Welcome to the Monster Ball
I never understood what the hype was about. I mean, she wears strange clothing (if you call it that sometimes) and she labels herself as “androgynous”. Her music videos are even more confusing to those who aren’t die-hard fans and she has some good songs. But how fabricated is she? I didn’t understand what Lady Gaga was all about until last night.
Here’s a woman who had a terrible time being picked on at school for being homely. Her escape was music: singing, playing the bass, the piano and even the organ. My assumption was that she was a fabricated singer at best who didn’t write her own music and probably lip-synced to her own music at concerts. I was proven wrong – on all fronts.
Set scene: Thousands of screaming fans in glitter, feather boas, sequins, fairy costumes, outlandish makeup, leather, ripped stockings, wigs – basically anything you can dream up and it was there. If I had been assigned to photograph just the fans for a fashion piece, I would have claimed to have the best job on the planet. It was as if the best of Disney and Halloween came together for one night.
About 9:20pm, the lights went down and the roar was defeaning. Black and white fashion images of Lady Gaga took over the white stage curtain and house music played. You instantly felt like you were about to see a runway show, as opposed to a concert. A countdown began at 10 and at 1, the projected images gave way to a large shadow of Lady Gaga singing.
After the first song, the curtain was raised and it revealed a shady alleyway in New York with a broken down car. It was then that the story was starting to be revealed. Her and her friends were trying to get to the Monster Ball. At this point, Lady Gaga is wearing a purple dress with large shoulder pads and sings “Dance in the Dark”.
(Curtain comes back down with more black and white images and more house music)
Act II: Lady Gaga and her friends are now in a subway. She’s dressed in a scantily-clad nun’s outfit, complete with large hat (a depiction of a pre-habit era). After a few more songs: “Boys, Boys, Boys” (the male dancers were wearing white boxer briefs with ahem “enhanced parts”, followed by “Beautiful and Dirty Rich” – video here), she stops to address the crowd. She’s carrying a scepter of sorts that has a huge spotlight and camera at the end of it. She’s reading people’s posters, engaging with the audience and even sang a rather beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday to one fan. This pause seemed to tie in, seamlessly, with the next song – “Love Game”.
(Curtain comes down and more black and white – now moving/rather disturbing – images display with more house music)
Act III: Lady Gaga and her crew are stuck in a dark, scary forest (and is wearing a large red cape, also covering part of her face, with large horizontal shoulders that looked as though she accidentally got caught on a clothes line). After her first song, the cape gives way to a patent leather bikini of sorts. She is playing a piano that has been set on fire. Her voice sounds soulful while she sings. This transitions to her next high-energy act: “Monster”. It’s at this point that her dance group crowds around her and emerge bloody – they’ve eaten her heart (metaphorically speaking). This is followed by her taking yet another break to call someone in the audience. Usually, it would sound like a fabricated marketing ploy but the crowd was convinced otherwise when the camera panned to the woman on the other end of the call. It just happened to be the one fan that was a mom who escorted her pre-teen daughter to the concert. Lady Gaga called to invite her backstage to meet her. Her daughter looked like she was going to faint and her mom (I’m pretty sure) didn’t know what to make of it. The song that followed this was “Telephone”, which was then followed by “Alejandro” – a rather sultry dance number. The end of this “act” was Teeth, where she started by playing the intro to Phantom of the Opera on an organ, which led her to roam in a fountain of fake blood, before being carried off to the front of the stage where a “twister” swallowed up her and her friends.
(Curtain comes down again for the same sequence.)
Act IV: This “twister” was a conical LED board that showed various colored Lady Gaga images and more house music. When it was raised, it revealed Lady Gaga in a white butterfly costume with a mechanical headpiece that looked like a sea anemone had come to life (she’s still covered in blood/corn syrup). She’s lifted up over the crowd on a platform when she sings. When she is set back down, she starts talking to the crowd. She sort of sings her words and when the crowd starts to get pumped she lets her vocals loose and the most soulful/rocker-filled vocals come out, that could give Christina Aguilera a run for her money. It made the crowd go wild.
(The white curtain comes down again and the sequence repeats, except they fall more into the S&M variety.)
Act V: Lady Gaga emerges to find that her dance team has left her by herself and the “fame monster” comes out to try to get her (video here). It’s a light up dragon that has glowing eyes and teeth. It’s then that she sings Papparazzi, followed by The Fame.
(The white curtain comes down again and the sequence repeats)
Act VI: Lady Gaga is wearing a chrome star-like dress and shoes for the final number: “Just Dance”.
(The white curtain comes down again and people are at a defeaning roar once again.)
Encore: Lady Gaga and her female singers come out in simple, long dresses and begin “Born This Way” – a cappella. Eventually the band and the dancers come out to join in.
The lights come on and the show is over.
I’ve seen a lot of performers in my day and so far, none compare to what I just saw last night. Lady Gaga is a true performer: She writes her own songs, she sings, she dances well, she plays a multiple of instruments and she engaged with her crowd to let them know she cares. I liken her show to a full-on Broadway performance. To those who don’t understand… to go through that many costume changes, that many intricate (and large stage sets) and that many songs, without passing out from exhaustion (of full-on singing and dancing), deserves the Grammys she was up for.
I’ve not only downloaded the rest of her songs (there really isn’t a bad one), I’m already trying to find when she’s coming back.