If there is one thing Lady Gaga fans love to do, it's throw shit at her. Last night at the Pepsi Center, I watched as jackets, vests, bras, bouquets of flowers, unicorn heads and letters of adoration littered the stage over the course of less than two hours. But here's the thing about this shit-throwing: Gaga loves it.
Throughout the show, the pop star picked up and wore leather jackets painted with her naked likeness, jean jackets with "born this way" -- related proclamations on the back and even a flannel. She performed adorned in these creations, as if to show her fans that she cared as much about them as they did for her -- and to a non-Little Monster like me, it came off as a genuine gesture of affection.
Before Gaga appeared, Baby Metal and Lady Starlight were tasked with entertaining the crowd, whichI think is difficult for any opener on a tour this size. Consisting of three pop singers/dancers backed by a masked death metal band, Baby Metal does a lot of jumping around and making cute motions with their hands while singing in Japanese over stylistically juxtaposing music. It is very one-trick pony-ish.
Baby Metal is the kind of performance that I can see a photo of on the Internet and be good with never seeing again -- the novelty of children or juvenile-looking women doing a grown-up thing just doesn't translate to me. Also, maybe this crowd has never seen a metal band before? That might be the novelty.
Next was Lady Starlight, who bounced out onstage in a sassy librarian ensemble and positioned herself at a sampler station. If there is one thing that is boring to watch, it is a DJ enjoying their own music while no one else is dancing. Poor Lady Starlight had a hard time getting anyone to move. Plus, her music was played at a considerably lower volume than the house music between sets. This only made it easier for the woman behind me's "get of the stage, bitch! You suck!" jeers to reach the wider audience.
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After what felt like too long of a Lady Starlight set, there was an even longer break until the big show. The hashtag "#artRAVE" was flashed on the big screens obsessively during the break. It was very clear that all of our social networking was to have this hashtag attached. It made me pine for the '90s and a time when social media wasn't our job as an audience at a show.
The Little Monsters were restless. Finally, the glittery curtain dropped and a curvy, white phallic and vagina-ish '80s futuristic landscape appeared and Gaga's dancers flooded the stage in pastel Ice Capades-reminiscent uniforms. Then there was Gaga in her first costume, a Party Monster-like Klub Kid throwback complete with dread falls and furry leg warmers. Though the raver theme felt a little tacky, it didn't matter. Lady Gaga could have been wearing a brown paper bag and the show still would have been amazing -- she is just really, really fucking good.
The queen stomped and sang to "Artpop," making full use of the runway stage and its multiple channels. Gaga is so tuned in with her fans -- it is pretty amazing to watch a single human connect with strangers so seamlessly, as if she's performing in a dive bar in the middle of nowhere. She reached out as she sang -- and she can sing -- to the hands at her feet, smiling, saying hello, making eye contact with an entire arena.
Gaga ran through hits like "Just Dance," "Poker Face" and "Paparazzi," paying homage to her old style in the form of familiar choreography and variations on her classic platinum blond wigs. She would change several times throughout the night, switching from a vinyl Marilyn Monroe-looking leotard with a train made of blow-up octopus arms, to a simple black, glossy leotard to another raver outfit and more. Gaga's costume spectacle never disappoints, but it is especially fantastic to see it live and in motion.
There were plenty of the big pop show tricks happening -- towering inflatable flowers grew from the stage, a giant silver claw raised Gaga high in the air and she disappeared into many a trapdoor in the stage floor. But Gaga was her best when she sat down at her crystal piano and just talked to her fans. She does a lot of equality-focused stump speeches between songs with her drag queen sneer and big hand gestures. But it's the intimacy-creating interludes that show off why she is the biggest pop star of them all -- she can relate to a room full of strangers. "Born This Way" got this kind of one-on-one treatment, and Gaga's voice was silky and perfect.
She disappeared again and back-up dancers rolled out t-shirt cannons and arms full of unicorns to throw back at the audience. Gaga did a stellar rendition of "Judas" before stopping the show to read a letter thrown on stage by a fan named Tanner. As cheesy as it could have been to watch a dude on the big screen sob while Gaga stared at him and read his words, it was instead beautiful and moving.
A wardrobe shaped like a coffin rolled out on stage with three assistants ready to go and the pop star changed again, right in front of us. She threw down "Bad Romance," "Applause" and "Swine" before bidding her Little Monsters farewell. She reappeared in all white for an encore performance of "Gypsy."
Gaga is an enigma in the pop world; she manages to balance her ego with all the stroking it gets, coming off as equally grateful of her fans that pay big bucks to see her every time she comes through as they are grateful she exists. Sure, the costumes and glitter and all of the now-standard expensive pop show trappings are the norm, but Gaga pulls it together in a way no other mega-human can.
Post-show, a picture of Gaga in an oxygen mask began circulating. If she was having trouble breathing and performing, she in no way showed it. (Maybe it was all the weed smoking she talked about incessantly throughout the night?) Gaga proved once again that she is an expert show-woman who loves her fans. Even though they love to throw shit at her.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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