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I could spill a thousand words about Lady Gaga's costume changes at her Indy show alone -- mostly of the extreme glitter variety, plus some catsuits, natch.

I could fill these virtual pages with rambles about her live show's complex staging -- a mushroom-life series of stages that ascended and descended for Gaga to prowl.

I could dissect the set list -- a solid mix of radio favorites and newbies from Joanne, her latest. 

But that's not what stuck with me from last night's show Downtown. What I was thinking about on my drive home was pain and advocacy.

I didn't actually think I would see this Lady Gaga show. In September, she was forced to cancel the European leg of her tour after health issues (fibromyalgia, complicated I'm sure by the physical stress of stage shows) made it impossible to perform. Her documentary Five Foot Two, released on Netflix the same month, delves deeper into the chronic condition. 

But Gaga was in Indianapolis, encased in glitter and soaring heels, fighting through the pain. And the moments where she stopped the music to speak about her health struggles, and the struggle of others, were by far the most compelling moments of the two-and-a-half hour production. Before diving into a slowed-down piano version of "Edge of Glory," she singled out a fan and friend in the crowd: Emma, who Gaga met on the Born Brave bus that accompanied the Born This Way tour. Emma, Gaga says, has cerebral palsy, and helped Gaga ID the source of her own pain. With Emma was friend Danielle, who, according to Gaga, drives long distances to assist Emma's daily trips to college classes.

"Don't pity someone [who struggles with their health]" Gaga instructed, after introducing Danielle. "Offer your kindness instead." 

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About three-quarters through the show, Gaga donned a (fairly insane-looking) fringed country western jacket, grabbed a guitar and talked about her aunt Joanne, for whom she is named, and for whom her latest album is a namesake. Joanne died several years ago before Gaga was born of complications from lupus. Gaga said this album was a search for answers for her own personal pain in her life, a study of the confusion over a pain she felt she shared with her father over the loss of his sister. "The thing that makes us all the same is our pain," she said. "It's an equalizer." 

This is probably a lot more about a Gaga fan and Gaga relative than you probably thought you'd read in a music review, and a lot less about the tunes. But more than anything else, that fan connection is what a Lady Gaga show is about. Gaga has made her bones on deep relationships with fans and advocacy, in particular, for LGBTQ youth. With Joanne and its associated tour, she adds her name as an advocate for those struggling with health issues and disabilities. In a time of deep uncertainty surrounding healthcare, I am reminded how powerful it is when someone with a platform the size of Lady Gaga's shows up for you. She joins celebs like Jimmy Kimmel, Angelina Jolie, Demi Lovato, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and others who make healthcare access and health issue de-stigmatization part of their public image. It isn't glamorous. It isn't glittery. But it's the most important part of the show. 

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Editor of NUVO Newsweekly since 2016; formerly Music Editor. Lover of justice, cats, local hip-hop, axe-throwing, sailing and pies. Hater of fake news.

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