Gaga for Gaga – Exclusive Photos from her Joanne World Tour

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All Rights Reserved

I was recently invited to Lady Gaga‘s Joanne World Tour at the Amalie Arena in Tampa by Verizon Wireless to experience their new “Verizon Up” rewards program as an ambassador. I received a free VIP ticket, a backstage tour, free merch, drinks in hospitality, catered lunch with the production crew, a soundcheck with Gaga’s incredibly talented touring band, and a private meet-and-greet with a Q&A with Gaga after the show. Wild!

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

At first, I assumed I must have been one of many chosen for this incredible experience. Turns out the other 12 people that were along for this wild ride were super-fans who paid for the “Ultimate Backstage Package” which cost $1,650 per ticket (including fees & insurance). Then at sound check, four new fans joined our group, the winners of the Verizon Up rewards program. They were Verizon customers who redeemed their points and won this crazy package! It really felt like winning the local lottery. Cameras were not allowed in the backstage area or during the meet and greet, but I was allowed to capture the show.

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

During the production lunch, I saw Lady Gaga’s name come up on the tv monitors airing local news. Turns out Gaga had gone to local department stores and paid off the store’s entire Layaway balance so that everyone who had items on hold for the holidays were now able to pick up their items early and paid off. At first one could assume, oh, this is just for the holidays, but it turns out Gaga’s foundation, Born This Way Foundation, which she co-founded with her mother, goes to every.single.city on tour and works with local organizations doing great work in their communities. She does this for every show. She doesn’t HAVE to do this. But this is how she spends her time before each show. She meets her fans who are making an impact, helping inspire others to get more involved locally. She lives up to her organization’s motto, “Supporting the wellness of young people, and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world.”

Gaga at Amalie Arena with activists from Floridians for a Fair Democracy – Photo from Lady Gaga’s Facebook

My favorite question a fan asked during the meet-and-greet was, “In a hundred years which song would you want people to remember you by?” Gaga answered immediately, “Born This Way.” Several people broke out into tears during the meet-and-greet while letting her know how much her music has changed and even saved their lives. One fan said she came out to her family, and at first they weren’t supportive, but through Gaga’s music, her family eventually came around. I’ll admit, I choked up when I was scanned in with my wristband, and the backstage tour began. “Pinch me, is this really happening? How did I ever get so lucky?” And I’ll even admit, I did burst into tears at one point during her show, right before she played her new song “Joanne”, named after her father’s sister who passed away when her father was 15, Joanne, 19. She said, “I wish I knew my father before this pain. He lost his best friend and sister. We’ve all had moments in our lives that changed who we were. Remember who you were before your trauma.” It was an incredibly powerful moment.

For me, Gaga’s music means freedom. I’m a Classic Rock & Roll-headbanger chick who sometimes likes to listen to a little disco-pop, sue me. I’ve just always loved her insanely versatile music. From super dancey-pop, edgy, whiskey-fueled Rock and Roll, and songs of self-empowerment to political anthems about gun violence, multiple songs with references of masturbation, and her slaying Classical Musical Theater during her Julie Andrews tribute at the 2015 Oscars. She is literally all over the place musically, and I love it. I’ve actually been a huge fan ever since 2009, right before she blew up. I randomly got to meet her at her Terminal 5 gig in Manhattan when she played for crowds of 3,000! Back before when I knew I wanted to be a music journalist, just didn’t know how.

Terminal 5 NYC – May 2, 2009

But let’s get back to Tampa and present day. At one point during the show, these giant structures came down from the ceiling, and she walked from the front of the venue to the very back, giving people in the back a front row experience.

While walking over, someone handed her a print of an art piece. She lifted it up and said, “Is this your artwork? I saw the giant mural.” The fan, who happened to be local Tampa artist, Cam Parker, answered, “Yes.” The artist had painted a giant mural for Gaga before her show, and she knew exactly who he was. What a special moment, and how random to be picked out of the crowd of a sold-out venue of 15,000. It was meant to be.

Cam Parker- Photo from Cam Parker’s Facebook
Photo from Cam Parker’s Facebook

She said, “I know there are a lot of artists in this crowd tonight; you have to love what you do.” And I felt really lucky to get to be one of the few people to share my art, my moments captured with you all. Here’s the entire setlist in a Spotify playlist! I hope you enjoy the photos! Thanks again to Verizon Wireless for this amazing opportunity.

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved
Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved
Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved

Lady Gaga – Photo by Yvonne Gougelet – All rights reserved