Gig review: Lady Gaga (Auckland)

Last updated 14:39 15/03/2010

We were in Auckland for Pixies. So what do you do the night after seeing one of your favourite bands? You go to Lady Gaga, right? Right? Well, we did...and here's my review:

Lady Gaga: Monster Ball Tour

Lady Gaga
Vector Arena, Auckland
Saturday, March 13 & Sunday, March 14


Lady Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Gemanotta) has big ideas. And that is what you need if you are going to succeed as an enduring pop act. She's now well placed to take over from Madonna and Kylie.

The Monster Ball Tour is an often absurd and frequently exhilarating concert experience. Filled with dancers that look like they bunked off a day on the set of Glee to go watch this old movie The Warriors that someone told them about; filled with a giant scaffold stage-set that replicates a New York back lot, filled with ambition and pomposity, The Monster Ball Tour is, apparently, "a pop electro opera"; it is also everything a huge pop show should be - filled with songs the fans love, that play as soundtracks to set pieces.

Opening with Dance in the Dark, Gaga silhouetted and striking various stop-motion poses, the audience still had no idea what was behind the curtain. When it finally opened we were forced into the world of Gaga. A baffling mix of New York art-school trash and deconstructed outfits that reference cyber-punk, David Bowie's Glass Spider Tour, Michael Jackson's Thriller video/short-film and a car park out back of where they set the film Centre Stage.

I don't care about any of the songs in this performance - and I don't have to. I'm sure I'm not alone - but it's impossible to fight the thrill of aspects of this show; of a car being on stage, the bonnet opened to reveal a keyboard; of a giant sea monster being manipulated by puppeteers; of a baby grand piano played while on fire; of a stage that swallows Gaga up then raises her on a pedestal.

There are half a dozen costume changes and several set pieces need time for restaging, so the curtain closes after three or four songs to play a video while the sets are swapped. Every time the curtain reopens it is something new - another reason for the fans to shriek.

During Brown Eyes and Speechless, Gaga at piano in bra and knickers talking about how much she loves drinking, it became apparent that as clever as this artist might be - for deconstructing the myth of pop, for subverting mainstream pop style while living it - she is also very stupid. And it's likely there are as many puppeteers (or more) behind Gaga as there are behind the giant monster head that graces her stage near the end of the concert.

Call me old-fashioned, but pop stars do have some obligations. And as Gaga spoke "the truth" and instructed the audience to "never listen to anyone but themselves", to get their "cocks out" and to go out and drink loads of alcohol with their matters, I felt sorry for the parents of young children in the audience. I felt sorry for the teachers that have to deal with these silly, stroppy little adolescents. I felt sorry for future employers of highly strung know-it-all brats.

I'm not about to say that this all comes from Lady Gaga - she is after all just playing a role. But she knows who is buying her music - she has some awareness there. And sure, the audience spanned a huge age range, and sure, loads of older people (presumably) have bought her albums. But there were plenty of the young and impressionable - under 18 - lapping up every instruction.

Gaga fans go gaga for her - she knows this and manipulates it. So that is good - when it comes to putting on an amazing show that relies on some form of participation and suspension of disbelief. But not so good when we're hearing Gaga, in her faux-soft voice saying "do you think I'm sexy?" Fake blood all over her in a one-piece leotard. "Because," she goes on to impossibly suggest, "I find all of you sexy."

There was also the ridiculous, "I'm like Tinkerbell. I'll die if you don't clap." Shut up and play your piano!

Well, play the piano she did. And she can definitely sing, and there's a live band creating the music. I'm still not won over by the songs, but this sort of show is less about impressing people with the music and more about recreating a sensual experience to match the music videos, to play out like the daydreams of the most devoted fans. And she writes a better pop song than most, in this day and age.

And this is where you cannot fault Lady Gaga and her Monster Ball Show.

There's a daft construct but a deft construction - the show is flawless in so many ways but it rides on how utterly absurd it all is.

I haven't seen a "pop-star show" since Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope Tour. Sure, I've been and reviewed Pink and Fergie and Black Eyed Peas and so on - but I haven't seen a show-show in a long time.

And with Kylie Minogue off the boil, with Michael Jackson dead and with Madonna being just plain gross - a 50-year-old rotisserie chicken in a leotard still trying to be provocative - Lady Gaga's timing is exquisite. She has a clan of fans - a real cult. She's working hard to deliver on that, to subvert the pop song.

She just needs to decide whether her target market is flamboyant gay people that love the kitsch element and applaud the stage show, or the tweens that have, indirectly, via mummy and daddy's hard-earned cash, made her a star.

