Nobody Does It Like Gaga, Still

Here’s everything that happened at Lady Gaga’s highly anticipated sixth headline tour, The Chromatica Ball, in Stockholm.

The area surrounding Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, is smooth and grey. There's a Westfield shopping centre, some nondescript hotels and a few motorways, criss-crossing each other. The venue itself feels equally anonymous. It's gigantic, and formed of colourless concrete – you could easily be in North Greenwich or Elephant and Castle. A location between locations. 

Peer inside, however, and an entirely new universe is unfurling. Look, there stands Lady Gaga on the screen, jet black and insect-like, in head-to-toe Gareth Pugh. And there she stands again, on the stage, ice-white bleached hair slicked back, body encased in a silver sarcophagus. And later, there she stands again, draped in crimson red and black PVC, like a protagonist in a cyberpunk movie from 1995 or someone you might bump into at a fetish/techno club. “This is a ball,” she says halfway through, fingers lingering over piano keys, “and you're all invited.”

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We’ve waited two years for Lady Gaga's 18-date Chromatica Ball – the stadium tour was first announced in 2020, before being postponed due to the pandemic. During Gaga's 2018 Joanne World Tour, the musician was forced to cancel a large portion of dates due to the severe and chronic pain she was suffering as the result of fibromyalgia. There is a sense, then, that both Gaga and the audience are engaging in something exceptional – a once-in-a-lifetime artist playing a once-in-a-lifetime show. 

Anywhere, here's a breakdown of everything that happened. 

THE CROWD

If this was Britain, you'd be seeing hordes of girls and gays crying and scromiting onto each other's thigh-high boots, pink G&Ts crushed across the concrete like bugs and people loudly slur-screaming “raaah raaah rumbabaaah gaga oooh la laaa” on the train there, because British people cannot handle excitement plus heat without completely losing their heads. 

That's not quite the vibe here in Stockholm, where audiences can apparently keep their shit together. But there is a lot of face glitter, chic outfits, happy faces and group clapping. Everyone is ecstatic to be here, obviously, and therefore the vibes are good. Think: less deranged, more upbeat. 

THE VISUALS

The show is broken up into an epilogue, four acts and a finale – like an ancient play – accompanied by visuals from longtime collaborator Nick Knight. It's hard to describe the imagery in a way that gives it justice, but imagine a lot of gooey, insect-like organic matter interspersed with brutal, futuristic, CGI chrome textures. In my Notes app, I wrote “Jesse Kanda meets Cronenberg meets Alexander McQueen meets Robert Longo.” 

Fan theories about the visuals abound. Many say that they represent the creation of a new universe (Gaga's Chromatica universe), which she is imprisoned within (by fame, expectation, grief, poor health, heartbreak, etc) before battling it out for her freedom using the power of radical acceptance, love and emotional healing.

In an Instagram video posted before the show she said: “I want to allow you to interpret this show in the way that you want to, but I will say that it really documents the many different stages and sides of grief and the manic energy of grief that I feel that I've experienced in my life.”

THE SOUND

This is where Gaga truly excels: her voice, alongside a far-reaching discography that takes us through radio-leaning dance pop (The Fame) to fashion banger (Born This Way) to nostalgic American rock and Hollywood balladry (Joanne, A Star is Born) to pure dancefloor perfection (Chromatica). 

The thing about Gaga is that she can perform just as well in some sequin booty riders at Moth Club in front of 50 queers as she can in a packed-out arena in front of tens of thousands. This show is a reminder of that. Because while the 80s Madonna-meets-Janet Jackson choreo and back-to-back looks clearly slaps, Gaga is most in her element when it’s just her singing at a piano (in a bug costume).

THE MOOD

It’s a little hard to gauge the mood from inside the crowd, seeing as I am watching from above on a wheelie chair at a desk with some other journalists (yes, there are desks at this stadium.) Honestly I’ve never been so comfortable at a show in my life.

That said, I can hear the blood-curdling screams from below, so I can only assume that the vibes are electric. At one point, I see a woman do a sort of wild teddy bear roll over the fence – to use the toilet I presume – which is the sort of deranged move one only makes when they are overcome by the spirit of Gaga.

Also, Gaga keeps shouting “put your motherfuckin’ paws up!!!” which has the effect of making your hands rise above your head of their own accord as if they have a life of their own.

THE TAKEAWAY

Fifteen years, five solo albums, two film soundtracks, 13 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and an Oscar later and Lady Gaga is now firmly more than a pop star who wore a meat dress. She’s an icon, up there with the likes of Prince and Bowie and Madonna. The Chromatica Ball is, in many ways, a reminder and celebration of that fact. It’s a whistlestop tour through her career – in all its wildness, drama and timelessness – and an invitation into the universe that she’s been building for years. Not just the Chromatica universe, but the Gaga universe in general.

Towards the latter end of the show, halfway through a piano rendition of “1000 Doves”, she pauses for a moment, leaning into the mic. “For everybody that believed in me that I could be healthy again,” she says. “Thank you.”

Tickets for Lady Gaga’s The Chromatica Ball stadium shows are on sale via Live Nation now.

@daisythejones

Tagged:

Music, Noisey, lady gaga, Born this way, Gig Review, The Fame, Live Review, Chromatica

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