Maybe one day, a few more years into a career that has already triumphed with stadium sell-outs, Grammy Awards and a lauded Super Bowl halftime performance, Lady Gaga will take a cue from Bruce Springsteen and park herself and a piano on Broadway for a few months.
Because as enjoyable as it is to witness the sleek lighting, tilted stages and Cher-like quick changes from one spangled ensemble to another during her substantial production, Lady Gaga is at her most powerful and captivating seated alone behind her piano.
At the Tuesday night stop of her “Joanne World Tour” at a sold-out Philips Arena, Gaga was in an extraordinarily grateful mood because of the Grammy nominations announced earlier in the day.
Her “Joanne” album, named for an aunt she never knew, but whose story and struggle with lupus affected her deeply, earned two nominations – for best pop vocal album and for the album’s soaring hit, “Million Reasons,” for best pop solo performance.
A couple of times during the two-hour-plus performance, Gaga referenced the recognition, noting, “After 10 years of sharing my art with all of you, I was recognized by the Grammys, and it really means a lot to me…it means it’s OK to be different, to evolve.”
The diminutive powerhouse is only 31, but she’s accomplished so much that she already seems to be a grand old dame.
Her progression from raccoon-eyed club kid to polished performer with a penchant for sequined leotards continues. But at this point in the “Joanne” tour, which kicked off in August, she’s presenting a well-honed spectacle that occasionally overshadows her.
Though she opened the show alone, perched high on a hydraulic lift with pink pulsing lights a complement to her glittery rose-colored cowboy hat during “Diamond Heart,” Gaga was soon joined by her five-piece band and a squad of dancers to roar through the party rocker “A-Yo” – and immediately got lost in the shuffle.
Of course some fans relish the razzle dazzle, and between the stage that morphed into stairs and the overhead pods that proved their usefulness as ramps to a funhouse-lighted B-stage at the back of the arena, there was plenty of eye candy.
Gaga also peppered her set list with enough throwbacks – who would have ever thought “Poker Face,” in all of its punchy, fun familiarity, would one day be “vintage” Gaga? – to entertain older fans who might not have cottoned to the rootsier offerings on “Joanne.”
A crew of shirtless guys pranced around her during “Alejandro,” she broke out the keytar for “Just Dance” in all of its disco fabulousness, and marched and gyrated through “LoveGame.”
But the highlight of the set came after Gaga and her garishly outfitted crew scampered across the lowered pod ramps while performing “Applause,” to the secondary stage.
There, she engaged in her trademark – but always heartfelt – monologue with the crowd about acceptance.
“We love everybody here,” she said, to expected cheers. “Everybody’s gotta love each other.”
Behind her cool, see-through piano, Gaga burst into the overlooked “Joanne” gem, “Come to Mama,” a piano bar singalong with quiet melodic nods to Elton John and a message that urges tolerance.
“When it comes to kindness, we gotta get our s*** together,” she said at the end of the song.
She followed it with her solo piano rendition of “The Edge of Glory,” which was a master class of emotion, talent and unfettered belting, before returning to the rainbow-colored lights and pulsating beat of “Born This Way,” her timeless anthem of inclusiveness.
There were a couple of more “acts” to round out the show – a red-soaked stage and a return to the center of the arena for “Dancin’ in Circles,” “Paparazzi” and Gaga goofily posing for fans, among them – but any time she sat alone with a piano, the show sighed with the type of authenticity not often seen with major pop stars.
Lady Gaga has always been an endearing anomaly. Let’s hope that willingness to be different leads to smaller things.