Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s Artpop Ball @ Key Arena, Seattle (August 8, 2014)

Lady Gaga performs onstage during her "artRave: The Artpop Ball" at Consol Energy Center on May 8, 2014 in Pittsburgh City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Lady Gaga performs onstage during her “artRave: The Artpop Ball” at Consol Energy Center on May 8, 2014 in Pittsburgh City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

~ Written by Jessica Price. This review originally appeared in Seattle Gay News (August 15, 2014)

It’s been a tough year and a half for Lady Gaga. Her album Artpop was a disappointment to all but the most diehard fans when it was released in late 2013, followed by weird antics that somehow weren’t as charming as those we’d come to expect from the meat-dress wearing heroine of days gone by (neon vomit performance art at SXSW, anyone?). Then there was the cancellation of Gaga’s May 28 concert at Key Arena due to a severe case of bronchitis just hours before show time.

But fans of Lady Gaga weren’t disappointed by the spectacle that is “ArtRave: The Artpop Ball” when it descended on Key Arena Friday night. The diminutive but larger-than-life singer gave it all she’s got and has clearly bounced back from her first major career misstep, as well as the hip surgery that caused her to cancel all remaining dates of the acclaimed “Born This Way Ball” in early 2013. The “Artpop Ball” attempted to close that gap and reconnect where she left off, while trumpeting new material and Gaga’s current pop-as-performance-art philosophy.

The Key Arena show consisted mostly of material from Artpop’s better moments (“ARTPOP” and “G.U.Y.” kicked things off), with a heavy sprinkling of older Gaga classics. She looked strong and healthy – few can stomp in mile-high stilettos the way that Stefani Germanotta can – and her voice sounded as full as ever. Gaga knows how to make an entrance: the translucent stage and sprawling catwalks filled with smoke and a fleet of backup dancers while Gaga materialized in shimmering gold wings, a blue mirror ball attached to her bodice.

“Donatella” ended the first segment, with the star reappearing for “Venus” in her highest bouffant wig and seashell bikini. Giant inflatable flowers popped up through the catwalks as backup dancers dashed around in pastel sea-monkey-esque costumes and headpieces. Gaga unleashed full voice for “MANiCURE”, proving that though she’s famous for fashion-centric antics, she’s severely underrated as a vocalist. At several points throughout the evening Gaga called out critics that accuse her of lip-synching, joking even as she played piano that it really wasn’t her (“There’s a man playing this backstage for me right now,” she deadpanned).

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

The next mini-set included a Fame Monster suite of songs. “Just Dance”, “Poker Face”, and “Telephone” ushered in another costume change to wild cheering from the audience. Gaga the scruffy club kid singing about unrequited (slightly psychotic) love while dreaming of being famous feels more relatable than Gaga singing about actually being famous. Therefore, this portion of the set was the most fun. An interlude of “Partynauseous” followed; not one of her best, but amidst the thundering bass Gaga exited and reappeared in a bouncy, cartoonish octopus tentacle dress for “Paparazzi” and “Do What U Want”.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Taking a seat at her crystal-encased piano, Gaga took a moment to point out her father, Joe Germanotta, in the pit and asked the crowd to join her in singing happy birthday to him. She dedicated “Dope” to him and moved on to a heartfelt, slowed-down “Born This Way” from the small catwalk stage. She apologized multiple times for canceling the previous Seattle date, assuring fans that she didn’t want to deliver any less than her best and wanted to make it up to them. After the brief piano segment, she sang a portion of “The Edge of Glory” followed by “Judas”, featuring some of the original choreography from the video. Fans began to throw piles of gifts and letters onstage and Gaga (as she does at every show) took a moment to read a few aloud, inviting several teenagers to join her backstage after the show for sharing their deeply personal letters.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Lady Gaga  "artRave: The Artpop Ball" Tour - Pittsburgh

“Aura”, “Sexxx Dreams”, and “Alejandro” featured another costume change and a final blowout of “Bad Romance”, “Applause” and “Swine” (complete with sequined pig mask). Though the new material is lackluster, the show delivered; ending on a high with a piano-laced encore of “Gypsy”. If fans were disappointed with the new material, they didn’t show it – even the farthest arena sections were mostly on their feet. Gaga is at her best when her voice and talent cut through the bluster, and there was enough of that to satisfy. Given time to consider her next moves, the industrious 28 year old will undoubtedly overcome any recent career missteps and surprise us all with future albums that stand to be the best of her career.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Lady Gaga  "artRave: The Artpop Ball" Tour - Pittsburgh

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I’d rather be listening to the Paradise Edition.

Somehow I find Lady Gaga easier to take watching this morning’s hour long keynote interview at SXSW by John Norris than I’ve found her in any other instance from 2013 until now. (And when I say ‘keynote’ I mean it loosely, as it used to be that SXSW keynotes were more about the state of the industry than about the artist personally…which this attempts to do, but…it’s really more about Gaga). Yes her Artpop album is dismal, yes her performance at SXSW wasn’t quite as artful and terrific as she seems to think that it was (it was actually awful), yes her mind wanders and are we seriously talking about Doritos??? But, then when I listen to her I think “ok, she’s not sooooo bad in person.” Maybe I’m actually the one that’s detached from reality.

