It’s only normal for an international tour to begin with a few teething troubles. And so it was last night as Lady Gaga’s Joanne World Tour began at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena a touch over 40 minutes after its advertised start time, and failed to shake audio issues that made the entire concert sound like it was performed in a well shaft, albeit a glitter-coated one.

Thankfully, it takes more than a few technical hitches to keep a good pop star down. Overcoming such trivialities, Lady Gaga, a great pop star, conjured up a concert bursting with ideas and emotion. 

Will this be the tour that launches Lady Gaga Mark Two on the world? The opening salvo of the country-rock “Diamond Heart” and “A-Yo” arrived as a definitive statement that this wouldn’t be a Greatest Hits package. “Poker Face” was shot into the mix next – demonstrating that she wasn’t saving the crowd pleasers for the big finale – before a return to her latest “Joanne” album with “Perfect Illusion,” her band making no attempt to disguise their rock credentials, headbanging along to the outro.

Although Gaga would repeatedly return to her new taste for soft rock – musically and stylistically tipping her (cowboy) hat to Stevie Nicks – she’s not abandoning her pop sensibilities just yet. A triple shot from the past seven songs in – “Just Dance,” “LoveGame” and “Telephone” upped the energy in the arena, Gaga and her dancers ensuring everyone present was entering the party spirit.

And yet, this was a concert where the artistry was going far deeper than merely calling for a good time. Making her way from the main stage to the rear of the arena via a series of stages and walkways descending from the rafters (itself a phenomenal display of engineering virtuosity), Gaga was taking her seat at the piano when a Pride flag flew from the crowd, falling some distance short of her feet.

“Excuse me sir,” she asked, tapping a security guard on his shoulder. “May I have that Gay Pride flag?

“Needless to say,” she smiled, holding it aloft to cheers, “ I have a lot to say about this issue.” It proved a timely introduction to the show tune waiting for its show, “Come To Mama,” and the highlight of the night, “The Edge of Glory,” both revealing a previously unheard rawness as Gaga accompanied her passionate vocals alone on piano. After opening herself up so completely, the return to the straight pop choreography of “Born This Way” was almost anticlimactic.

The shape-shifting stage set, production, choreography and bold fashion decisions were uniformly faultless throughout – a series of avant garde and occasionally disturbing videos admirably filling the many gaps when Gaga was off stage changing costumes – but as an artist she remains at her very best when stepping out of character to reveal her vulnerability and not inconsiderable natural charm. She displayed both in the introduction to “Joanne,” sitting high above the crowd with an acoustic guitar explaining the tragic origin of the album and tour title before calling for a communal moment of shared grief and introspection.

“What was that moment that blasted you so hard, you don’t remember who you were before that?”

It was a bold question for a celebratory night. But boldness, along with talent, is what’s taken Lady Gaga from obscurity to superstardom. Both were on display as Gaga returned to the piano and far end of the arena for the encore of “Million Reasons.” 

Minutes earlier half the crowd seemed hesitant to follow her request to put their hands in the air for the dance pop of “The Cure.” But faced with the raw emotion of the moment as she scrambled on top of her piano at the ballad’s finale, they rose as one to salute her.

Perhaps pop music in 2017 has better singers, dancers and even all-around entertainers. But it doesn’t have anyone producing more interesting art than Lady Gaga.