Concert Review: Lady Gaga storms Staples Center in Los Angeles
Stepping into Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball, which stopped at Los Angeles’ Staples Center Jan. 20-21, feels like stepping into some utopian ideal.
Everyone is equal, everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved in Momma Monster’s world and she’s going to remind you of that until you believe it. Oh, and she plays some songs too.
The Jan. 21 show started with the unveiling of an impressive three-story castle from which Gaga emerges. The band members were in various portals, separated from each other for most of the show. For the next 2 hours and 15 minutes, Lady Gaga repeatedly stormed the moveable castle, turning it into her own gothic Barbie Dreamhouse as it opened up to reveal interior rooms. The Born This Way Ball is a true spectacular, the likes of which few artists even attempt to accomplish these days.
From the moment she appears in a black corset with black metal contraption on her head, roaring into “Government Hooker,” Lady Gaga was in complete control of the stage and the sold-out, adoring audience.
With her hair/wig swept up in some pink Bridezilla beehive, she stomped and danced her way through “Born This Way, “ “Bloody Mary” “Bad Romance,” and more in the first 30 minutes.
Each song morphed fairly indistinguishably into the next, the beats and singing blending together, punctuated by costume changes, crazy headgear, a dozen dancers in various states of undress, and Lady Gaga preaching and exalting us to jump and respond. “Raise your hands in the air! This is not a f**king funeral,” she screamed as she segued from “Judas” into “Fashion of His Love.” The show started full throttle and never cried uncle. It was a full-on assault, with very little pacing and sense of an arc, just continuous movement forward. If that sounds like a criticism, it’s only a slight one given that it seems downright churlish to complain about a performance that never lets up or dips in its aggressiveness.
The fast-paced show operated on the conceit that Lady Gaga is an alien who has arrived on earth to learn everything she can about us. As the Manifesto of Mother Monster goes (the manifesto was introduced in the “Born This Way” video), she is from G.O.A.T., a government-owned alien territory. By the time she is finished with her journey, she will have earned the right to be our pop star. “In the meantime I will suck the life out of many of you tonight,” she declared. From time to time, a projected image of a talking face in a suspended cage brought us up to speed on her journey. She should drop the whole idea. She’s weird enough without the idea that she’s an alien.
When she wasn’t singing —and make no mistake about it, she was singing live, though sometimes her voice was heavily accompanied by enhanced vocal tracks and effects—she was delivering sermonette after sermonette. She talked about her days as a stripper (“there’s no shame in taking off your clothes for money,” she declares) and her rise to fame, and genuinely and profusely thanked the audience for spending their money to see her.
As she lets her freak flag continuously fly, she relentlessly reminded the audience to believe in themselves and not to care what others think. Every misfit toy—and who hasn’t felt like one at some time or another?—is beautiful in her world and her message was so touchingly delivered and repeated that only the coldest heart of a homecoming queen could fail to be melted. “Can you be brave enough not to care?,” she screamed at one point, pacing on the outer rim of a catwalk that extended into the arena and surrounded the Monster Pit. “When you stop caring about what other people think, you fly so f**king free.” Her dedication to embracing and lifting up her fellow outsiders was the most endearing part of the evening.
Not every set piece worked. The meat medley —she comes out hanging like a side of beef for “Americano,” then performs “Poker Face” upended in a meat grinder (huh?) and segues into “Alejandro” while lying on a sofa made of raw sirloin — seemed a bit of a stretch.
But the false moments are few and the gargantuan effort Lady Gaga put in to every one of the 25 numbers was staggering in her commitment and intensity. One of the most affecting segments was when she finally slowed down long enough to sit at the piano and sing “The Queen,” telling the audience, “I don’t want to be your queen. I want to be your friend. I don’t want you to worship me. I want you to worship you.” It’s an unassailable message, even if she is delivering it from a multi-million dollar set while slavishly-devoted fans hang on her every word. She continued at the piano for a full-throated rendition of “You & I,” one of the evening’s highlights.
She ended the night with an encore featuring “The Edge of Glory” and a slowed-down “Marry The Night.” For the latter, she gathered up “monsters” from the pit, most of them in some form of costume, and hugged and sang with them. It was the direct opposite of a big finish, but after more than two hours of bombast, it was finally time to slow it down.
The North American leg of the Born This Way Ball, which started in Vancouver on Jan. 11, concludes March 20 in Tulsa, Okla.
In other Lady Gaga news, she continues to work on “ARTPOP” with EDM artist/producer Zedd. He told MTV News that they have a ways to go before completing the album, her first since “Born This Way” was released in May 2011.
“It’s hard to find time to work on something together,” he says. “So we’ve been working on it for over a year now. There’s still a lot of work left, so we’re definitely gonna work on this project for the next month.”
He added that while they toured together in Asia, he worked up 10 songs and finished them up until the point where she would add the piano, but he didn’t know if any of those would make the final cut.