Lady Gaga, O2 Arena, London | reviews, news & interviews
Lady Gaga, O2 Arena, London
Lady Gaga, O2 Arena, London
Adoring Gaga fans rewarded with show of multifaceted brilliance
Gaga’s relationship with her fanbase, her “Little Monsters”, is quite a thing. I’ve not seen the O2 so permanently on its feet. Large swathes of her capacity crowd are up and dancing right from the opening number. They adore her and are dressed to show it, from middle-aged ladies to gay men to teenage girls to many multitudes of humanity in between.
They couldn’t care less that her third album, Artpop, was lackustre compared to its predecessors and her set, which includes most of it, certainly supports that perspective. It sounds a lot more rip-roaring fun than it did on the home stereo. The sound throughout was echoing and off, as so often in this venue, but after a short while the ear adjusts and, in any case, this gig is entitled Artrave: The Artpop Ball and the booming Euro-techno kick drums ricocheting about the cavernous arena make it just that.
Her recent duet album with Tony Bennett and accompanying live appearances show she has the chops to attack jazzier fare
Lady Gaga is, of course, about a great deal more than her music, a campy bangin’ confection that, at its best, is irresistible pop. She is as much about the show, about costumes which range from a pink Dalmatian-spotted rubbery alien octopus which surrounds her for a wonderfully pleading “Paparazzi” – and which she sucks on – to a black PVC bikini combined with a green wig for a bouncy take on the twisted but effervescent love song “Judas”, to fluorescent cyber-crusty apparel replete with multi-coloured dreads that she dons towards the end for her signature hi-NRG smash, "Bad Romance".
She produces preposterous props such as a giant glittery keytar that looked a little like a disco sea horse and which she played during her breakthrough hit “Just Dance”. Around her almost all the time are striding teams of dancers, half naked men with whom she cavorts, women with disco-ball heads, leaping about catwalks that reach out into the crowd. One of these walkways is tipped with what appears to be a glacier that La Gaga occasional sprawls on. Behind them is a set that looks like a sci-fi city made of shaving foam, with the drummer inside one of its castles. Her band are not just for show, they amp up the rock factor so that the song “Venus” develops a chugging riff any metal band could be proud of.
Given the venue’s sonic limitations, sometimes Gaga comes off best when she plays it low key. Her recent duet album with Tony Bennett (and accompanying TV appearances) show she has the chops to attack jazzier fare, and she gives us a version of Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, dressed in yet another giant wig. Or the section of the show where she sits at a grand piano, playing and singing. During this she invited a fan up to join her, after reading out a letter from her that had been thrown onstage. This young woman, called Sarah, wrote that she’d been through tough times with her mental health which she credited Gaga with helping her overcome.
Even her parades of semi-nakedness are not lollipop-headed celeb submissive but cheeky frolics on her own terms
There were a couple of moments during the evening when Gaga made long-winded, effusive speeches to the crowd which were too Oscar night gushy for my tastes, lots of very American self-empowerment talk of “dreams of love and acceptance”, etc. However, the moment when she sang “Born This Way”, sat next to her fan Sarah at the piano, was rather touching.
And that’s the key to Gaga’s appeal. A show like this is, by its nature, highly choreographed but she appears to be very human and spontaneous within it, throwing off a wig randomly or shouting suddenly that she wants to “fuck shit up”. Even her parades of semi-nakedness are not lollipop-headed celeb submissive but cheeky frolics on her own terms. When she sings that she lives “for the applause”, despite the fruity post-modern Euro-disco of it all, there’s a nugget of punchiness that induces air-punching revelry. Gaga is no puppet, she’s a proper old-fashioned whacky pop star. And on top of that, where most shows have ticker tape explosions at the climax, Gaga had them from the start and often. If this is artraving, I like it and I want more.
Overleaf: Watch Lady Gaga perform "Artpop", in an utterly dertanged outfit, of course.
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