Xcel Energy Center presents Lady Gaga. There was an extraordinary vibe happening at Xcel Energy Center Monday evening (8/21) as concert goers came in droves to celebrate freedom of personal expression with Lady Gaga, an artist who has leveraged her successful music career to create a judgement free haven for fans at her shows. I saw shirtless boys wearing corsets, others in spandex bodysuits, a variety of strap-on unicorn horns, extra tall platform shoes and a rainbow flag used as a cape to name just a few of the many diverse statements. Near the beginning of the performance Gaga commented, “When I first started out, I was told my show is too gay, too diverse, too multicultural and nobody will come.” Well I think it’s safe to say the haters were drastically inaccurate on this account. Lady Gaga’s rapport with the audience was immediately evident and I liked how she started off thanking everyone for buying a ticket to the show rather than waiting until the end like it’s a popular statement to try and fit in. The Joanne World Tour is quite a production, built around an intelligent stage design that allows Lady Gaga to get up close to fans in all parts of the arena more effectively than a typical “in the round” set-up. The giant main stage where a lot of the entertainment takes place looks deceptively simple, but comes alive as sections of floor and a giant video screen begin moving up and down creating instant wow factor. The collective set-up manages to make the whole room feel like part of the show with custom decorative lighting rigs positioned throughout and video panel “bridges” that drop down from the ceiling to provide performers access to secondary platform stages located in the center and back half of the arena. The entire night of music sounded great with a mix that was dialed in from the first notes and remained consistent regardless of where the action was happening across multiple stages at any given time – something we can always count on at Xcel Energy Center. With anticipation already at a high, the excitement level was raised when a digital clock counting down from 10-minutes appeared on a big screen center stage. The 22 song agenda that played out over the next 2 hours was broken up into numerous 3 to 4 song sets that almost felt like a bunch of individual mini-concerts. The overall flow was never disrupted as artistic video clips and impressive live band instrumental jams filled the white space allowing time for wardrobe and set changes. Most of the songs were upbeat with great focus placed on spectacularly choreographed dance routines, which clearly was on point with what the crowd came to see based on their reaction and unsolicited participation. “Poker Face”, “Just Dance”, “Applause” and “Bad Romance” were some of the upbeat standouts. I felt the shows best moments happened when Lady Gaga sat down at the piano and shifted focus more toward her musicality and vocal ability. She communicated a local connection by dedicating “The Edge of Glory” to Emma, a Minnesota girl who has been wheelchair bound and inspired Gaga with news that she had taken 30 steps. Quite an accomplishment and way to make your hometown proud Emma!! Gaga also got personal when sharing the story behind her album and tour name “Joanne”. It was another standout performance that had her playing acoustic guitar and showing off a jacket she loves that was made by her sister. I walked away feeling the show delivered on all accounts and was a total crowd pleaser. Remove all the hype and Lady Gaga’s self-proclaimed purpose is respectable as she stated in her final comments, “Thank you for helping us spread our message of love throughout the world.” Review and photos by Patrick Dunn.