Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Review: Lady Gaga glides from sublime to self-indulgent during over-the-top Dallas show
When Gaga takes her songs to their barest essential, she is at her most artistic.
Ah, Lady Gaga. You gotta love her, no matter how many times she travels from sublime to self-indulgent. Take her “Born This Way Ball” stop Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. Her “Little Monsters” showed up in full force, in extravagant get-ups and in unbridled adoration. The Monster Pit area stemming from the foot of the stage was packed with fans hanging on every word, every move, and every costume that Gaga wore during more than two hours on the platform. The show was a spectacle, complete with an impressive castle equipped with moveable walls, 12 dancers, a full band, and props galore.
The set list was concentrated on material from 2011′s Born This Way as it sprinkled in tunes from 2008′s The Fame and 2009′s The Fame Monster. Throughout the performance, with each number treated as fodder for a new dress and fresh gadgets, Gaga was in strong voice. She is a potent singer, a fact sometimes lost in the thick production of her records. And it’s no surprise that the most moving moment was when she sat at the piano, four fans from the audience huddled around her, and she sang “Born This Way” stripped down. When Gaga takes her songs to their barest essential, she is at her most artistic.
As for the eye candy, let’s just say she’s learned well from her colorful predecessors. Cher and Madonna immediately come to mind. “Heavy Metal Lover” rocked with Gaga laying atop a motorcycle that circled its way through the ringed catwalk. “You and I” was also top-notch, a rock-fortified cut that found her running with an American flag draped over her shoulders. “Alejandro” and the red, meat-motif couch, not to mention “Americano” with her faux meat dress knock-off amid hanging sides of beef, were hearty fun. “Telephone” pumped and “Bloody Mary” unnerved as she delivered operatic vocals in an all-white gown while gliding like some kind of automaton bride.
Personally I could have done without the one-two slap of “Bad Romance” and “Judas,” Gaga’s most obnoxious songs. But what seemed most inexplicable was the disembodied Gaga head inside a diamond-shaped cage that floated above the stage. It was her “Mother G.O.A.T.” alter ego. Periodically that head would go into tangents about government control, escaping persecution, and freeing oneself from societal confines. It was all too cryptic, especially since Gaga spread her “be yourself, love yourself, love whom you choose and don’t let the naysayers get you down” message pointedly and plentifully. That is her mantra. She delivers it well. We believe her. There’s no need for further reinforcement.
Oh and then there were the flags emblazoned with “G.O.A.T.” The letters stand for government owned alien territory, Gaga explained. She has landed here on Dallas, Texas, to feed on the beauty, art, and love of everyone in her presence. Great sentiment, Gaga. But no need for the over-the-top, head-scratching gimmickry. It was enough that we saw her zipper birth from a giant, inflatable body. She would later also emerge from a white egg. Yes, she likes the rebirth metaphor.
Lady Gaga could definitely stand to play it much more linear than she does. Her messages are powerful enough that they don’t need extraneous window dressing. But Gaga the performance artist has set the bar too high for Gaga the pop music star. They both come as part of the package. We must endure one to enjoy the other.
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