Friday, March 19, 2010

Lady Gaga's Monster Ball - Live In Sydney

What a week! I thought Ami Suzuki's 30 minute DJ set of radio hits from 2009 would be hard to top but Lady Gaga's Monster Ball was even more riveting. Love her or hate her, it's impossible to deny the Picasso-esque beauty's incredible impact on popular culture and last night was a celebration of everything that makes Gaga so special - her stage theatrics, outrageous costumes and undeniable talent. Call the woman pretentious if you will but try telling that to the thousands of teenage girls, housewives and homosexuals who travelled from the suburbs to honour their icon in full Gaga dress. Before I get stuck into my review, I have to get one thing off my chest. As much as it pains me to say anything nice about Madonna, the fame monster owes Madge some new chicken cutlets for ruthlessly pillaging her Blond Ambition tour. It's not a criticism as such - Blond Ambition "borrowed" heavily from Liza With A Z (watch it if you don't believe me) - but the debt should be acknowledged. However, while Madonna did it first, Lady Gaga does it better. The Monster Ball chews up a seemingly endless string of influences and spits them out to create something new and wonderful.

Gaga's best angle

The show begins with a fairly grungy projection on plain white curtain. Lady Gaga then appears in silhouette to perform "Dance In The Dark" (one of my favourite songs from the album). As far as entrances go, it's actually quite dull. Someone lend her a DVD of Kylie's Fever tour so this can be rectified ASAP! Things rapidly improved when the curtain fell and Honey Bee's partner in crime strutted down a staircase to belt out "Glitter and Grease", "Just Dance" and "Beautiful Dirty Rich". The highlight of that tasty trio was definitely "Just Dance", which Gaga sang while playing a car shaped piano. It was at this time that the dirty diva introduced the show's theme - a Wizard of Oz inspired journey to the monster's ball, a place where freaks and weirdos are not only welcome but the norm. From that moment on the concert transformed into something akin to a rock opera. Only with really gay dance tunes. I loved the narrative and found it a perfect match for Gaga's theatrical aesthetic. The treatment was a little heavy handed in places - bitch, we get that your message is all about inclusion without you telling us every 5 minutes - but it worked and provided the perfect canvas for her imagination to run riot.

Stunning choreography!

To be honest, I'd never heard "Vanity" before last night's concert and I (rather shamefully) own 6 or 7 different editions of "The Fame". Gaga introduced the song saying she had been performing it since she was 18 - so I guess that makes it about 20 years old. Despite the track's astounding vintage, it's a brilliant punk infused pop/rock anthem that I desperately need on my iPod. I love it when Lady Gaga rocks out. Her ability to genre hop so effortlessly is what makes her so interesting. It also strikes me as vastly more authentic than her Madonna inspired rendition of "LoveGame" in a plastic nun's habit. On the bright side, it gave me "Like A Prayer" flashbacks, which remains my favourite old hag anthem. Much more exciting was her performance of "Boys Boys Boys" - in my opinion the best song on "The Fame" after "Poker Face" and "Just Dance". That was followed by a track I didn't recognise ("Money Honey" according to other reviews I've read) before an angel appeared to drag the concert to previously undreamed of heights. "Telephone" is amazing enough on its own but I was wondering how she would cover Beyoncé's verse. As it turns out, she just played a recording of her part and sang along. Hearing the true Queen of American pop's voice gave me chills and I loved Gaga's quip about Beyjesus busting her out of gaol. Seeing the choreography from the video performed with startling accuracy was also a sight to behold. Epic!

Good witch Glenda

From here on in things got a little weird. The Lady sat down at a flaming piano to perform a couple of ballads and really brought "Brown Eyes" to life. Next up was "Speechless", another of my favourite tracks from "The Fame Monster". I love the song and her performance was extraordinary until she stopped halfway through and started rambling about her struggle to make it, feeling like a freak and loving her fans so very much. She then burst into tears before finishing the song. I'm not sure if the outburst was genuine (it would be interesting to know if she does it at every show) but it was nice to catch a rare glimpse of Stefani Germanotta. She quickly disappeared as Gaga re-emerged dressed as good witch Glenda to perform "So Happy I Could Die" on a platform that was elevated high above the crowd. Her costume was spectacularly beautiful and the set design was equally exquisite. While that might have been the concert's prettiest moment, "Monster" was probably the best choreographed and performed number. I've always like the song but she really took it to the next level and I haven't been able to stop listening to it since. Please release this as a single!

