She ate my heart...
I probably spent way too much money ($250 for a "VIP Hot Seat Package") and way too much energy (stressing that I couldn't get one of the meet-and-greet deals before they sold out) on Lady GaGa's Monster Ball, but in the end I felt like a bona fide little monster and definitely had a ball. Plus all proceeds went to Haiti!
That boy was a monster.
The last (and first) time I saw GaGa was at Terminal 5, a terrific little show that she appears to have scaled up a bit—but not a bunch—for her just-concluded Monster Ball, including moving from standing-room-only to the lofty Radio City Music Hall. "Am I getting too old for this?" is a question I've found myself asking at general-admission shows, so I was relieved to have a comfy and satisfyingly close-up seat (row LL, seat 509), even if red-carpet Radio City does not have the right vibe for a concert that's part aural nip slip and part visual orgasm . But it's nice to see one of the only artists to capture my attention in the past decade is moving up in the world so quickly. She's even pissed off God!
I was genuinely lucky to get $250 seats directly from TicketMaster the day they went on sale because it was those seats or no seats. I got them one by one for cover price so they were one seat apart. They were really just $150 seats with some free swag (including a $100 pair of earphones that will arrive in the mail) and the special right to arrive at 4fucking:30 to Radio City the day of the concert for a VIP reception.
My friend Jason and I got there early, but didn't feel up to standing by the stage entrance to see if she'd glide by. Instead, we checked in (unbelievably, our hostess Marguerite was literally checking off names of original purchasers at the door) and headed down to the partitioned room, where about 35 other suckers fans milled around eating bodega-level apps, taking pictures of each other in a miniature version of GaGa's monster ball (that weird gyro thing) and—for those outrageously attired—posing for a pro photographer in a regal chair for photos that would later be flashed on screens next to the stage and that were available to them online free of charge.
Jason and I show you some teeth.
The VIP crowd was a group of some weirdos (said affectionately) and some uptight gays—I include myself in the latter—all of us thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to have that extra $100 back instead of this handful of M&Ms?" It was here I discovered that GaGa had canceled doing her special, pricier meet-and-greet that I'd been looking to score, so I felt tremendous relief that I was not missing out.
We also met a sweet young queen (not a pejorative statement—he was in full makeup and wearing a bubble outfit) who happened to have the seat between Jason and me, and he had no problem switching with me. Later, as we were ushered into the auditorium way ahead of everyone else (having just killed two hours eating pretzels), we learned from him that the contest we'd entered—the one where GaGa would call one fan from the stage and offer to have a drink with him or her after the show—was probably not going to go our way since he'd entered it like 50 times. He was very nice, but did have two shopping bags filled with his bubble outfit, one for under his seat and one for on top of it. This meant some overcrowding issues could arise, but we decided we'd cross that glitter bridge when we came to it.
While chatting with him, it came up that I'd only done drag once on stage, back in 1987 for my school's Mock Rock as Samantha Fox (as I've "revealed" many times on this blog). He'd never heard of her, then asked us to guess his age. I went with 23, but the real answer was 19. Which means that at the time I was shaking my fake boobs made out of bundles of socks in a bra with baby-bottle nipples back in '87, he was negative four years old.
The crowd wasn't quite as scary as that thought, made up of a strange mix of straight guy/girl couples in their twenties, totally embarrassing and nearly-but-not-quite-over-the-hill drunkard moms, hard-partying gay juiceheads who were over the hill but had discovered ways to head back up it for a second plunge and one small group of nine-year-old girls. The little kids were almost a show unto themselves. I had to watch their expressions as the opening act—Semi-Precious Weapons, fronted by a gender rebel in tights—subjected them to dozens of F-bombs, the promise to "make you all wet for GaGa!" and a threat to the guy in the front row plugging his ears that they'd "fuck your 40-year-old wife in front of you." Later, the lead singer also gave out free champagne and stripped nearly naked to change into another outfit while on stage. When someone near us lit up a joint, it felt like the little children's defilement was complete.
Semi-Precious Weapons makes music if collapsing buildings do, too. Their approach to making an impression is comparable to the red mark an out-of-nowhere, open-palmed slap leaves across any face that gets in the way. Not fanned.
The next opener was Jason Derulo, who earned MVP status for deftly performing his sexy R&B pop hits, including 'Whatcha Say," in rapidly disappearing clothing. He wound down by tearing off his wifebeater, which was like waving fistfuls of tuna at an auditorium filled with stray cats.
In GaGa we trust.
Finally, though, it was up to GaGa to save our pop souls, and praise Madonna, she did.
Having thoroughly reviewed her show less than a year ago, I have to say I felt she hasn't completely upped the ante just yet. I attribute this to the aborted Kanye co-headlining tour leading to a shorter time in which to plot this outing. While she is a ridiculously fun performer with some eye-popping visuals and a tight grip on attention spans of all lengths (she's no size queen), I would not describe her sets a anything near what her obvious and aforepraised inspiration has each go-round. While there are countless parallels to things Madonna's done before, and while she is easily the closest thing I've seen to Madonna on stage, she does have a lot of room for improvement before she officially takes over that mantle. (Which sucks for her, because Madonna will only stubbornly attempt to get even better in the meantime.)
My major complaint is minor—GaGa loves to tell her fans we mean the world to her. Honey, I'm 41, I don't need this spoonfed stuff. And frankly, most of your fans who are shelling out the bucks to see you on tour are not that young either. But that said, I think her stage banter is much less rambling that it was last time and she had several hilarious moments, including the point where she commanded us to "get your dicks out," or when she pointedly remarked that while she has nothing against Yonkers, she's from Manhattan and then arched a brow snootily.
