Lady Gaga shared poignant stories that inspired her new LP, Joanne, during an intimate performance Thursday at New York City’s The Bitter End. The show was part of her ongoing Bud Light x Lady Gaga Dive Bar Tour. The Greenwich Village venue was packed with Gaga’s fans from Robert De Niro to Broad City comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
Gaga, outfitted in a black cowboy hat and a Bud Light bodysuit, arrived in a vintage Mercedes Benz. She strode onstage, slapping hands with fans and launched into the eclectic Joanne material, joined intermittently by writing partners Mark Ronson and Hillary Lindsey.
In the brief six-song set, Gaga impressively traversed folk, funk, country and rock balladry. The emotional centerpiece was title track “Joanne,” inspired by her late aunt. Ronson joined the singer onstage, fingerpicking his acoustic guitar.
“[Ronson and I] wrote this song about my father’s sister Joanne, who passed away in 1974,” she told the crowd. “She was a victim of sexual assault who was so traumatized by her experience that it flared up her existing disease. She had lupus, and she died very quickly after that. This tragedy stayed with my family a very long time … We wrote this song not only in her honor but in the honor of so people who have lost ones that they love. Or maybe there’s a pending loss. So terrifying. You just don’t want to say goodbye.”
The singer also dedicated new bonus track “Grigio Girls” to her friend Sonja, currently battling stage-four cancer. “She’s in such good spirits, and she’s so beautiful,” Gaga told her friend watching in the audience. “I wrote this with Hillary Lindsey … We were writing it because we were laying around one night and all the girls had gotten together, but Sonja wasn’t there because sometimes we needed to get together without her so we could cry. We didn’t want her to see us cry.”
Joanne is out Friday, October 21st.