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Lady Gaga Reminds Us That She’s at Her Best When She’s at Her Weirdest During New Jersey Stadium Show

By Brittany Spanos

Brittany Spanos

A curious thing is happening online: Out of seemingly nowhere, Lady Gaga ’s 2009 VMA performance of “Paparazzi” is a trending sound on TikTok. If you watched it live 13 years ago, it always stuck with you. It was one of the most shocking and sensational star-making performances of any pop artist’s career.

Onstage at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium Thursday night, Gaga performed the song in a palace-like setting. After performing an extended, dramatic piano interlude, she emerged with fake blood covering her white bodysuit, belting the chorus like her life depended on it.

Death, rebirth, blood, sweat, and tears have always been essential parts of Gaga’s ethos. She’s always been obsessed with how art interacts with and responds to tragedy. All of that comes together at Chromatica Ball, Gaga’s twice-postponed show in support of her 2020 release, Chromatica . The album dives into one of Gaga’s darkest periods (the lyrics are truly heart-wrenching … under the house-inspired beats), which came out during the world’s worst moments. But at her show on Thursday, there was only space for joy.

Related: Where to Buy Lady Gaga ‘Chromatica Ball’ Tickets Online

Gaga’s set looks like some type of Berlin nightclub: imposing and ominous. She took inspiration from brutalist architecture, as she wrote on Instagram before launching the tour last month. The Ball itself is split into distinct parts, each separated by lengthy interludes of Gaga posing in various high-fashion outfits. The prelude is a tour de force and a flex, kicking off the show with three of her earliest hits: “Bad Romance,” “Just Dance,” and “Poker Face.” One right after the other, the run of smashes comes swinging in like a hammer, with Gaga performing the first two from some type of cape-like shell, from which she slowly emerges. Her dancers (and the crowd) do the long-memorized video choreography for each, moves laid deep in our muscle memories.

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The ensuing four acts are then structured around Chromatica itself, interspersed with songs from The Fame , The Fame Monster, and Born This Way mostly (sorry to the Artpop or Joanne devotees: Cuts from those albums were left off the set list entirely). One pleasant surprise was “Monster,” a Fame Monster deep cut that she hadn’t played live since 2014 before this tour. The moments when the old merged with the new were deeply satisfying, like the transition from “Sour Candy” to “Telephone” during Act Two.

Gaga is at her best when she’s at her absolute, most unbridled weirdest. The interludes make little to no sense and only some of them seem to be related to what’s about to happen onstage (like the brutalist hospital pictured before Act One that leads way to Gaga singing “Alice” from what appears to be some type of stone slab). The best of the interludes was before the finale, with Gaga at her most melodramatic. She recites a creepy sonnet about art and the responsibility of the artist: “This life is only art on life support, and nature is a knight. No king, no court,” she says as the vocals chaotically layer. If we found out later she was teasing her part in Joker 2 , I’d buy it.

Gaga puts on one of the best productions in pop, but she’s just as good letting her immense voice shine. She took to the B stage in the middle of the floor for a large portion of the concert, and it was one of the most cleansing, and longest, acts of the show. Seated behind a piano that resembled a fallen tree, with branches jutting out, she performed a pair of A Star Is Born cuts. Her voice on “Shallow” was probably echoing all the way back to Manhattan. She dedicated “Always Remember Us This Way” to her friend Tony Bennett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016.

Later, before her stripped-down take on “Edge of Glory,” she shouted out Bruce Springsteen for inspiring the single, as well as the late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who played on it. She reminded the audience that Clemons died the day the video came out. She’s one of the rare artists to come through MetLife and not solely claim it as a New York show, giving props to some personal history she’s had in Jersey while growing up in NYC. “A lot of good things have happened to me here and a lot of bad things,” she said at one point behind the piano. “Let’s focus on the good tonight.”

Gaga used the piano moment to highlight the true sadness she was delving into on Chromatica . The album was largely celebrated for Gaga’s return to full dance pop, but beneath the surface is some of her finest and most personal songwriting. She stripped down “1000 Doves” and “Fun Tonight” to their raw cores. She could — and maybe should — have done a deconstructed take on the album instead of the remixed version she put out last year.

