Aug. 11, 2010
Lady Gaga's Monster Ball gets compared to many things: West Hollywood during Halloween, Burning Man, Mardi Gras. But what it's really like is Disneyland–a well-produced, flawless display of light-hearted fun. And sure, you know it's fake, but dang does it makes you feel gooooooood.
For Lady Gaga's fans, the Monster Ball is a real ball; an event that everyone plans around, sources outfits and parties and people for, a date you talk about for weeks beforehand. The excitement was palpable from the moment you stepped foot onto Figueroa last night, and there was no shortage of metallic shirts, wigs, princess hats, wonder woman costumes, tranny gladiator costumes and Lady Gaga outfits in various permutations (Caution tape everywhere! Cigarette-shaped sunglasses! Soda cans as hair accessories! American flag bikinis!).
Once you get sucked into the vortex of excitement, it's easy to just point fingers at super fans–Lady Gaga's Little Monsters–and enjoy the spectacle of everyone's devotion. It was surprising to realize that Lady Gaga is the great equalizer: there was not one kind of audience at Staples last night. While there's the obvious: a demographic that shops at Hot Topic and the LGBT community, there were also kids as young as five in the audience, and grandpas dancing in their seats. Gaga, after all, is the best agent for delivering freakishness in a palatable form for the mainstream audience–she's safe and cute and really, despite the foul language, insane costumes and many crotch-holding dance moves, could be just one of your crazy friends.
That's probably why Lady Gaga is so successful–she's a mess of contradictions which appeal to everyone, depending on which point you want to accept. She hates truth, but wants everyone to love themselves for who they are; she treads the edgy line just enough to not alienate the 7-year-old's moms; she wears sexy clothes that are costumes as well, so you know she's not just peddling sex.
She's also mastered the art of mixing up profound art pieces and low-brow pop (on “Dance in the Dark,” her broken-down car opened up into a piano; on “Money Honey,” her keytar also doubled as a sculpture). She knows when to pause, when to stop, when to scream, when to tell people to jump, when to belt out the songs and when to lip-sync.
At it's most basic, the Monster Ball is a narrative–Gaga and her friends trying to get to the biggest party on earth. Along the way, they encounter mechanical set-backs, encounters with prehistoric fish heads, and help from harp-carrying angels. There was a lot to take in–13 costume changes (including a vinyl, transparent nun habit and a moving headdress for her fairy outfit), expanding stages, a burning piano, a myriad of pauses–and until the last half hour, what ended up being a two-and-a-half hour show didn't seem that long. The catchy dance tracks such as “Just Dance” and “Telephone” were framed by fantastic choreographed moves. When she slowed it down, the slower songs such as “Speechless” and “You and I” were still involving, because of the burning piano, and because of the fact that you kind of forget, along the way, that Lady Gaga is one talented artist who has the chops to play ala Elton John–and play with a giddy happiness that she used during the songs, playing the keys with her stilettos, and her knees and elbows.
But the most interesting part of Lady Gaga's show was the stream of inspirational pep talks directed towards her fans throughout the night. The Monster Ball, she declared, was a place where everyone could be free. “I created it so my fans will have a place to go, so all the freaks are outside when I lock the doors,” she said onstage. She knows her fans take what she does and transform it to transform themselves, and she knows her fans are hyper-aware
of everything they do. Little Monsters don't just go and watch a Lady Gaga show, they hold up their phone cameras and record themselves in it so that they can re-enact their experience with Gaga. And that devotion deserves a show like the Monster Ball.
Reviewer's Bias: My five stages of understanding Lady Gaga: Confusion/bewilderment, Disdain, Fascination, Emulation, Cosplay.
Overheard: “I should've worn a costume,” from a girl wearing jeans and Converse.
“She's crazy dude, I love her,” a bro transfixed at the sight of Lady Gaga's sparkler bra.
1. “Dance in the Dark”
2. “Glitter and Grease”
3. “Just Dance”
4. “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich”
6. “The Fame”
7. “Love Game”
8. “Boys Boys Boys”
9. “Money Honey”
12. “You and I”
13. “So Happy I Could Die”
14. “Put Your Paws Up”
17. “Poker Face”
19. “Bad Romance”