Dave Paulson, The Tennessean
Next year, pop superstar Lady Gaga will headline the Super Bowl halftime show, a television event that routinely draws more than 100 million viewers.
But on Wednesday, she took one of Nashville’s most understated stages – East Nashville club The 5 Spot – and sang for a live audience of roughly 100.
Music City was the first stop on Gaga’s “Dive Bar Tour” – a series of pop-up concerts in humble venues across the country as she promotes her upcoming album “Joanne.”
Gaga performed four songs, all from that album, at Wednesday’s show: “Sinner’s Prayer,” “A-Yo,” “Million Reasons” and “Perfect Illusion.” Donning a rhinestone suit and pink cowboy hat, she was clearly in a Nashville mood, and a “Joanne” one, too.
“I’m a singer-songwriter from New York City, and I’m coming through Nashville.” she said between tunes. “But if you could do me this favor, tonight, if you could just call me ‘Joanne.’”
That segued into her introduction of “Million Reasons,” which was heard for the first time on Wednesday. The ballad was written with hit Nashville songwriter Hillary Lindsey, who took the stage to sing harmony.
“We were going back and forth (on) guitar and piano,” Gaga said, recalling their songwriting session. “And we were going, ‘Why do these men, you know, all these men, my dad, my boyfriends, all the men in my life, they give me a million reasons. But I just need one good one to stick around. But you’re giving me a million to walk away.”
After a quick wardrobe change, Gaga leapt into the crowd (from a foot-high stage) for her current dance-pop single, “Perfect Illusion.” Then, barely 20 minutes after she’d appeared, she said her goodnights and dropped the microphone.
“Well, we can’t give away too much tonight,” Gaga said. “So I’ll see you at the next stop, yeah?”
The location of Wednesday’s show was supposed to be a secret, but by Tuesday morning, the word was out. Gaga confirmed on social media that she’d be heading to Nashville for the gig, and soon East Nashville residents noticed that the street in front of The 5 Spot had been closed off, and legions of trailers and satellite trucks had parked all around the venue.
By showtime on Wednesday, hundreds of fans lined the barricades across the street, and when Gaga arrived – driving a Ford Bronco with the license plate “JOANNE” – screams and flashbulbs filled the air. Guitar case in hand, she made her way the front door of the The 5 Spot, exchanging hugs and handshakes with the audience on her way to the stage.
The show wasn’t just for the superfans, contest winners and VIPs in the room, of course. Video of the performance was streamed live on Facebook by beer giant Bud Light, which is sponsoring the tour.
The Dive Bar Tour continues with two additional shows on October 20 and 27. The cities and venues have not been announced. “Joanne” hits stores October 21.