Lady Gaga Balances Pageantry and Vulnerability at L.A.’s The Forum

Coasting off the success of her latest album, “Joanne,” scintillating songstress Lady Gaga stopped off for two dates at Los Angeles’ iconic Forum as part of the blockbuster tour of the same name. The multi-time Grammy winner fit right in at the Entertainment Capital of the World, strutting her stuff and proving she is more than deserving of her reputation as a born performer. Both heart-stopping nights melded Gaga’s knack for pageantry with her explosive vocals, making it a night to remember for everyone in attendance.

Both performances were crawling with Little Monsters — the term of endearment tied to Gaga’s passionate fanbase — from as many different backgrounds as their hero has hits, many of whom milled about before Gaga took the stage, mingling and bonding over common ground with their fellow Gaga devotees. With no opener to speak of, the night belonged to Gaga, and that’s just how fans wanted it. Still, the lack of a supporting act did leave a lot of downtime during the show, making it all the more rewarding when the 31-year-old finally made her dazzling appearance.

Tendrils of smoke wrapped around the stage as Gaga, clad in her now signature cowboy hat, emerged for the adoring public and opened up her set with “Diamond Heart,” a “Joanne” cut that builds slowly until swelling into a rapturous hook that had the entire audience belting along. No one belted harder than Gaga, though, especially when she strapped on the axe and rocked the unmistakable riff from the anthemic “A-Yo.” It’s because of performances like this that Gaga finds herself at the epitome of pop culture, coming off like the larger-than-life rockstar she is.

One thing that has kept Gaga’s act refreshing and unique since her sizzling 2008 debut, “The Fame,” is the celebrity’s ability to constantly reinvent her persona, or at the very least add new characters to her repertoire. At this point, she has as many different personas as she does Grammys, and all were on display at her two Forum dates. Fans got a stripped down version of the pop star, with just the cowboy hat and guitar, but they were also treated to appearances by Gaga’s more outlandish caricatures, like when she donned a feathered-eye mask and studded leotard and acrobatically danced while defying gravity on a 45-degree angle platform. Gaga and her dancers also refused to be limited by the Forum’s impressive stage, using bridges to jump from stage-to-stage and more readily engage with the rabid monsters in attendance.

One theme that ran through both dates was Gaga’s ability to strike a balance between the danceable tunes she has become an expert at crafting with the vulnerability she allows herself on “Joanne.” At one point during her set, she dedicates “Come to Mama” to LGBTQ rights and, later, “The Edge of Glory” to cancer victims and survivors. Gaga also made sure to bring the dance with signature tracks like “Poker Face” and the infectious “Paparazzi.” She took the show to its official end with “Bad Romance” and “The Cure” before capping things off with an encore performance of “Million Reasons.”

After her Forum performances, it’s undeniable. No one has got stage presence down quite like Gaga. Whether it’s her memorable wardrobe or her death-defying stage design, Lady Gaga knows how to bring the house down every time.

Lady Gaga played L.A.’s The Forum Aug. 8 and 9 and returns to the venue Dec. 18 to conclude her “Joanne World Tour.”