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The finale was quick and high-energy after the piano portion, with Gaga running through extended versions of singles “Stupid Love” and “Rain on Me.” The latter was such a jolt of optimism and energy in 2020, when the world was faced with both incredible pain and confusion. It’s a celebration of life that feels even more prescient now that we can at least leave the house and experience moments like these.

Surprisingly, she didn’t end the show there. Instead, she put on an encore with the silliest encore selection possible: her Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack single “Hold My Hand.” It’s not the best or biggest Gaga song, just the most recent. Sure, there’s not a single power ballad in the world not worth paying to see Gaga sing. But it fell a little flat as the way to end the night when “Rain on Me” provided the show closure we needed.

Even 13 years after that VMA performance, Gaga is still breaking new ground for herself and the genre of pop music. Thankfully for us, she’s the type of artist who almost makes you impatient wanting to know what the next 13 will bring.

The Chromatica Ball set list:

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“Bad Romance” “Just Dance” “Poker Face” “Alice” “Replay” “Monster” “911” “Sour Candy” “Telephone” “LoveGame” “Babylon” “Free Woman” “Born This Way” “Shallow” “Always Remember Us This Way” “The Edge of Glory” “1000 Doves” “Fun Tonight” “Enigma” “Stupid Love” “Rain on Me”

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Lady Gaga gets emotional in video on first night of world tour: 'I was really battling from my life'

For the first time since 2018, Lady Gaga is ready to hit the road on tour. 

As the doors opened at Merkur Spiel-Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany for the first night of her 2022 tour, the Chromatica Ball, Lady Gaga posted a video from backstage on her Instagram candidly discussing her feelings and nervousness of returning to the stage and the meaning behind the show.

“I want to allow you all 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,” she said. “I really want to thank you for sticking it out with me and loving me through all the different iterations of my artistry as well as me as a person.”

She continued, adding, “I feel more clear today than I have in a long time and more pain free than I have in ages. And being free of pain on stage is a real healing experience because I’m able to dance and sing and enjoy the audience, enjoy the show, and really tell a story.”

“I don’t know that I’ve been as speechless as I am today, knowing what we’re about to do,” she said. “But if you know people ask me all the time what ‘Chromatica’ was about and in ‘Babylon,’ I say battle fair life and when I made ‘Chromatica’ I was really battling from my life.”

She acknowledged that that would be a “tough spot” for anybody, but wanted her fans to know that the Chromatica Ball was “created in the spirit of that battle to win yourself back.” 

“There’s no greater prize than you,” she said. “There’s no thing more important than your own heart and your own ability to heal, and we don’t heal on our own, I don’t think, but I think it’s possible to at some point have your own back. And having your own back takes a lot of strength and time.”

Lady Gaga also revealed some details surrounding The Chromatica Ball, which was originally planned for 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic , explaining, “The stage was inspired by brutalist architecture, materials, textures, crudity, transparency — a real savage and hard look at yourself, what you’ve been though.”

“I want to tell a story but with abstractions and art, so this show celebrates things that I have always loved,” she added. “Art and fashion and dance and music and technology, poetry, and the way all of those things work together.”

To conclude the touching video, Lady Gaga wished all of her fans at the show a fun time, adding, “I hope you love this thing that we made you you….I’ll see you on the dance floor.”

The Grammy winning singer’s honest video comes just two days after she expressed her fears of returning to the stage in a tweet on Friday, July 15.

“There was a time I thought I’d never be on stage again,” she wrote. “I was so sad I couldn’t even dream anything but a painful nightmare. I’ve overcome my nightmare with love, support, trust, truth, bravery, talent and dedication. I am so grateful. I’ll see you in BABYLON.”

Over the years, Lady Gaga has been candid about living with PTSD and struggles with fibromyalgia chronic pain , including how it affects her life and career. In the past, the singer had to cancel the European leg of her Joanne World Tour in 2017 as well as the final 10 dates of the tour in early 2018, citing her pain and health.

Her chronic pain was also a focal point during her Netflix documentary “Five Foot Two.”

