Monday, 16 July 2012

Gaga ooh la la

Concert –
Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way Ball’
Producer/Company –
Live Nation and Michael Coppel
Venue –
Rod Laver Arena
Date and time –
Tuesday, 3 July, 8.30pm

Lady Gaga burst onto the pop music scene with her album ‘The Fame’ in 2008. An extended, repackaged version of the album, ‘The Fame Monster’, was issued in 2009, followed in 2011 with the album, ‘Born This Way’. Gaga has had a string of highly successful singles from these albums, complemented by her often-shocking music video clips and award show performances, all of which showcase her frenetic fashion sensibility.

Gaga visited Australia briefly in 2011 with her ‘Monster Ball’ tour. The ‘Born This Way Ball’ tour is her first full concert tour throughout Australia, which sold out five shows in Melbourne alone. This concert was always going to be outrageous, and Gaga certainly didn’t disappoint.

The vague frame of reference for Gaga’s spectacle was that she was a character escaping from captivity, on a mission to regroup and then liberate our planet. As such, Gaga often resembled a glamourous space alien. Indeed, her costume changes rivalled those of other notable concert divas ­– Madonna and Cher come to mind – with each succeeding outfit outdoing the last.

The set was a vast, castle-like structure, which ‘The Age’ review accurately referred to as ‘Masters of the Universe-style’. It opened out like a Barbie fun-house to reveal its inner workings, and was inhabited by Gaga’s band, several members of which stepped out to join Gaga on stage during the evening. (I was most intrigued by her keyboard player’s three hundred and sixty degree, circular, lit piano.) The set was paired with a dazzling lighting rig, which lit up the whole arena at various times. In addition, between the set and the lighting was a giant, floating, orb ‘face’ – a version of Gaga herself – which was animated to speak between songs.

A full complement of suitably buff, talented male and female dancers accompanied Gaga on nearly every number. Their costumes were as eye-popping as Gaga’s, even if they were also often very revealing. Their dance routines looked truly exhausting and were frequently highly erotic.

The pleasing surprise of this concert was that Gaga has a strong, legitimate voice. Despite a bevy of backing singers, the extensive band and various microphone effects, it was very clear that Gaga can solidly hold a tune. Gaga also appears to be an accomplished musician, playing guitar and keyboard on several numbers, and even accompanying herself solo on one number. Her voice and musical talent, coupled with the knowledge that she writes or co-writes all of her songs, helps to explain some of her popularity. Despite the clever stage management of her persona, Gaga also came across as being quite genuine. She extended her thanks to her fans numerous times during the show, and shared many words of encouragement for those of us in the audience to follow our dreams no matter what others might say.

It might be that I’m getting too old for concerts like this, but I found that the sound mix was preposterously loud. I felt like I had cotton wool in my ears for a day or so after the concert. And Lady Gaga was due to come on at 8.30pm, but on the night I attended she kept us waiting an additional twenty minutes. I can’t help but think that this is somewhat unprofessional. At the very least, performers needs to factor in that their audiences often have significant distances to travel home from concerts, particularly given the vagaries of public transport, especially when a concert is held on a week night as was this one.

Those seeking a spectacle only – via dance, costumes, and staging – were never going to go unrewarded in this concert. Be it Gaga as a motorcycle, reclining on a ‘meat couch’ or wearing a machine gun bra: all the stops were pulled out, and then some. Gaga performed many of her most popular singles, as well as several album favourites, also premiering a new song sure to offend nearly everyone: ‘Princess Die’. This concert was, as the young people like to say, ‘totes awes’.

Plastic fantastic.
(The Abusicals two-word summary is, of course, tongue-in-cheek.)

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