As she goes further on this mad trip it is irresponsible to try to serve both masters. It is after all the fans (in both, erm, camps) that made this monster.

So, I loved almost every minute of the two-hour show. And when I did get bored (occasionally) a new set piece arrived; the gears changed. Things happened. I'm pleased I saw a current pop star on top of her game.

Did you go to either show? Did you love it? Or were you disappointed? Or would you never go and see something like Lady Gaga? Is she the real deal or a total fraud? Or, is she somehow a bit of both?

Are you gaga for Gaga? Or does she make you ga-gag?

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Post a comment
guy   #1   02:46 pm Mar 15 2010

gaga is a puppet. manipulated to do whatever 'the hand that feeds' requires. before gaga, she was nothing. after gaga, she will again be nothing. sooner rather than later thanks

Simon   #2   03:40 pm Mar 15 2010

All the attention after one album, with 3 or 4 moderately decent pop/dance tunes. Media seems enamored with her as much as the record buying public. And we both know how easily they can both be manipulated. Despite all the ridiculous comparisons to Madonna etc (different times people), I give her another album or two (at most) before she fades away from the spotlight, as a fickle buying public yearn for something new. That's what happens when your entire act is built almost entirely on pretense and surfaces. Beneath all that, Gaga is just another unspectacular pop trying desperately to fool people into thinking she is something else. And it's working, for the moment. Clock is ticking...

todd   #3   03:43 pm Mar 15 2010

didn't see the show, but enjoyed your article. Caught the imagery. Thanks :)

Joshua   #4   03:53 pm Mar 15 2010

Good review! I went along on Sunday night and had an absolutely wonderful time. I thinkyou miss the point about Lady Gaga though - she genuinely does not give a crap what people think or about society's expectations. She lives life her way and tells us to do the same - i.e., live life our way (not her way). If the parents and teachers fail to impart this lesson on to their kids then you can hardly blame Gaga for the results.

The music was amazing, just a pity that the majority of the audience failed to appreciate the ballards and older (more pop rock) work that was performed during the middle of the show - that for me was the real highlight - seeing the full range of her ability and not merely the manufactured pop that teens and tweens seem to love so much!

Noshow   #5   03:53 pm Mar 15 2010

Simon you are a man who never ceases to amaze me.

Just when I feel I have you pegged you go and write a review that really paints a picture for those of us who couldn't be there. I expected the worst with regards to a fair, balanced review when I saw the heading for this piece but I got more; much more.

You're back on my Christmas card list and this year I'm doing me in your fave Lady Gaga outfit on the cover.

Well done that man.

Madeleine   #6   03:56 pm Mar 15 2010

The most entertaining show I have EVER experienced! And I'm not a fan. Shades of Madonna's 'Blonde Ambition' tour; but who cares. We were there for the Pixies the night before, and I'm still scratching my head as to how they managed to pack the whole rig in, in time for Saturday night's kick off.

Aside from the ridiculous storyline, my only real criticism was that it should have been R18... not really a place for wide-eyed 7 year-olds, though thumbs-up to the dad I saw wearing the tour t-shirt afterwards, at the insistence of his little girl.

AaronC   #7   04:01 pm Mar 15 2010

Did she really do a fountain of blood? How distasteful and sick.

stingdutchie   #8   04:15 pm Mar 15 2010

I am not surprised the tone of cynicism with the reviewer. He's old, and belongs to a different generation. Hello....time to hire a hip music/gig reviewer! I bet this guy owns Susan Boyle CD. It's pop music... hello.

jimmy   #9   04:40 pm Mar 15 2010

Simon I'd have to agree with both reviews posted today. We travelled up from Dunedin to see the Pixies and decided to see Lady Gaga for the spectacle. We were not disappointed by either concert. The Pixies will always one of favourite bands and I didn't expect anything more of their performance. I was totally entertained by the scale of the Lady GaGa show; she does appear to have buckets of talent. As a dad I couldn't help thinking about the poor parents who had brought their kids along. Most of GaGa’s innuendo may have been lost on the pre ten audience unlike her support band (Semiprecious Weapons?) who were about ten times more explicit and also a fairly poor take off of the New York Dolls.

Not gagged   #10   04:42 pm Mar 15 2010

I'm in no way a fan of Lady Gaga's music, but I took my girlfriend along and was mightily impressed by the show, by which I mean the sets and costumes (there were way more than six costume changes by the way). However, I totally disagree with all the complaints about content being unsuitable for children. It's great to see a pop star willing to express herself! She's made it to the top without censoring herself, and that's how she'll stay there.

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