This is my first time at a Lady Gaga ‘ball’ and I’m not really sure to expect. Two hours later I’m still rather flummoxed.
Things start off much as anticipated. A vast pink curtain is pulled down to reveal a set that looks like a Peruvian adobe village fashioned out of sugar lumps. There are runways and catwalks under which the die-hard standing portion of the audience congregate.
Gaga has a tight but unspectacular five piece band and a solid troupe of dancers who strut their stuff in a succession of pastel costumes that are often adorned with random geometric shapes. They are professional and competent, but they are individually anonymous and do not pull focus from the star.
Lady Gaga herself first appears in a costume that looks to have been at least partly fashioned from a giant furry crab. As might be expected, Gaga is never one to shy away from a costume on the grounds of unsuitability or discomfort. Her most outlandish effort tonight is a Dalmatian-spotted creation that looks like a melted octopus. She teeters around and sings ‘Paparazzi’ and it’s all suitably odd and enjoyable.
Gaga has a powerful and technically perfect voice. Throughout the show she constantly reiterates that she sings live and plays her own instruments. No-one would suggest otherwise, but it appears to be an accusation that rankles.
Tonight’s extravaganza is to promote her most recent ‘Artpop’ album and the theme is #Artrave. This laudable concept intends to foster the idea that anyone can be an artist, and that if others don’t like it, do it anyway.
The slight problem is that the current album has its moments, but is nowhere near as strong in depth as Gaga’s previous works. Songs like ‘Aurora’, ‘G.U.Y’ and ‘Venus’ are fine in themselves, but they don’t compare to the likes of ‘Poker Face’ or ‘Americano’. When these older songs are effectively tossed away in medleys it seems a waste.
However, the performing of songs is possibly not the main reason why people are here nor the most important part of the show. Gaga has a connection with her audience, her ‘Little Monsters’ that is somewhere between den mother, agony aunt and best friend.
At all times this evening, if Gaga stops still for a moment she is pelted with notes, messages, items of clothing and general votive offerings. She takes a lot of time to read these out and give advice, put on the jackets etc and to offer counselling.
There is a lengthy, but very touching interlude when Gaga ministers to a fan who is struggling with issues surrounding a bi-polar disorder. Gaga gets her onstage, comforts her and allows her to sit alongside her as she performs a piano ballad version of ‘Born This Way’. While there is no doubt that time has been built into the show for something like this to happen, there is equally no doubt that this is a genuine gesture of affection and solicitude.
The crowd love Gaga and she loves them back. It doesn’t matter that the rhythm of the show is very haphazard or that things seem kind of subdued.
Things are so laid back that once she and the band perform the song ‘Swine’ and disappear, there is a hiatus where everyone just sits before the house lights come up and it becomes clear that if there is going to be an encore we might have to wait a while. Most of the crowd get up and leave at this point, myself included.
It’s been a very interesting evening. I come away feeling slightly short changed by the show, but with a much greater appreciation and respect for Lady Gaga the person.