7.26.10 – Houston, TX – Lady Gaga – Monster Ball
It’s rare that an artist with just 1 full album (and 1 extension of that album) can sell out an arena of 20,000 people. Consider also the state of the economy, the price per ticket ($175), and that not only did the first show sell out, but that a second show was added and sold out as well (both in under an hour). Then think about the state of the music industry at it stands now where some artists are struggling to sell tickets to smaller venues or just canceling dates all together because of slow ticket sales. Only a handful of artists can do this. Lady Gaga is one of those artists.
Her Monster Ball Tour starts off with a beat that jolts you from your chair commanding you to dance. Accompanied with a full size black and white video showing a glam gaga in slow motion while the thumping beat swells into her first song, “Dance in the Dark.” She performs the song from behind a screen and in full silhouette letting us know that even if we can’t see her face it is unmistakably Lady Gaga herself. Once into the show you realize that the show itself is a journey for Lady Gaga and her friends to get to the Monster’s Ball and can be wrapped up in a few sections. In the first section, Gaga’s travel plans are derailed when her car breaks down. This part of her show is very high energy. Songs include “Dance in the Dark,” “Glitter and Grease,” and the mega-hit, “Just Dance.” This shows Gaga as we’ve come to know her. Fully shaded from her audience in huge sunglasses and even bigger shoulder pads to give that exaggerated, illustrated shape demanding the audience’s attention.
When Gaga returns from a wardrobe change to play “The Fame,” she is decked out in what I can only describe as a red bat-like costume and a red head piece that looks like a cross between a face lift bandage and an ice pack used after having wisdom teeth removed. At this point in the show I felt a slight disconnect with the “journey” or story that Gaga is trying to tell. During her performance of “The Fame” I was confused as to what the red outfit had to do with ANY part of her show. It felt like it was just thrown in there just to be there. Gaga’s solo dancing during this song felt disorganized and unrehearsed. At the end of the song the curtain comes down to show a video interlude to lead to the next segment.
During the second segment of the show, Gaga and friends now hop on a subway to take them to the Monster’s Ball since their car has broken down (see segment 1). She opens with a bang. The full throttle, sexy “Love Game.” Again I am at another disconnect. She appears from the subway car wearing a Nun-like habit and plastic dress-like costume. I was not sure where she was going with this or what statement she was trying to make but I am still enjoying the ride none-the-less. This also is where Gaga get political. Standing up for her favorite cause – the LGBT community before breaking into her hyper-sexual “Boys Boys Boys” song. Perfect and appropriate transition. The beats don’t stop there either, moving right along to “Money Honey” and “Telephone” (which had the entire arena on its feet).
At this point in the show Gaga takes to the piano to crank out a few ballads. The first song (“Speechless”) is a love song of sorts to her father who she acknowledges as her “favorite drunk asshole.” She also debuts a new song called “You and I.” An emotionally charged ballad that shows off her “softer” side. I was struck by how beautiful this song was and at this point you feel like you are witnessing Gaga’s true authentic self beyond the “Lady Gaga” facade. A piano bar player singing about love lost and heartbreak with a pinch of Freddy Mercury theatrics and Elton John style.
After a rather awkward transition, we now followed the journey to a dark, wicked, forest-like area. This also is where she gives us the meat of the show. With her sensuality on full display she treats us to a scathing, dirty, sexy, “Teeth.” Before moving on to “Alejandro,” Gaga steps on her religious soapbox. Screaming at Jesus for not loving her and how he should love everyone. What this has to do with the show or the Monster’s Ball, or the journey to get there…I don’t know. She springs back in a big way with “Poker Face” and looks every bit the superstar dressed in a head to toe sequin cat suit. “Poker Face” has the crowd jumping and dancing, it’s what we’ve been waiting for. At show’s end we have arrived to the Monster’s Ball with a literal giant puppet monster in her way (thanks for the irony). Signing off with “Paparazzi” before entering into the Ball and re-emerging in all full Gaga regalia to close the show with “Bad Romance.”
It’s pretty astonishing that at 23 years old Lady Gaga has accomplished so much in a very short period of time. I think over time her shows will become more refined and polished. For this tour I felt like it was a little disjointed and messy at times. The video interludes were beautiful and made such an artistic statement but had absolutely nothing to do with her show and, in the end felt like a piece of an art instillation in the wrong gallery. Gaga has moments of greatness (Poker Face, You and I, Dance in the Dark, Teeth, and Bad Romance) but ultimately is over shadowed by her need to make too many in-your-face statements without having a collective thread and her over the top outfits that have nothing to do with the story she was trying to tell or her show except to show that she isn’t afraid to wear ANYTHING. Her voice is a stand out among live performers today. She sounds just as good live as she does on her records. She has an amazing connection with her fans (“little monsters”) and seems genuinely grateful for them. At one point in the show she says “I don’t want you to leave here loving me more. I want you to leave here loving yourself more.” She plays directly to her audience and panders to no one. Embracing her “freak” and encouraging others to do the same. Once she can make a cohesive show where the sum of all of its parts add up and where every detail is in order she might even challenge the most seasoned performers on the stage. Until then, we can still enjoy the Gaga ride on the road it’s on now.
Didn’t make it to the Ball? Check out the opening track to the show below.