TACOMA, Wash. — Lady Gaga introduced her performance of “Joanne” at the Tacoma Dome here on Saturday night with a long disquisition on what she called “generational grief” and how it shaped this song, the title track from her latest album. She dedicated the performance to people who have been affected by a pain so long-running they can’t remember a time before it, and let them know that they were not alone.
She performed it on acoustic guitar, eventually joining two of her bandmates, also playing guitar, for a maudlin, Eagles-like effect that punctured the sharp vulnerability with which she opened.
After a short interlude, she returned to the stage, in a white outfit with winged glasses, for “Bad Romance,” from 2009, one of her biggest pop hits. Her performance here was the total opposite: energetic, precise, committedly plastic and fiery.
The juxtaposition was disorienting. This show, the first United States stop of her new tour, highlighted the tensions that bedevil Lady Gaga, especially at this stage of her career. She is titanic when it comes to huge smears of feeling, and also to pulverizing disco-pop. She radiates rawness, and is facile with costuming. But all of these things don’t always go hand in hand, and often Lady Gaga finds herself in tugs of war with herself — sincerity versus artifice, extravagance versus asceticism, and so on.
Ostensibly this was a tour to celebrate “Joanne,” her fourth proper solo studio album, which was released in October and has been her least successful. But the songs from that record were among the least effective here: the messy rock theater of “A-Yo,” the drowsy “John Wayne,” the awkwardly jaunty “Dancin’ in Circles.” They were also among the least characteristic. Lady Gaga thrives at the extremes of theatrical contrivance and stone-cold intimacy, and those are the modes in which this performance succeeded.
The concert’s first half was disjointed, shifting styles and attitudes seemingly at random. But about midway through, Lady Gaga struck a rhythm, after three bulbous pods hovering near the roof of the arena cleaved to reveal…