It took me about 5 seconds to regret my decision not to dress up for Lady Gaga. I’d actually started – putting on a shiny velvet tank top, digging out costume jewelry, and getting out my lime-green faux fur jacket – but then I decided I was showing a lot of skin. Clearly, I had no idea what “a lot of skin” meant. The standard Lady Gaga audience look (for both genders) seemed to have required a stop at a West Hollywood “adult” store: cheek-bearing booty shorts, tiny bikini tops, teddies, and either 5-inch heels or shoes my friend called “tie-dyed Yeti.” I could have taken off my shirt and still had on more clothes than the people around me. Actually, I could have taken off my jeans, too, and stayed more conservative than a lot of the audience. Instead, I doubled down and put on my two coats, staying warm but looking ready to attend a Midwestern football game in November. As the lights dimmed I found myself wishing my recent visit to the specialty light bulb store had focused less on my halogen lamp and more on wearable lighting.
We’d arrived to hear the end of a DJ set that involved so much flashing light that I wasn’t sure if I’d end up hypnotized or developing epilepsy. It felt like we’d walked into an early-90s rave – all we needed was a whistle and a mini backpack (and the Teletubby-esque dancers later on were sporting exactly that). Just in case we hadn’t made the connection, “ArtRave” flashed wildly on the screens above the stage.
Overall, the production values were low for an ostensibly lavish tour. As Dolly Parton says, “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” The lighting washed out the performers, and props included beach balls like the ones the ushers confiscate at Dodger Stadium. Inflatables that popped out of the stage seemed like a cross between Russian onion domes and those cheap paper Christmas trees that grow crystals when you get them wet. The stage curtain looked like it had been stitched together from white garbage bags, and the main set reminded me of the design my friend once cobbled together when all the director would tell her was that it should be “puffy and white.” With its lumpy blobs and ring-shaped piano, it also bore more than a passing resemblance to the Mos Eisley cantina. In the end, the whole evening felt like a cross between a visit to an upscale S&M club and an acid trip.
The costuming ran the gamut from the powder blue, tentacled Ursula look to a style my friend compared to Mufasa but that I thought made Lady Gaga look like she’d run off with Amy Winehouse’s (bleached) beehive. Though she had some impressive footwear, she managed to avoid falling off of her shoes this time. Throughout the evening, there was a long string of elaborate costume and wig changes, including a time she dramatically tore off her wig onstage and another point when she did the full change in full view of the audience.
Over and over, there were moments that were supposed to celebrate the “authentic self” but instead reeked of artifice. Each gesture and comment seemed forced and almost robotic: the double-middle-finger to the audience, calls to “grab a glow stick or get the F*** out,” and comments about how “looking good and being successful are two different things” ended up falling flat. At one point, it looked like she was trying to reenact the balcony scene from Evita. And who knew you could spend an entire evening doing butt poses? My friend summed up the evening perfectly, riffing on one of Lady Gaga’s lines: “Tonight we celebrate love. Tonight, we celebrate pretentiousness (oh sorry, ‘being our authentic selves’ by swearing and flipping people off). Tonight we celebrate Lady Gaga’s a**.”
Overall, it was hard to shake the impression that she just wasn’t having fun. Like Rihanna had done, she smashed some of her biggest hits into one power medley – getting over with “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” and “Telephone” as fast as she could. There weren’t backup singers, so the backing track was glaringly obvious: often, she didn’t bother holding the microphone near her face or pretending to sing. She’d apparently lifted a page from Kanye – her small-stage piano looked like a mini Fortress of Solitude, she wandered around in white outfits on a white stage (making her hard to see), and she launched into a series of increasingly pretentious rants. Like Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, her production team had included a VIP bar area (complete with highly visible branding). We kept expecting her to jump into the bar and join the crowd for a cocktail, but she never did anything that felt remotely spontaneous or – for all her talk – genuine.
At the end of the evening, the crowd spilled out of the (very smoky) Staples Center, highlighting the fact that the people watching was the best part of the event. Surrounded by drag queens and a wide range of fabulous fans, it was like we’d walked into an all-night pride parade. The crowd obviously had more fun glamming up that Lady Gaga did performing. I love cheese and all things artificial, but in the end, Lady Gaga was outperformed by the Kia hamsters.
This Blog entry is considered editorial. The opinions expressed herein are not the opinions of MusicOfMyMind14, but those of a third party.