At a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lady Gaga said “It’s hard, but it’s liberating, too” when it came to discussing her health.

“There is an element and a very strong piece of me that believes that pain is a microphone,” she said. “My pain really does me no good unless I transform it into something that is. So I hope that people watching it that do struggle with chronic pain know they’re not alone.”

Francesca Gariano is a New York City-based freelance journalist reporting on culture, entertainment, beauty, lifestyle and wellness. She is a freelance contributor to TODAY.com, where she covers pop culture and breaking news.

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Breaking news, jon stewart returns to ‘the daily show’ as host, lady gaga reveals ‘chromatica ball’ concert film is in the works.

The Grammy-winning singer's latest headlining concert tour took place in 2022 after being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Carly Thomas

Carly Thomas

Associate Editor

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Lady Gaga

Fans who missed Lady Gaga ‘s latest headlining concert tour, The Chromatica Ball, will soon be able to experience it through the big screen.

The Oscar-winning actress revealed on her Instagram Friday that she has been busy working on several projects, including the edit for the concert film.

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Gaga continued, “I can say for the first time in many years that my love of making art, music , fashion, and supporting community has never been more fulfilling.”

The singer also shared a photo of her working on The Chromatica Ball edit, with a still frame from the film behind her, telling fans, “I can’t WAIT for you to experience it.”

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Lady Gaga (@ladygaga)

The Chromatica Ball tour, which consisted of 20 shows across North America, Europe and Asia, was initially scheduled for summer 2020 following the release of Gaga’s sixth studio album Chromatica , but it got postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gaga was finally able to hit the stage in summer 2022, making it her first world tour since the Joanne World Tour in 2017.

The “Million Reasons” singer also noted on Instagram that she wrote and produced music for a “special project,” adding, “I’ve been experiencing my creativity ever since last summer in a really special and private way.”

“Thank you for being willing to grow with me so that I can change and transform with the community I love so much,” Lady Gaga concluded in her post. “I hope you love all the things I’ve been creating for you and I hope this is a small reminder to you of my deep passion and commitment to art.” 

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Lady Gaga's Former Dancer Alleges 'Permanent' Hearing Loss During Singer's Tour

Former Gaga backup dancer, Graham Breitenstein, claims that he was not taken seriously by the singer's production team when he raised concerns about his hearing while on tour.

Lady Gaga ’s former backup dancer says he experienced “permanent” hearing loss while on tour with her.

On Friday, Graham Breitenstein, 35, shared a series of videos on his Instagram account detailing his experience on Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour The tour, which ran between 2009 to 2011, was his first high-profile gig. While onstage during the tour’s European leg, Breitenstein said he felt something was wrong.

“While I was on stage, I believe I was in Germany or France, I had an experience on stage where my left ear … all of a sudden it sounded like the crowd was in my ear the whole time,” said Breitenstein, who described the sensation like someone holding up a seashell to his ear. “We didn’t have in-ears at this time. So it was just raw ears in all these arenas.”

View this photo on Instagram

When he initially brought his concerns to the tour’s production staff, Breitenstein claimed that a “rock doc,” or a doctor that is brought in on tours to do what’s necessary to get a performer back on stage, found fluid in his ear and prescribed him medication to treat it. After the fluid eventually cleared, the dancer claimed that the problem still persisted.

Breitenstein said he asked to see a specialist but wasn’t given the opportunity to do so “for several weeks.”

When the tour returned to the U.S. for a second leg, Breitenstein was able to get an appointment with an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist with the help of a production designer. At the visit, Breitenstein was given a grim diagnosis.

“I found out that I had lost 70 percent of hearing in my left ear and that it was permanent,” he said, adding that he was told his hearing loss could have been reversed if it was treated in the first two weeks of the onset with a direct shot of steroids. 

He continued, “But we were six weeks [in] and it was too late. I would have to live the rest of my life with 30 percent of hearing in my left ear and full hearing in my right ear. So to say that I was devastated … is an understatement.”

The dancer claims he turned to leadership at the time, which included his friend, Richard “Richy” Jackson. Jackson at the time was serving as the assistant choreographer, who was working with Laurieann Gibson, Gaga’s lead choreographer . Jackson was eventually promoted to lead choreographer after Gibson’s firing in 2011 .

