A bad romance? Lady Gaga and her corporate partner make an iffy splash in Silver Lake
The first thing to know about a Lady Gaga club show is that there are rules.
Rules about branding. Rules about social media. Comical, impossible-to-enforce rules about — lemme consult my notes here — “the integrity of the event.”
One of the biggest pop stars on the planet, Gaga was in Silver Lake on Thursday night for an unlikely gig at the Satellite, a tiny room that typically hosts scruffy indie rock bands. The concert was part of the singer’s so-called Dive Bar Tour: three shows in three media capitals (Nashville, New York, Los Angeles) designed to promote last week’s release of her album “Joanne.”
Why dive bars instead of the arenas she’s capable of filling? Because “Joanne,” with its rock-inspired sound, is being aggressively marketed as Gaga’s return-to-roots move, something of a course correction after the perceived excess of her last solo album, 2013’s “Artpop.”
The singer came up playing grimy spots in her hometown of New York, so now she’s gone back to the well to remember what music is all about, man.
Only this was nothing like those early gigs, of course.
Across the street from the venue, a horde of several hundred fans — far more than actually fit inside the Satellite — crowded the sidewalk, hoping for a glimpse of their idol. Down the block, a Thai restaurant had been transformed into a temporary production office to oversee a live-stream on Gaga’s Facebook page (with its 61 million likes).
And then there was the tour’s corporate sponsor, Bud Light, which had decked out the room with promotional signage and buckets of free beer.
Just before showtime, a representative for the beer company led a dozen or so reporters into the place and told us this: If we took any photos and wished to post them on Twitter or Instagram, she had to OK the images first — you know, just to protect said integrity.
Then she provided several hashtags we were welcome to use with our approved posts.
So much for yesterday’s edge.
The gig itself, you ask? Oh, it was fine.
Mark Ronson, who produced much of “Joanne” with his usual flair, was in the house, playing guitar on “Come to Mama,” a delightful Springsteen-style soul-rock number, and “A-Yo,” which had an undeniable kick (even if its Marlboro plug felt especially egregious given the surroundings).
For “Million Reasons,” Gaga’s stab at a big country ballad, she sat down behind a keyboard and basically sang her head off; the sound could’ve filled a space 10 times the Satellite’s size.
To finish her main set before an encore — the whole thing lasted only 40 minutes — Gaga gave a little speech about the importance of “people loving each other” and how she hopes Election Day is peaceful. Then she sang the very dreary “Angel Down,” easily the worst song on “Joanne.”
But things improved when she came back, first to do the new album’s title track, which she said she and Ronson wrote “in a field 30 minutes from here,” and then for a thrilling, appealingly chaotic rendition of “Perfect Illusion” that almost made you forget you were there to be sold (and to help sell) a particular watery beer.
Nobody at Bud Light needed to worry, though: As the song ended, Gaga grabbed a shiny blue can and poured it over her head, the company’s logo expertly positioned in her hand.
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