NEW YORK -- During her Monster Ball set at Madison Square tonight (Feb. 22), Lady Gaga donned a pointy purple crown and a glowing scepter, objects from her "Kingdom of Gaga." But then she declared us all the kings and queens of the future, she, a mere "jester."
She referenced Jesus Christ Superstar in her favorite cloak, cleans her hands at a holy fountain and dons a see-thru plastic outfit with cross pasties and a nun's habit, shortly before she prays and preaches on the Christian God, covered in fake blood and writhing on the ground.
Her hair was its simple yellow weave as she said she fancied herself as Tinkerbell, and cooed like Glenda the Good Witch when a giant angler fish-headed monster wrapped its tentacles around her body and stripped away her skirt (you heard me). Hoods, tiaras, head masks, a retractable fiber optic halo: Lady Gaga wears a lot of hats during her Monster Ball show, newly updated with "Born This Way" tacked onto the end.
And she may refer to herself or her band members (or even the audience) as sluts, assh***s, freaks, tramps and, of course, monsters. But there's definitely one thing she'll never be: a lip-syncer.
I would have said as much, judging by the number of vamps and improvisations the singer pulls off in her show, but Gaga just wanted to drive the point home.
"Never have, never will," she bared during "Teeth." "I won't be the bitch to lip-sync her way through an HBO special."
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Cameramen for the cable network were on hand for the night, taping for Gaga's May 7 HBO concert special. They'd collected bits from her stop at MSG on Monday evening, too, and reading other recaps of that show, it seems the party line was about the same:
"Be who it is you want to be.
"Leave behind your insecurities."
And, "Put your hands up... for equality!"
It's this latter that stuck out in all her inspira-talk, in between the funny banter about her tri-state gays and firework/conical/feather-lined bra changes. It seemed forced, though not disingenuous. She was trying to hold a lot of people up.
"You know what I hate more than money?" she said later. "The truth." Then, because she's Gaga, she said the word in French. She prefers "a giant dose of bullsh**."
The comment shot me straight back to Grammy night a couple weekends ago, and what a dorky assh**e she was, awkwardly plunging a fake diamond into her teacup and then plucking it from her mouth as Anderson Cooper is trying to interview her for "60 Minutes." It was a heavy dose.
But that's why she "made it in this town," her hometown of New York, playing one of the more storied venues in the country. Quantitative believability dilutes with an ultimate, big-budget fantasy, and it ends up working. Whether it was the gospel quartet in their yolky choir robes for her new single, or the exhilaration of hits like "Just Dance," "PokerFace" and "Paparazzi," to the familiarity of those "Bad Romance" dance moves and the boys of "Boys Boys Boys."
Even the loose "narrative" of her show -- the walk down "glitter lane," the disappearance into a twister en route to her Monster Ball, her re-emergence as an angel and then a dirty rat-whore -- is a crazy load, but sincerely said. Just as she gushed about Liza Minnelli and Marisa Tomei, there were probably a couple thousand kids trying to spell "Minnelli" right in their smartphones (and that's a Liza-with-a-Z, guys). A pair of hard-sculpted dancers, men, made-out in the middle of the stage as a planned and planted point of discussion, and a total unreality. But it translated beautifully.
As previously reported, Gaga said this stop at MSG would be her last on the Monster Ball tour, the most recent leg of which will continue through the spring. No word yet when her next stint starts, or what it'll be called, but it will more than likely be a ball too.
Mark your calendars for the Feb. 28 premiere of the video to "Born This Way."