OMAHA -- As she showed millions during the televised Super Bowl halftime show, Lady Gaga is a great live performer. As she showed a packed CenturyLink Center Saturday, she’s better and more impressive in person in an arena.
Starting 90 minutes late for reasons not disclosed, Gaga’s two-hour show was a masterpiece of entertainment, innovatively staged and strikingly arranged and choreographed from her opening cry of “I am Joanne” onward.
That yell brought out the first of many Gagas. For the first four songs, she was the rock singer, who strapped on a guitar, and roared through the opening number “Diamond Heart” and, with her five-piece band, put a guitar punch into “Poker Face” as Gaga, her band and dancers performed on a stage that moved up and down in sections in front of a bank of bright lights.
Along the way, more Gagas emerged, most often after short “intermissions” and a costume change -- the pop star, the singer-songwriter, the vocalist, the musician, the dancer. She can do it all and did in a concert that was music theatre in the best, not the Broadway sense of the term.
While the show has some jarring juxtapositions in tone, Gaga never failed to captivate -- whether gyrating with her dancers on a raised platform on “Dancin’ In Circle” and “Paparazzi,” where she was letting her internal tramp out to play or, minutes later, sitting alone with an acoustic guitar, telling the heartrending family story behind, then singing the song “Joanne,” the title cut cut of her new album.
The “bridge” was part of the stunning stagecraft that saw three large, cloud-like structures near the ceiling serve as lighting bays, transform into video screens, then lower down the bridges that allowed Gaga and her dozen-or-so dancers run from the main stage, onto two platforms to a second stage at the opposite end of the arena.
There, she delivered the night’s most impressive performance, a solo take on “The Edge of Glory,” as she played piano and emotively sang at her very best.
Prior to that song, Gaga got overtly political for the only time during the show --and rather obliquely so, referring to the Charlottesville, Va. protest and Saturday’s anti-white nationalism protest march in Boston with this:.
“This has been a terrible week for everybody. That’s an understatement.I have to say, the loudest voices today were peaceful and loving. We have to love each other.”
As for the costumes, well, they fit the moment, coming out in a David Bowie-esque outfit for the glittery “Just Dance,” “LoveGame” and “Telephone” -- that would be the glam Gaga, wrapping a fluffy white skirt around herself as she strutted down the bridges during her anthem “Born This Way” and wearing a white-winged mask to kick off the final segment of the evening that began with “Bad Romance.”
Before that song, she asked “Where are my Little Monsters?" They were there in droves and connected with her from start to finish. So did everyone else in the building.
Lady Gaga is no longer the pop star of the moment. To be honest, “Joanne” isn’t her best album nor were the songs from it the peaks of the night.
But she is, unarguably, today’s top pop singer, capable of duetting with Tony Bennett or belting out rockers as well as a talented dancer and a purveyor of unvarnished emotion and heart that few if any can match.
Add the striking staging, lights, dancers and choreography and Gaga’s show was terrific -- once it got started.