An exclusive pic of Gaga sans make up!

Another song that sounds vastly better live than on record is "Teeth". I can't even listen to it on "The Fame Monster" but it was bearable last night. More appealing was the delightful "Alejandro", which I believe is now officially going to be the third single. This segment was completely over the top - with Gaga pretending to die before demanding the audience to recognise her endless sex appeal (stop laughing!) and being dropped in a fountain spraying blood or red wine. It was completely ludicrous and pretty ridiculous to anyone old enough to know the various films, artists and performers she's ripping off but I loved every second of it. Unlike most fans, I actually think Gaga is in on the joke. Next up was another costume change - Kylie's catsuit from the "Telephone" video! - for "Poker Face", followed by an anime/King Kong inspired performance of "Paparazzi". Both were brilliant but the staging of "Paparazzi" was so simple yet effective (love the blow up monster!) that it left more of an impact. For the big finale Gaga dragged out "Bad Romance" and proved yet again why that is one of the greatest pop songs of all time. The costume was amazing but I'm constantly surprised how that anthem continues to develop and evolve. I could whinge about the increasingly long costume changes, the insipid speeches about being true to yourself and her general artistic thievery but that would be to deny her undeniable talent as a performer and her current status - like it or not - as one of pop music's greatest visionaries.

15 comments:

undisco_me said...

She's like a Geri Halliwell that can actually sing. That's not a diss, nor is it a compliment.

I can't wait to see her at some point - if she can play London in the summer that would be awesome for me.

Anonymous said...

Sounds horrible. I hope she dies!

Nick said...

Her entrance was so much better in the States! None of that boring curtain shit.

Sexbox said...

Speaking of Madonna, it looks like Gaga raided Madonna's Confessions tour wardrobe in the first pic. I love it!

Adem With An E said...

"Gaga introduced the song saying she had been performing it since she was 18 - so I guess that makes it about 20 years old."

Haha, amen. She's been "23" for 10 years now hasn't she?

I loved what you said about her being in on the joke and I think you're spot on. Fantastic review as always Mike, you've somehow upped my excitement for this show even more - seeing it next week, flying to Brisbane (!!)... cannot wait!

Ro Ro said...

This looks amazing. I love this woman. She doesn't arrive here until july but i'm so broke and it would take me well past july to raise GaGa concert funds tricking. That first outfit looked painful up the ass tho. I'm so jealous bitch! Did u get any gaga poon since you've gone str8? i bet she'd turn u out gurl! I saw madonna chose to be Anonymous upon posting here. poor madge such jealousy :(

Mike said...

You just know that Madge has a Gaga voodoo doll next to her anti-ageing creme and stool softener!

I think you guys would love it. The show is very impressive. Amost as good as Beyoncé's era defining "I Am" tour!!!

Anonymous said...

Did they serve gaga sandwiches before the show? and what merch did you buy? Can't wait until I go to the 3rd show!

Jaynie said...

I'm seeing her in Melbourne on Wednesday, can't wait!!!

Abuga said...

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Me said...

Did she do a racist with the finale or did she actually bother singing?

ANd someone needs to tell teh bitch to wear a bra - just because she has 2 lentils on an ikea flat pack for breasts doesn't stop them from drooping...

John said...

First off, "Monster" absolutely needs to be a single. There's an epic club-banger waiting for the right remix. Your review has convinced me to go see her when she comes back here in July.

Scott said...

Gags says she'll never release any of her leaked tracks because she doesn't want to sell something her fans have already heard, so I think that means you have her permission to download "Vanity".

Mr. Will-W. said...

omg amazing. the set is totally revamped from what i saw and all new costumes. cannot wait to see this in july!

so with you on the fact that "dance in the dark" is a poor choice for an opener.

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