the Dive Bar Tour’s return.
Below, find more of our conversation with Gaga, where we talk all about the Dive Bar Tour, where she is in her preparations for the Joanne World Tour (which kicks off Aug. 1 in Vancouver), and what it means to her to play Manchester Arena in the fall after the fatal bombing outside Ariana Grande‘s concert last month.
You’re picking up where you left off last year with the Bud Light Dive Bar Tour, but this time around, you’re heading to Las Vegas. Why did you want to get back out on the Dive Bar Tour?
I just love playing in bars, and I got to tell you: All the time, I think about how I started out in my career, and I was just playing in bars downtown in New York — and you miss that, you know? It’s a very wonderful, intimate connection that you get to make with the audience, and it’s all about, you know, friendship and love and bonding. It’s incredible.
I was at the Silver Lake stop of the Dive Bar Tour last year, and you were truly able to connect and make eye contact with every person in that room.
Thank you very much! It was an amazing time. I loved performing there, and it’s just one of those things I always tell people: “You gotta play a dive bar like an arena, and you play an arena like a dive bar.”
What are some of your favorite memories from last year’s Dive Bar Tour stops?
I gotta say, when we went to New York and we played at the Bitter End [in October], it was a very special night for a couple of reasons. The first being that I got to sing “Grigio Girls” from my record Joanne to my friend Sonja [Durham], who recently passed of cancer [in May]. And I will always cherish that moment, and I know she’s looking down and cherishing it too. You know, she wanted to be on the live stream because she wanted people to know that you can still be strong and have stage 4 cancer, and it was pretty special. And then after [that], me and Mark Ronson went up on the top of the roof and we sang “Angel Down” to a giant crowd of people in the streets, and the song is really about the world and about how it’s important to be loving during a tumultuous time, and caring about, you know, the angel that’s down and picking them up — it was really special. Everybody was singing in the street. It was awesome.
How will this year’s Dive Bar show be different now that fans have had eight months with the Joanne album instead of it being the first time they hear many of these songs like it was last year?
The Dive Bar shows last year, they were informed by the fact that the fans hadn’t heard a lot of the material yet. So I approached them more like a sort of pseudo-electro, pop-underground moment, as opposed to just me at the piano. But this time around for the Dive Bar Tour, I intend for it to be even more intimate than it was the last time. I really want to break the songs down and talk to the audience even more and just, you know, sing the hell out of my songs.
The Dive Bar Tour is a little different this time around, since you’re passing the torch to two new artists who will have their own stops. I know those artists are under wraps for now, but can you tease what fans might be able to expect from the other Dive Bar shows down the line?
I feel like it’s really exciting that this is happening, because this Dive Bar/Bud Light concept was something that we invented together, and I feel so excited that it’s living on. And what I will tell you about these future artists that are playing is that it’s a very diverse group. Everything that you’re seeing at these dive bars are not going to be the same: It’s not the same types of artists, it’s not connected in any way. It’s all about celebrating diversity.
After your Vegas concert in July, you’ll be kicking off the Joanne World Tour on Aug. 1 in Canada. Where are you now in the preparations for the tour?
Well, the stage has been designed and is being built, and we have been building the story of the show since the Super Bowl. And we are beginning to sort of delineate where we want choreography, what songs I’d like to play at the piano, and lighting is a big thing this year. The stage is very different from anything we’ve ever done before, and I’m really in love with it. So I’m very excited about the show.
What are some of the major differences between getting in a tiny room of 250 at a bar in Silver Lake and getting in front of a crowd of 40,000 at some of the baseball parks you have lined up for the Joanne tour?
When you’re playing in a baseball stadium, it’s possible to see some fans in the front, but it’s not possible to see as many up close and personal. And at the dive bar, depending on the configuration, you can really see everyone. So I think the intention is to, when I’m in the arena, to really kind of slow it down sometimes and really connect with each person in the most intimate way that I can, like it would be in a dive bar. And then when I’m playing in a dive bar, the idea is to be intimate at times but then to be explosive and big as well, to give people a feeling of what it would be like to see me in a bigger venue.
Speaking of a bigger venue, you headlined Coachella in April and debuted your new song “The Cure” there. Do you have any plans to bring out some new music on the world tour?
Absolutely! It’s going to be really fun, and I’m really excited.
How did Coachella or your Super Bowl halftime show kind of inform your preparation for the world tour?
Well, you know, we never like to do the same thing twice, but we do, obviously, love to represent the choreography that me and my dancers — who I’ve been with for 10 years, all of them [Laughs] — have been doing for a long time. So we like to bring back certain moments, but we’re creating something completely new. It will grow out of what you saw at the Super Bowl and Coachella, but you know, we always like to keep it fresh.
One of the stops on your tour will be the Manchester Arena, which will reopen in September just before your October concert. What will playing that arena mean to you after the tragedy that took place at Ariana Grande’s concert last month?
It will mean a lot to me. I’m excited to share that moment with my fans, as I am in every place that we go. I think it’s important, in every city that I stop in, that we honor that tragedy and be there for one another and remember that life is precious and we have to be kind and stick together.
And finally, the Joanne album was such a personal one for you, so what does it mean to finally be able to get out and bring these songs to your fans across the world?
It feels really great. I mean, I absolutely put a lot of my soul into that record — into the sounds, into the words, into the way I was singing — and I’m looking forward to integrating that with my other songs, to contextualize it, in a way. For the fans, I hope they are able to celebrate with me what Joanne is: a woman looking out, putting a hat on and saying to herself, “I’m about to go somewhere, because I’m getting out of here. And I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m out of here, I’m leaving. I’m not sure what will happen, or if I’ll even like it, but I don’t care, because I can’t stay here.” And I think more than anything, I just want my fans to feel a message of liberation, that they can at any point in time change where they are in their life and move forward.
Stay tuned to Tuesday’s episode of Billboard‘s Pop Shop Podcast for Gaga’s full interview, including how her A Star Is Born character has inspired her as a performer, whether there will be any familiar music on the movie’s soundtrack and much more.