“I called him and mentioned what was going on. He told me that he wasn’t gonna tell Laurieann what happened because if so, I would be fired. Being 24 at the time… at my first professional, big-time, high-profile experience, I trusted that what my friend was telling me was in my best interest,” said Breitenstein. “I don’t think to this day Laurieann knows that this took place.”

Breitenstein says he was eventually able to secure a pair of in-ears for the tour, despite some pushback from the tour’s director.

While on a break from the Monster Ball Tour, the dancer shared the news with his family and friends and they encouraged him to file for worker’s compensation. Despite getting an MRI and visiting an ENT in Los Angeles, Breitenstein claims he was immediately denied compensation by Live Nation and was intimidated by seven lawyers who allegedly sent him letters and made phone calls to him.

“I didn’t understand how I could be denied worker’s compensation when the writing was all there. [It was] on tour, on stage when this happened,” he said.

Breitenstein returned to dance with Gaga for more world tours and other high profile performances, including her 2017 Super Bowl Halftime Show , her Coachella headlining slot , and was briefly involved with her Chromatica album promotions before the pandemic stalled everything in 2020.

lady gaga chromatica ball tour video

The dancer also claims that he was teased by some of his peers, likening him to Alma from Sister Act , a character who is hard of hearing and is told by Whoopi Goldberg’s character to turn her hearing aid up.

Breitenstein alleges that Gaga never told of the events that transpired and that he did not have direct access to her. He claims to have received an inquiry from her new management team to have a one-on-one conversation about the events that unfolded. He says he responded with a “six page” recollection of events, but nothing came from it.

“We are not protected with unions on tour,” Breitenstein said on Instagram. “There’s no HR, there’s no one to go to say that is fully pulled out of an totally objective and for you to just go ‘Hey, I’m experiencing issues with my hearing and … I’m being denied access to see a specialist to get it looked at.’”

In 2022, 10 former dancers for Lady Gaga came forward accusing “Richy” Jackson of creating an “unsafe” and “unhealthy” workplace, according to Rolling Stone . The dancers who spoke of Jackson’s alleged “toxic” and “abusive” behavior all spoke highly of Gaga to the publication, saying she had “nothing to do” with the situation.

Last year, Jackson told Page Six that he was perplexed by the claims and chose not to speak out at the time to avoid distracting from the work happening on Gaga’s Chromatica Tour.

“Maybe I took something away from them that they felt: ‘This is who I am now,’” Jackson told the outlet. “In their own world, they were ‘Gaga dancers.’ Because she’s at the height of the artist world. And that’s now been taken away. I feel like that’s why we’re here.”

On the other hand, Breitenstein says he came forward with his story for newcomers who want to come into the industry. 

“I hope my story serves a resource for other dancers that wanna perform at a high level, that want to perform in big jobs, big tours, big projects," he said. "And that if they face any similar obstacles that I have that they have somewhere to point and go, ‘Well, this is what happened to him, and I don’t want that to happen to me.’”

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Lady Gaga dancer says he suffered permanent hearing damage on tour and no one did anything

Lady Gaga during her 2017 Super Bowl halftime show, where Breitenstein performed

Graham Breitenstein—a former dancer for Lady Gaga who participated in multiple tours—is telling his story in the hopes that he can save other young dancers some of the pain and hardship he’s experienced. In a series of Instagram videos posted over the weekend, Breitenstein alleges that he lost 70% of the hearing in his left ear while performing on Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour —his first major professional gig—somewhere around 2010.

According to Breitenstein, during one show on the tour’s European leg, his left ear sounded like “the crowd was in my ear the whole time.” The dancers weren’t given in-ear monitors on the tour, he explained, so he was forced to experience the raw noise of the crowd night after night.

Breitenstein initially visited a “rock doc”—a doctor brought on tour for the primary purpose of doing whatever is needed to get a dancer back on stage rather than providing lasting medical treatment—who found fluid in his ear and gave him medication to treat it, but encouraged him to keep performing. (The tour apparently didn’t have any understudies.) When the problem persisted, Breitenstein asked to see a specialist but says he wasn’t given the opportunity to do so for approximately six weeks, during which he continued to perform.