*****

LANA MAY 27 2014(1)

In more flawless news, tickets came and tickets went for the WaMu Theater’s upcoming Lana Del Rey performance. In fact the entire North American tour is sold out, except Montreal (which goes on sale tomorrow). The cavernous WaMu Theater holds 3,500 to 7,200 depending on the configuration – in this case I’m sure it’s going to be stuffed to capacity or more – so a sell out in just over 24 hours speaks volumes.

Lana is coming. Look busy.

Lady Gaga @ Tacoma Dome, Tacoma (January 14, 2013)

The set of Lady Gaga's Born This Way tour (Photo PictureGroup)

The set of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way tour (Photo PictureGroup)

~ Written by Jessica Price. This review originally appeared in Seattle Gay News (January 18, 2013)

When religious picketers perch outside the gates of any concert, it’s a sure sign of a spectacularly good time.  Lady Gaga kicked off the first US date of her Born This Way Ball at the Tacoma Dome with much fanfare, including the official launch of the Born Brave bus.  The interactive outreach vehicle is bedecked with fan-generated artwork and aimed at connecting youth with local resources for issues ranging from mental health to bullying.  (Gaga herself surprised fans by appearing for a personal viewing of the bus, leading an informal champagne toast several hours before the show).

Yet despite the good works of Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta (who jointly run the Born This Way Foundation), the handful of protestors loudly voiced homophobic comments and opposition, however futile. “What you are about to do is called ‘idol worship’…” shouted one young zealot, a warning gleefully met with laughter and a sea of emphatic ‘amens’ from fans.  Dressed to the nines- everyone from seven year olds with good-natured parents, shivering teenagers emulating Gaga’s most risqué outfits, gay couple of all ages, and curious bystanders- were ready to have the time of their lives inside the Dome.  And so they did, come hellfire or not.

The Born This Way Ball, a more tightly executed and presumably bigger budget affair than 2009-2011’s  The Monster Ball, was a nonstop feast for the eyes, delivering all the outrageous sets and Thierry Mugler-like eeriness one could hope for in two and half hours.  Over a dozen fantastical costume changes- the kind of showstoppers we’ve come to expect from Gaga- caused jaws to drop repeatedly and confirmed that Gaga, who turns 27 in March, is in great shape and refreshed after a month off for the holidays (the tour began last April in Korea, continuing through March in the US).  Beginning with Gaga’s emergence in futuristic battle gear astride a black unicorn that walked the stage’s fortress and around the catwalks, one outlandish ensemble materialized after another. Horned masks with three faces, alien-like headpieces, a more “practical” version of the meat dress (not to mention a meat sofa and human-size meat grinders), and a hot pink origami dress reminiscent of  John Galliano’s 2007 Dior collection all made appearances, as did all manner of silicon, latex, and leather.  Album cover imagery came to life as Gaga transformed into a motorcycle creature during “Heavy Metal Lover” and cruised along the stage’s catwalks.

(Photo PictureGroup)

Lady Gaga during “Heavy Metal Lover” (Photo PictureGroup)

Performing the entire Born This Way album, the theme predictably hinged on acceptance and bravery but loosely tied into an otherworldly premise- something to do with alien births and G.O.A.T. (government owned alien territory, Gaga explained). Gaga gave birth to herself twice during the evening: once clawing her way out of an obscenely spread inflatable pair of high-heeled legs and a second time emerging from a translucent egg.  A hologram-like disembodied face floated around dispensing bits of narration from within a neon diamond.  Amidst this nonstop action, Gaga managed to weave in past hits “Bad Romance”, “Telephone”, “Love Game”,  “Just Dance”, “Poker Face”, “Alejandro”, “Paparazzi” and still find time for a mid-show personal phone call to a stunned audience member complete with a reprise of “Born This Way”.  She wasn’t kidding when she said “Look at your cell phones; I’m calling one of you.”

Despite her bombastic image and constant antics, at this point one would have to be completely in denial to discredit Gaga’s penchant for hit songs coupled with natural vocal strength.  Anyone that’s seen her incessant tour itinerary must recognize how hard she works, and part of the reason we’re fascinated with Gaga in the first place is her calculated insanity. The Born This Way Ball crystallizes the crazy message she’s been trying to worm into our consciousness the last five years.   It remains to be seen if literally catering to kids in songs like “Hair”, “Bad Kids”, and her stage banter will evolve with next release ARTPOP and resonate with older fans- or let’s face it, ones closer to her own age.  (It’s hard to convincingly sing about high school at 27, unless perhaps you’re watching Grease).  A tongue-in-cheek comment by Gaga herself at one point about the show “not being for children” raised the question of whom exactly her audience is these days.  It seems to be a pretty varied bunch of monsters, most of them young, but many old enough to know a ridiculously good time when they see one and “Just Dance”.

LONDON - 08 SEPTEMBER 2012: Lady Gaga performs at her first London concert on her Born This Way" at the Twickenham Stadium London 8th September 2012 (Photo PictureGroup)

LONDON – 08 SEPTEMBER 2012: Lady Gaga performs at her first London concert on her Born This Way tour at the Twickenham Stadium London 8th September 2012 (Photo PictureGroup)