Lady Gaga uses every last bit of the Xcel to preach her trampy gospel

Lady Gaga performing at the Super Bowl LI halftime show in February 2017.

Lady Gaga performing at the Super Bowl LI halftime show in February 2017. Associated Press

You might not have entered the X as a Little Monster, but you sure as hell left as one.

Gaga’s gonna Gaga, and the singer's marathon performance in St. Paul last night used every available square inch of the packed arena while she preached like a revival tent minister, taking everyone to her church.

Lady Gaga’s first Minnesota show in three years was broken up into roughly seven “acts” separated by brief musical interludes from the band and increasingly distressing video sequences. There were at least a thousand costume changes, every sort of lighting trick was employed, no fewer than seven performance spaces were rocked – eight if you include the air above the crowd. Gaga was on a mission to reach everyone in the arena.

It all started with a giant pink countdown clock and the very Stevie Nicks-like “Diamond Heart,” off last year’s Joanne. Then the shapeshifting main stage threatened to tumble Gaga and her dancers and band off it as they bounced through “A Yo” (with gaga guitar work from the lady herself) and the 2008 oldie “Poker Face.” Fittingly, Gaga disappeared into the stage at the end of a surprisingly muscular “Perfect Illusion.”

There was no shortage of heartfelt empowerment talk throughout the night, thought Gaga turned the typical “over it” and “I hate drama” sentiment on its ear when she announced, “I need the bullshit.” That sentiment drove her memorable performance of “Alejandro,” during which she and her dancers got even closer to naked. And since there isn’t a concert that couldn’t be made better with a little keytar, Gaga, wearing her winter whites, strapped that instrument on for “Just Dance.”

Next Gaga finally took advantage of the smaller floating stages in the general admission area. Bridges lowered from their pods in the rafters during “Telephone” to bring Gaga and her troupe out there among her people. And after “Applause,” she encouraged the crowd, “Don’t cheer for me. Cheer for yourselves.”

Gaga addressed our current shitty social and political reality before suggesting, “We gotta love each other.” She continued with lyrics from “Come to Mama” – “So why we gotta put each other down, when there’s enough love to go around?” – which she then performed as a bouncy, soulful piano workout to soothe the stressed minds of those in attendance.

Gaga devoted a significant amount of time to extolling her local friend Emma, who is currently in a wheelchair but slowly learning how to walk, dedicating “Edge of Glory” to her. Another Born This Way cut, “Bloody Mary,” with its hellish videos, was pure liquid evil. Afterward Gaga gave sweet shout-outs to her family but still she vowed “to honor the tramp in my heart.”

Gaga took to one of the smaller stages in the crowd for Joanne’s “Dancing in Circles.” Was it hot? Uh, yeah, it was pretty warm. She then took time to pose for pictures, laying on the small stage floor. After playfully telling members of the general admission floor crowd that they probably don’t know who she is, but that she has a big social media following, she then became more demanding, screaming, “I’m super fucking talented.” This led, naturally, into “Paparazzi.”

Gaga introduced “Joanne” by discussing the significance of the name in her family. It’s Gaga’s middle name, and the name of her aunt who died of lupus, and has basically become a totem for the singer’s life, a ghost who lives on through Lady Gaga. She performed a beautiful rendition, all alone with an acoustic guitar at first, with her other guitarists eventually joining in.

After a final costume change, Gaga returned to the main stage for a fiery “Bad Romance,” followed by the crystalline pop of “The Cure,” a heartfelt palate-cleanser after two hours of trampy, vampy theatrics. “Good Minnesota girl” Emma then made an appearance in her wheelchair, apologizing for being a little verklempt in front of such a big crowd, and asked us to love one another. The crowd obliged.

Lady Gaga ventured out across the bridges to the small stage with her shimmering grand piano to send the crowd off into the night with a powerful “Million Reasons” from Joanne. The song’s message is that we ought to look for the one good reason to come together, and listening to Gaga last night could give you hope that that reason is universal and maybe hiding in plain sight.

Diamond Heart
Poker Face
Perfect Illusion
John Wayne
Just Dance
Come to Mama
The Edge of Glory
Born This Way
Bloody Mary
Dancing in Circles
Angel Down
Bad Romance
The Cure
Million Reasons

The crowd: Lots of costumes. Pink hats, wigs, and mesh all over the place. Full house, and loud as hell. Not passive, but into it.

Overheard in the crowd: [During the final moments of the preshow concert countdown] “We’re being clock blocked, am I right?” [special thanks to the lovely Ms. +1]