One day, way back in 2008, I heard a new little number, ‘Just Dance’. Not being much of a dance/pop music kinda gal myself, I was shocked that this song easily grew on me. I hesitantly mentioned this to my elderly sister, with a little fear I’d be made fun of.  My sister has high, high standards for dance and electronic music, once, long ago, respectfully known, and held in high regard in the late 90’s Toronto happy hardcore scene. Tara brushed the song off, not caring for it. I continued to like this song, along with Love Game and Poker Face, but kept it quietly to myself as I am normally a pop/punk and rock n’ roll listener. After sometime, this music kind of faded in my eyes. However, a few years later, to my surprise, my sister Tara (who was in the mental hospital when Born This Way came out) began a journey of absolute love and obsession with Lady Gaga. Easily becoming one of Gaga’s biggest fans and little monsters.

So, I was then introduced to more and more Gaga over the years, her album ‘Born this Way’ intrigued me, and when her album ‘Joanne’ came out last fall, I finally gave her a real shot.

And my God – I am glad I did.

I had the intense joy of attending Lady Gaga’s Joanne World Tour in Toronto, Wednesday September 8th with Tara, who has seen Lady Gaga perform now four times. This would be my first time, and hell, I didn’t know what I was in for. My sister told me this show would jolt, and re-start my brain. I had been nearing the end of a 2 month stay in the hospital with severe depression and anxiety. She knew this show would give me what I needed – and it did.

We had floors. Gaga had 3 stages. Tara and I squeezed our way in to the crowd at the main stage, about 6 rows back from the front. The countdown clock lowered, the audience was growing more intense and more full of energy the closer the clock hit zero. My heart was thumping in unison with the beat of the music and the crowd.

Then, this beautiful woman, that to me I thought I would never have the honour to see, appeared and broke out in to Diamond Heart, I sang and danced with the crowd to every word. A-Yo was up next, another hit off her new album – she really opened up the show with a fantastic energy. One of my favorite songs off her newest album, John Wayne, came up soon after. Gaga was already in her 2nd or 3rd costume change.  She was a pure bad ass. You would NEVER have known she was sick with laryngitis, having to cancel her Montreal show two days prior. She strutted that stage, huge flames of fire blazing behind her, so hot you could feel it in the crowd.

Poker Face, Just Dance, and LoveGame were all performed – the everyone went wild, old fans hearing her first time hits again – that’s always a good feeling.

Then, she stood quietly at the edge of the stage, in the dark while the crowd anticipated what was up next. Throughout her entire concert, she was so interactive with the crowd. It felt like you were just hanging out with Gaga. It didn’t feel fake, or recited. It felt like it was just you and her. At this point of the show – she talked about being a strong and empowered woman who needs no permission to be who she is. Suddenly, she screamed, SCHEIBE! Wow, for me this moment made my crush on Gaga grow a little more. She demanded that stage with intention, passion and brilliance.

Between each stage, walkways would lower for her to walk, sing, and dance from one stage to another, allowing every little monster to get to see her closer up. She sat down at her piano and spoke about her best friend, Sonja, who recently passed away from cancer. You could feel the pain in her voice and in the look on her face. She dedicated this next song to anyone who had a sick family member, had to say goodbye soon, or who had recently lost someone close to them. Edge of Glory started, slowly and peacefully as her voice boomed with passion with the beauty of her piano. Tears were rolling down my face. The crowd took out their phones and waved their lights back and forth, looking like stars in a dark sky, adding to the moment. Gaga even commented how beautiful it looked.

After this, she burst in to Born This Way – which of course everybody was on their feet and belting out word for word. This song is beloved by many, how couldn’t it be? Lady Gaga is all about equality, unity, loving each other and being who you are.

My sister and I were privy to knowing that the back stage would be where she would play her encore. We moved our way back and got comfortable in our spots right up against the railing to this stage. Tara quickly noticed her mother and father were literally 5 feet from us, behind the barrier. They beamed at their daughter as she spoke about her aunt, Joanne, who had passed away before she was ever able to meet her. She played this on acoustic guitar, sitting only on a stool on the middle of the circular stage, no hustle and bustle, crazy lighting or anything. This was just focused on, and dedicated to her family and Joanne, whom she proudly carries in her heart, and as her middle name.

Nearing the end, she was back to the main stage, Bad Romance and The Cure rocked the stage and the Air Canada Centre.

Her performance made my emotions even more of a roller coaster than they already were. I laughed, I smiled, I danced, I cried.

The Cure ended, however, the crowd knew there was something more. Million Reasons just had to played. Gaga slowly made her way from one end of the ACC to the other for her encore of Million Reasons. She intentionally looked out in to the crowd, the lights raised, so she could see all of her beautiful little monsters. As she descended the stairs to her final performance, her and I made eye contact as she waived to our area of the crowd. My body surged with adrenaline. This amazing woman and legend, connected with me that night on a deeper level than I expected at such a vast and enormous venue.

She sat down at her piano for her final song. Every body in that building that night was singing along with her to Million Reasons. As the song finished, she stood on her stool, waving to the crowd gracefully, then sitting atop her piano, descended under the stage as the lights fell to black. The show was over, but my heart was still pumping, and this show ingrained itself in to my mind, making it so I will never forget the feelings I felt that night.

In respect to Lady Gaga, her family and their Born This Way Foundation to fight for mental wellness and empowerment of young people struggling with mental health issues; I felt I needed to say this show, this night, was like the finale to my stay in hospital for my own mental health – as only a day later I was released, on a fresh beginning and life long journey, cuz I was born this way, baby.

The Joanne World Tour will be wrapping up in Europe. For tour dates: https://www.ladygaga.com/tourdates

And if you would like to read more about the Born This Way Foundation, or to donate, please visit: https://bornthisway.foundation/about-the-foundation/