After Beyoncé postponed her headlining Coachella appearance until 2018 because of her pregnancy, Lady Gaga stepped in to take over the Lemonade singer’s spot this year. After just a month-and-a-half of preparations for the big event, Mother Monster took the stage Saturday night, where she debuted a new single: “The Cure,” now streaming.
She premiered the catchy pop tune, which has EDM undertones, halfway through her 90-minute, 19-song set. Warmly received by the concert crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands, Gaga said she was relieved to finally not have to keep the song a secret anymore.
“If I can’t find the cure, I’ll / I’ll fix you with my love / No matter what you know, I’ll / I’ll fix you with my love,” she sings in the chorus, pledging her commitment to the subject of the song — and to the crowd.
“I love you guys so much,” she professed. “I have been through so much in my life and I’ve seen so much, and you cure me every time with your love.”
The show kicked off around 11:30 p.m. PT for “the heavyweights at Coachella” with a video montage that featured the singer fighting an enormous tentacle (an image of which later adorned a red crop-top sweatshirt she donned during songs including “Telephone, “Alejandro,” and “Edge of Glory”) writhing around as it protrudes from her mouth, scored with EDM-inspired sounds. The teaser offered a seamless transition into her opening number, the 2011 Born This Way single “ScheiBe.” What followed was a combo of the music and elements fans expect — and then some — from the performer: lively and unique choreography, compelling visuals, attitude, and a capital-S show, all from a woman whose number one priority, it was clear, was to give festival-goers a little bit of everything they might find at other stages, from song and spectacle to fun and flair.
Once the 31-year-old shed the long black leather jacket and hat that made up her military-esque look, a more prominent rock sound took over, even on her pop-dance track “LoveGame,” the country-inspired jam “John Wayne,” and her debut, star-making single “Just Dance.”
“I feel like every day of the year it’s possible we don’t know what to do,” Gaga said, introducing “Just Dance.” “Life gets confusing, we get stressed out about dumb s—, and then we come to Coachella, right, and all you have to do while you’re here is dance. That’s it.”
After a brief musical interlude, Gaga returned to the stage with a more vibrant ensemble highlighted by a multicolored, sequin-studded get-up plus production and lighting design to match for the pop anthem “Born This Way,” her 2011 chart-topping mega-hit. Following up with “Venus” and “Sexxx Dreams” from her 2013 album Artpop, plus “A-YO,” the spunky country-rock banger from her latest album Joanne, the six-time Grammy winner then emerged onto the stage in a glass phone booth pushed around the stage by her dancers for “Telephone,” her 2010 duet with Beyoncé. Hopes were up (as they were with Gaga’s February Super Bowl halftime show in Houston) that the expecting mother might make a cameo — her doctors advised her to “keep a less rigorous schedule,” so performing a full show wasn’t in the cards, but maybe a brief appearance would be okay? — but alas, the most fans got from Queen Bey was the recorded version of her verse-rap in that song.
“Alejandro,” “Teeth” (from 2009’s The Fame Monster), and the debut of “The Cure” followed before Gaga took a seat at the piano — after having already played the keytar and electric guitar earlier in the show — for a stripped down rendition of “Edge of Glory.” It’s no secret Gaga has some of the most commanding and stirring vocals of anyone in the game, but to hear her in person is an entirely different and profound experience. With “Edge of Glory,” she lured the audience in with a story inspired by her grandparents’ decades-long love. The emotion driving it was evident and infectious. “I hope a lot of people fall in love tonight listening to a lot of music,” she told the audience.
Continuing the love story — of that lost, found, and rediscovered — Gaga stayed at the piano for some slower songs, powering through her 2011 hit “You and I” and the 2009 ballad “Speechless” before that.
Unlike that song, though, where she is adamant she will “never love again,” fans weren’t at a loss for words. Overjoyed by the song choices — and her — they let the musician know it. “When you say ‘I love you,’ it makes me so happy I could cry,” Gaga said. “Every time. Every single time.”
The personal, sincere moment was short-lived, as Gaga cranked the energy back up for the final four songs, starting with a higher-tempo remix of her Joanne power ballad “A Million Reasons,” turning it up an electronic notch in the chorus. It got the crowd, and Gaga, moving — she exited the stage to get closer to her Little Monsters, giving out high fives along the way.
The remixes continued with “Applause.” Gaga lives for that just as much as a good wardrobe change, so she used the Artpop lead single for exactly that, slipping into a sparkly and partially sheer black jumpsuit. While the previous breaks for quick wardrobe changes were musical interludes, this energizing single got the karaoke — and electro — treatment as the song’s lyrics appeared on the huge screens flanking the stage.
Before bringing her headlining set — the first at Coachella by a female artist since Björk in 2007 — to a close, Gaga took it back to the beginning, showing off her “Poker Face” (the second single from her debut album The Fame) and writing a “Bad Romance” for the finale, made all the more spectacular by a fireworks display that ignited the night sky. By the end, the festival crowd was left saying, “Gaga, ooh la la!”
Weekend 1 of Coachella wraps up Sunday night when Kendrick Lamar, who just released his fourth album DAMN late Thursday, is the headliner. Lady Gaga will perform again next Saturday, April 22 for Weekend 2 of the annual festival.