ADVERTISEMENT

Fenway shakes up lineup with Lady Gaga

September 1, 2017 GMT

Fenway Park isn’t known for art. Lady Gaga is an artist. What do we make of the fact that Gaga headlines Fenway tonight and tomorrow? The answer: The Red Sox front office is finally, thankfully, expanding beyond its comfort zone.

Fenway’s concert schedule has become increasingly crowded over the last few years — 11 last summer, eight this summer. But its lineup of talent has remained fairly static. This year alone, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Dead & Company and New Kids on the Block all returned to play the bandbox (some for their third summer in a row). In fact, the only fresh headliners booked by the Sox and Live Nation this summer were Lady Gaga and Florida Georgia Line.

I know the Sox and Live Nation have little control over who they can put in the venue. They have to deal with an insanely complex matrix of schedules, and their primary goal will always be to host 81 baseball games a season. That said, with baby boomer icons and modern country stars dominating the calendar, they haven’t exactly been swinging for the fences lately. Gaga represents a welcome diversion from the obvious.

ADVERTISEMENT

People love Lady Gaga with a fiery passion that’s rare even in the world of pop music. Even more people despise her. They think of her as the second coming of Elvis or Ozzy or Madonna. They label her a corrupter of the youth (which may be true) or a talent-less phony (which is wrong and, frankly, an absolutely silly claim). But again, she’s an artist — if you haven’t played her latest, “Joanne,” the LP cut-and-pastes ’70s singer-songwriter styles, ’80s Top 40, ’90s indie and a dash of electric-side country (start with the she-bop of “Dancin’ in Circles” or perfect Prince homage “Hey Girl”).

As an artist, she is going to make great pop records and she’s going to indulge in weird music and anger people with grand political statements. She’s not exactly dangerous (but, c’mon, was Elvis?). However, she’s not safe in the way Billy Joel playing his hits ad nauseam is.

Half a decade ago, Sox CEO Sam Kennedy told me he wanted to expand Fenway’s programming. He wanted to book country performers, rap artists and a major festival. Since then, the park has packed in the country acts (many of whom are as artless as Pat Boone) and hosted Jay-Z. I’ve long since given up on my prayers for a Boston-centric festival: The Cars, Pixies and Dispatch anchoring a weekend of homegrown music with room for Aimee Mann, the Dresden Dolls, Ballroom Thieves and Bad Rabbits.

I know I’m overreaching with dreams of creative bookings at Fenway Park. But that’s no excuse for Fenway to under-reach. This year is over. Time for that front office to start making calls for 2018: Maybe start with Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Ric Ocasek and a few more true artists.

Lady Gaga, tonight and tomorrow, at Fenway Park. Tickets: $86-$251; boston.redsox.mlb.com.