To promote her long-awaited new album, Joanne, the chameleon-like Lady Gaga has gone back to basics in every way. Instead of releasing singles digitally, the pop singer has been playing a series of low-key, intimate dive bar concerts across the U.S with sponsorship from Bud Light. On Thursday night, she brought it all the way back to her roots to perform in downtown Manhattan, where she finally debuted the title track from the album, “Joanne,” an ode to her beloved late aunt. It was the second stop on her tour, and a homecoming of sorts: she’d sung beneath the low ceilings of this very same gritty venue in the heart of Greenwich Village when starting over a whole decade ago as Stefani Germanotta. (The bar’s name can’t be mentioned here because of New York state laws governing bars and beer brands, but Bob Dylan was known to play at the same spot in his time.)
That was all before the high-concept persona of Lady Gaga burst forth onto the pop stage. But with Joanne, in a way, the low-key Germanotta is back.
“Where do you think you’re going, girl?” she sang plaintively in the stripped-down, country-tinged guitar ballad, which was streamed live on Bud Light’s Facebook along with the rest of the emotional set. Gaga, decked out in a pair of tiny denim shorts, a mesh leotard, and lace-up boots, was both electrifying and at ease as she jumped from guitar to keyboard to mic, without the artifice that normally surrounds her performance. (No matter that over 200,000 people were watching through the livestream). She was joined onstage by her live band and producer/guitarist Mark Ronson, who co-wrote much of the album with her—and, she noted, grew up not far from her in the city.
Her set cycled through other fresh new songs like “Grigio Girls,” which she dedicated to a friend standing in the front row who had terminal cancer; and “Just Another Day,” a Lennon-inspired ditty with a distinctive Beatles beat.
At midnight—right when Joanne officially dropped to the public—Gaga appeared on a balcony above the bar, accompanied by Ronson. Singing to a crowd of hundreds who filled the entire block, she asked everyone to put their phones away as she clambered precariously onto the ledge to lay it all out there for her Little Monsters, serenading them with a raw “Angel Down.”
“Angel down, angel down, why do people just stand around?” she pleaded. “I’m a believer, it’s chaos, where our leaders?” Her other new singles, including “Perfect Illusion,” “Million Reasons,” “and “A-Yo,” may have received a mixed response from some so far, but the resilient singer is nothing if not impervious to her haters—and backed up by a devoted legion of fans.