The first song, "Dance in the Dark," was not a good opener for me. I love the tune, but the staging was, as might be expected, too dark. GaGa was not easily visible behind some Tron lighting, so I felt like she was too far out of reach as an intro. Loved the Christmas lights that marked her outline as if she were a human landing strip, though.
A just dance is one that anyone can do.
GaGa has enough hits now that she could smack us upside the head with a major smash by song two, "Just Dance." Loved the interpretation of this, with the Lady—whose hair was not blonde but instead Big Bird yellow—in a neon cube and grasping a trusty keyboard.
My fave male dancers. (Jeremy Hudson on the right.)
I also took approving notice of her exasperatingly fit male (and female) dancers, who wore bodysuits that would give way to even more revealing outfits as the show bounced along.
If GaGa makes you gag, no worries...she makes herself gag, too.
Unfortunately, I also took note of the excessive use of tracks. She leaned on canned vocals more than I would have thought considering she can sing at the drop of a hat. Perhaps she needs those sweeteners while dancing (or trying...) so as not to drop the hat in the first place.
There were no mirrors at Radio City?
"LoveGame" became the first of several highlights for me. I already think it's one of her absolute best songs and loved the slowed-down (robotic?) bump and grind featuring one of the most fabulously ugly costumes ever—a strange lace top over a translucent white skirt, topped off with a reptilian crown.
Stripping down from this outfit into a Blond Ambitious conical-bra number (her makeup would also remind Madonna fans of the fabled night Madonna flirted with Antonio Banderas while filming for Truth or Dare), GaGa stage-yawned at the crowd's already thunderous applause, shamelessly soliciting further roars.
Bending over backwards now would you be pleased?
"Where's all my Puerto Ricans, my Mexicans, my Spanish, my Dominicans?" she demanded by way of introducing future single (I'm sure) "Alejandro," her Ace of Base homage. Most impressive was when a strapping dancer picked her right up by the pussy. Speaking of which, I think that pussy might have gnashing teeth judging by her snarling, at times playfully so, sexuality.
The song "Monster" puts the blame on the boy who ate her heart, but I'm willing to bet she chewed up his dick first. "This audience is sluttier than last night's," she observed at some point, which was as high an honor as the time Madonna rubbed the Puerto Rican flag on her crotch. "Show me your teeth!" she growled on "Teeth," and I wondered if she thought we could accomplish this by spreading our legs.
I really never loved her slowed-down "Poker Face" on the piano, but it certainly shows off her voice and her musical gift. More exciting was a balls-out (not literally) version of "Speechless." Out of this world, but not as far out as her upcoming Theda Bara slavegirl costume.
I was surprised she chose a song like "Boys, Boys, Boys" over "So Happy I Could Die," whose masturbatory lyrics might have offered a great "Like a Virgin"-on-a-mattress opportunity. (Note: I've read she's performed this song on tour, but I can not for ANYTHING remember it from last night. Am I wrong? Also, the songs were not in the identical order as some previously published set lists.) But there's no denying the sheer crowd-pleasing buzz from a song about sexy boys, and she delivered it all but wrapped up with a hair-bow on it.
Her outfit for this—a sleazy red vinyl bikini with biker cap—was thrillingly garish and at times unflattering to the point of provocation. It's nice to see her willing to writhe around without worrying about loose flesh and other imperfections. At her best she looks pretty fuckin' hot. At her worst, it recalls stripper Sandy Kane. I think her sexy-making is fun because unlike most vamping, it's not a come-hither question mark, it's an exclamation point.
Sexy or "sexy," she showed off or accidentally revealed her worst dancing of the night as she attempted to stiffly get through "Poker Face," the song that she told us had changed her life. I for one didn't mind that she didn't have the moves—she more than made up for it with the chutzpah.
A highlight...too bad GaGa couldn't see it.
"Paparazzi" is my favorite GaGa number and I loved the edgy interpretation, featuring a blinded Lady whose hair is in bondage. Dark and sinister, it must have made Steven Klein cream when he saw it.
Spencer Tracy would hit it.
"Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)" is a song I prefer in its Pet Shop Boys incarnation, but GaGa looked gorgeous singing it in Katharine Hepburn high-waisted slacks from inside her magical Monster Ball. It didn't even matter that her mirrored jacket had shoulders so high it could be worn by that red Looney Tunes beast to whom Bugs Bunny once queerly effused about innnteresting hairdos for innnteresting monsters. Beaming, she segued into the orgy of "Bad Romance," yet another unbelievably effective, memorable pop song that's become her latest #1 hit.
The international gesture of monsterism.
Hearing that, there was no escaping that her show was as over as a bad relationship, even if it would be much more sorely missed. Just under two hours after she took the stage—and just about seven hours after we'd arrived—she left. For Indiana, where she'll do one make-up show before hitting Europe and Asia.
Take a bow.
GaGa can sing as well as she needs to while dancing, dance as well as she needs to while singing and seems to have a sixth sense of humor in everything she does—her inspirations are baldly obvious (Madonna, Warhol, Dale Bozzio, Amy Winehouse—see black-and-white proof at right for the Amy note) but what she does with what she's learned from them consistently surprises. "I'm throwing away this stage," she blithely informed us, and she should—while it serviced her show suitably, it's not big enough for her outsized talent and ambition as a performer. It will be exciting watching to see just how big her stage will have to eventually be to match her lofty, sometimes pretentious, sometimes sublime, frequently inspirational and always thoroughly entertaining goals.