Lady Gaga is living proof that power via pop-stardom can (and should) be honed to help others, to change lives not just by serving up arena-sized spectacles each night, but also by reinforcing empathy at every turn. During a two-hour career-spanning performance to a sold-out audience on Tuesday night at Frank Erwin Center, the 31-year-old tour de force cited new song “Joanne”—the title track of her latest album (an homage to her aunt who died of lupus) and this tour’s namesake (as well as her own)—as her attempt to “connect with people on a real level.”
“Pain is an equalizer,” she said before strumming out the tune’s first acoustic notes. “[For this song], I ask you to go back down the rabbit hole to that pain...for me, that pain has just one name, and that's Joanne. However you choose to deal with it, that belongs to you, all that pain makes us the same.”
That concept reached its cry-worthy climax when—after that serene serenade and subsequent pyro-blasted “Bad Romance”—Gaga shed her shroud of superstardom in the most ego-shattering manner: she paused to read a fan letter thrown on stage. “Honestly, you saved me,” she read. “The first time I ever felt alive was at the Monster Ball…I suffer from chronic pain and it can be so isolating. You're so fucking strong, and you reminded me that so the fuck am I.” Then the singer climbed down to hug that fan and sign her pink cowboy hat, adding “You can’t let [the pain] rule you and you can’t give up.”
Talk about a celebrity who goes the extra mile. And that was toward the end of the show, after she and her nimble backup dancers sashayed and strutted through flames and fireworks flanking the constantly morphing stage (eat your heart out, Kanye) during new, country- and latin-toned cuts (“John Wayne,” “Alejandro”) and plenty of pop super-hits (“Poker Face,” “Just Dance,” “Paparazzi”); and after a tear jerking piano medley, which included the soulful swing of “Come to Mama,” “Born this Way,” and “The Edge of Glory” dedicated to her friend and collaborator Sonja Durham, a Houstonite who died of breast cancer in May.
Generosity and genuineness prevailed throughout Gaga’s performance and permeated her final remarks as she descended through a trap door while belting out “Million Reasons” from atop her piano: “Don’t forget, God favors the brave and you’re so brave, Texas. You’ve had a hard year—we’re all with you.”
All photos by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation