drama in the dark: Gaga’s Monster Ball concert review

We arrived for the Monster Ball expecting to be thrilled, and thrilled we were. Lady Gaga is the epitome of a perfect pop star: Irreverent, talented, alluring, grotesque, shameless and unique. (Among a slew of other adjectives…and somehow, Gaga evades description.)  After suffering through the agonizing gender-bending glam-rock performance by the Semi-Precious Weapons, Lady Gaga Herself finally emerged after much teasing for “Dance in the Dark.” Her appearance itself was climactic and ecstatic as she slowly emerges from behind a multicolored screen and sheds her sequined jacket and giant sunglasses (if you could call them that). The energy of the audience pulsed along with the electro-dance beats. Gaga’s show is much more than smoke and mirrors: It’s a mishmash of Cirque du Soleil meets Phantom of the Opera, with a bit of the gay-transgender-centric Priscilla, Queen of the Desert thrown in. Add epically catchy pop beats and scale the drama up exponentially, add lights, sensational-surreal costumes and Gaga herself and you have an instant phenomenon, a lavish feast for eyes and ears.

Lady Gaga notoriously adores her fans, and the love sparks back and forth throughout the evening, audience to pop star and back. She perpetually thanks her “little monsters,” declaring that she has the best fans in the world. Gaga crumples on the stage, saying she is like Tinkerbell and needs applause to live: The crowd roars in response, urging Gaga back to larger-than-life. Toward the end of the concert, she ardently screams “no one will ever love you more than I love you, goddamnit!” Crazy thing is, you can’t help but believe her. Gaga plays to sold-out stadiums and arenas all over the world and it feels like she is crooning for you alone. Lady Gaga loves me. Even the most jaded person will have a difficult time not feeling personally connected to Gaga at the Monster Ball; she embraces her fans of all orientations and sexual varieties and has become a tremendous icon in the gay-lesbian-transgender community. Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball is a place for all the freaks to be themselves, she declares, to be free.

Costumes didn’t disappoint, and Gaga was avant garde as ever. Almost all of Gaga’s outfits showcased her enviably lean legs (top to bottom), and there was no shortage of pleather. Female concert attendees paid homage to the star in their own renditions of Gaga-inspired attire; ranging from Telephone video soda-can hair rollers to the iconic giant hair bow made of actual hair, ripped leggings and fishnets, glam rock gone supercharged. Anyone who has ever heard of Gaga or explored her on the Internet will know that her outfits are legendary and her concert costumes were indeed phenomenal. As I took it all in I wondered how on earth I would find adjectives with which to describe her outfits. Some were quite simply beyond description. Lady Gaga has shifted her look a bit in recent months, edging into something darker and more classic; milky skin and blood-red lips in contrast to her formerly fake-tanned and frosted look.  Best of all was her outfit during “Paparazzi” that spits sparks from her chest and crotch, to me was so powerful it made my eyes well with tears.

Lady Gaga is an epic performer and an accomplished musician. Throughout her show, she maintains consistent energy, saving enough for the euphoric encore performance of “Bad Romance.” Other noteworthy highlights: A heartfelt rendition of “Speechless,” with Gaga playing piano (some backwards) and a brand-new song called “You and I” from her newest album (insert squeals of delight here) and a dramatic rendition of “So Happy I Could Die” in which Gaga sports a fully-automated ice queen outfit and rises up towards the crowd. And of course, my personal favorite Gaga song, “Paparazzi,” with its infectious chorus: “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, paparazzi/Baby there’s no other superstar, you know they love me, paparazzi/Promise I’ll be kind, but I won’t stop until that boy is mine/Baby you’ll be famous, chase you down until you love me, paparazzi.”

Lady Gaga hates the truth (even more than she claims to hate money, apparently). During her set she declares “I’d rather have a giant dose of bullshit every day than the truth.” And so we spend our time with her in a suspended reality; a wall of fantasy and magic. Even as Gaga took short breaks offstage, the monitors showed uber-artsy videos and poses featuring Gaga. She’s a chameleon-like performer who keeps her fans guessing. It’s hard to imagine that to her friends and family, she is still Stefani Germanotta. To the world, she is “Lady Fucking Gaga” (aptly introduced by Semi Precious Weapons’ Justin Tranter), worldwide superstar. Gaga is perpetually in character. It seems to be her reason for being on this planet. Her transformative veneer is endlessly fascinating to me. Gaga’s inspirations are often transparent: She draws from high fashion as much as it draws from her, she’s an “art whore,” she loves David Bowie, old horror films, and although some say she’s reminiscent of Madonna’s reign in the 80s–Lady Gaga has forged her own brand of performance art, infused with too many influences to count and marked with her own creative brilliance. She’s on top because she does it better than anyone else who’s out there; accept no imitations. I’d venture to say that although she isn’t always going for it, Lady Gaga is universally beautiful. And her show is sensational and well worth the megabucks; so see it if you can.

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