Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mike and Ken go to Lady Gaga's Monster Ball

When I said that I had gotten tickets to see Lady Gaga live, everyone who had seen her told me how amazing and unbelievable a show it was. But what does that mean, really?

So I went in tabula rasa – with a blank slate – not knowing at all what to expect. And she truly was amazing. I can say without a moment’s hesitation that if you ever, ever get the opportunity to see Lady Gaga, do it. Even if you don’t like her music. Even if it’s too much money. Just frikkin do it. The experience of a full two hours of Lady Gaga performance art and music is worth it.

One of this biggest shockers for me was that the music was completely different from what I expected (and I have all her CDs and the new single, “Born this Way”). Live she really, really rocks. I mean rocks. Her drummer is insane, pounding away with all his might, beating the shit out of the drums, adding fills and energy to the songs. The guitarists wailed. Long guitar leads and long guitar solos right up with the vocals, throughout the songs, totally overtaking the songs – which seemed to be rewritten and expanded to take advantage of the extreme guitar work. All the musicians were right at the front of the stage, working the crowd, rocking out. These people were not holding back, hiding behind Lady Gaga, the dancers or the sets.

What this accomplished was to turn songs that were the least interesting to me on CD – like “Boys Boys Boys” and “Dance in the Dark” – into savage rockers that blew me away.

And of course… there’s her. One has a certain feeling of “Oh my god, am I really here? Am I actually seeing her in person and not on some TV award show?” and yeah you are and there’s the incredible outfits and her awareness of every movement she makes and what effect it will have on the audience, and the dancing and dancers – incredibly hot and awesome – and the occasional kitschy bits of drama thrown in every so often to try and create some thin “plot” for the show (they’re trying to find the Monster Ball but their car broke down and they have to take the train and eventually they find the monster, etc). She comes across as a talented, sweet but bizarre young woman with a big heart who is really into art and people, loving and being loved. And did I mention the outfits? The one that looked like a sheet of plastic folded over her with panties underneath (see pic) was just one endearing outfit.

Surprisingly, the first five or six songs contained none of her hits. I mean, she’s had so many hits she could’ve tossed one in, but you had to wait. When the opening notes from a real hot tune like “Just Dance” or “Telephone” were heard people went wild.

Between songs (and even in the middle of songs) Lady Gaga would sometimes go on for a bit, talking – often rambling – about this or that, chatting with fans, reading some of their signs and responding to them. One sign said “Lady Gaga please sign this” so she had the security people pass it to her. She spoke often of how creative her “Little Monsters” are.

She is so gay-positive it’s mind-boggling. At one point she was gyrating beneath one of her dancers’ legs and said “This is Thomas. Do you know why I love Thomas? Because he LOVES Bay Area women” and he licks his lips exaggeratedly. And then she says “And do you know why I love Thomas? Because he LOVES Bay Area men!” and he’s all seductive smiles. For “Boys Boys Boys” – which she dedicates to the gays in audience – the four guy dancers come out wearing so little – essentially jock straps and some mummy-type wrapping on their torsos – and are grabbing their crotches and well, I think you really had to be there and, sorry – is it hot in here?

And y’know, lots of performers talk about being yourself and its ok to be a freak and let it all hang out tonight at the show and blah blah, but you have to give her credit for being so over the top with it. It’s her whole thing.

She talked about being bullied in school. She talked about homeless youth and how so many were gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. She talked about her little monsters. She talked about how the last time she played in Oakland there were 50 people there, looking at her like she was nuts, but we were all born superstars, we were all born this way (a recurring theme for the night) and we can all be what we want to be, who we are. There are definitely worse messages to have. At one point she spoke about how there are some who say that Jesus only loves people if they are a certain way, but she knows that Jesus loves everyone. Not quite for me, but a sweet message nonetheless.

The monster on stage for one song (see pic) is based on that charming character from the way depths of the sea with the huge teeth and the little light that hangs out in front of its eyes like a pole that you see in popular culture every so often. (If you don’t have The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian. I highly recommend getting it.)

We got there at 8:00 pm to see the Scissor Sisters, who went on at 8:45 and only played six songs. Lady Gaga went on an amazingly late 9:45 and played for TWO SOLID HOURS! Often after a number of songs a white curtain would go down and bizarre Dada-esque Warholish movies featuring her would be shown while behind the scenes they were completely changing the stage set to something even more outrageous than had already been there. Each set was unique, creative, detailed and over-the-top.

I was surprised that she played some instruments here and there (didn’t know she could), including a slow, soulful version of “Born This Way” in the middle of the concert on piano with light, soft accompaniment from the other musicians.

Due to the late hour some people left after the main set. But I am a firm believer that if the houselights haven’t gone up they’re obviously going to come out again so you might as well stick around and see all they’ve got – especially since tickets are so high and even parking was a (still trying to breathe) ridiculous $35. So people who left before the final two numbers missed intense, spectacular versions of “Bad Romance” and “Born This Way” – her new single which is now #1 for the 5th week on iTunes and is so frikkin gay it should be painted pink and carry a purse.

Note: It’s easy to focus on the $35 parking, the $6.50 bottles of soda, the $40 t-shirts and $30 programs. And these things should be brought up because they’re insane and disgusting and you’d think that with all she’s saying she might be able to help mitigate that some. But if you bite the bullet on the parking, sneak your own food in, and pass on the program (OK, I bought one) and focus on the show and the experience, it’s tough to walk away without being moved and astounded.