When Breitenstein did finally see an appropriate doctor, he was told that he had permanently lost 70 percent of the hearing in his left ear. “It could have been reversed if it was treated in the first two weeks of the onset with a direct shot of steroids. But we were six weeks [in], and it was too late,” he shared. “I would have to live the rest of my life with 30 percent of hearing in my left ear and full hearing in my right ear. So to say that I was devastated... is an understatement.”

After receiving this diagnosis, Breitenstein turned to his friend Richy Jackson, Gaga’s assistant choreographer at the time, who told him not to say anything about his condition because he would get fired. ( Jackson has been accused of fostering a toxic workplace by several other dancers he’s worked with , all of whom said Gaga knew nothing of the situation.) But while he managed to secure good in-ears (after some pushback) and continued to perform with Gaga on subsequent tours and even during her 2017 Super Bowl halftime show , Breitenstein says he was ridiculed by other dancers for his condition, who would liken him to Alma, a deaf character from Sister Act.

Breitenstein also had a negative experience with LiveNation, which he says immediately denied him worker’s comp and intimidated him with several lawyers when he asked for it, despite the fact that he had proof of his condition from his doctor. “I didn’t understand how I could be denied worker’s compensation when the writing was all there. [It was] on tour, on stage when this happened,” he said.

According to Breitenstein, Lady Gaga was never made aware of any of this. He does say he received a request for a one-on-one conversation when the singer switched management teams, to which he responded with a “six page” recounting of events, but nothing ever came of it.

As of this writing, neither Lady Gaga nor LiveNation have made a statement regarding Breitenstein’s claims. Neither party immediately responded to The A.V. Club’s requests for comment on this story.

Sign up for The A.V. Club's Newsletter. For the latest news, Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .

Click here to read the full article.

Lady Gaga during her 2017 Super Bowl halftime show, where Breitenstein performed

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  11. Lady Gaga

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  12. The Chromatica Ball

    The Chromatica Ball was the seventh headlining concert tour by American singer Lady Gaga in support of her sixth studio album, Chromatica (2020). Comprising 20 shows, it began on July 17, 2022, in Düsseldorf and concluded on September 17, 2022, in Miami Gardens.

  13. Lady GAGA • CHROMATICA BALL • Stade de France

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  14. Lady Gaga: The Chromatica Ball

    0:00 / 0:30 Lady Gaga: The Chromatica Ball | Live Nation UK LiveNationUK 10.9K subscribers 42K views 1 year ago #ladygaga #thechromaticaball Find Lady Gaga tickets:...

  15. Lady Gaga Chromatica Ball Tour: Why It's What We Need Right Now

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    06/17/2023 Lady Gaga performs on stage during The Chromatica Ball Summer Stadium Tour at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on July 29, 2022 in London, England. Samir Hussein/GI Lady Gaga...

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  20. Hold My Hand Live (CC)

    September 10, 2022#Shorts @LadyGaga

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    0:00 / 4:40 Lady Gaga - 911 (Live @ The Chromatica Ball Tour) Tony Rosa 1.46K subscribers Subscribe 70K views 2 years ago #VMAs #911 #Remix Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/339V2......

  22. LADY GAGA

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  24. THE CHROMATICA BALL TOUR

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  26. Lady Gaga Essentials on Instagram: "TWO days until Lady Gaga kicks off

    595 likes, 8 comments - gagaessentials on July 15, 2022: "TWO days until Lady Gaga kicks off her Chromatica Ball tour! ⚔️敖"

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  28. Lady Gaga dancer says he suffered permanent hearing damage on tour and

    In a series of Instagram videos posted over the weekend, Breitenstein alleges that he lost 70% of the hearing in his left ear while performing on Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour—his first major ...

  29. Lady Gaga Fan Page on Instagram: "I loved these great Chromatica Ball

    1,788 likes, 25 comments - ladygagastefanig on January 17, 2024: "I loved these great Chromatica Ball days‼️ #chromaticaball #2022 #babylon #ladygaga #gaga ...