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Lady Gaga

(3 Aug 2010: Sprint Center — Kansas City, MO)

Lady Gaga, gonzo glow of this summer and, perhaps, year, brought her gargantuan, theatrical Monster Ball Tour to the Sprint Center. Numerous admirers were bedecked in every variety of imaginable fashion—in homage to the musician’s message of individual freedom and import.  An initial skeptic, I went into this concert with her PR campaign in mind, but Gaga, no doubt, profoundly displayed the talent that has made her the darling of nearly every music lover, and this self-proclaimed “free bitch” is only in her 20s.


Gaga may be as ubiquitous as a deity nowadays but the musician and performer actually deserves her fame; something rare indeed. She lived up to her relentless and nonstop hype machine and performed for a solid two hours, playing some nineteen songs. She was as adept and savvy as more experienced performers, such as Elton John and the late Michael Jackson, to whom she is especially indebted. 


Gaga has apparently studied Michael Jackson extensively—she has learned several live tricks, if you will. Incidentally, she was set to open for Jackson’s doomed London gigs in 2009. Jackson is one of her idols, and I would now go so far as to submit that she is essentially Michael Jackson’s musical heir. She has much in common with him in terms of music, performance, and excess: tonight she stayed silent and stood before several songs—which immediately conjured up Jackson’s acclaimed Super Bowl show in 1993. She italicized her lush gloves and gaudy apparel and combined multiple musical genres: pop, techno, rock.


“Vanity”, her standout tour-only song easily could have been played at the Warped Tour; it’s just one of her genre-blending songs that resembled Jackson’s hits “Black or White” and “Dirty Diana”. Some of her dance moves also mimicked Jackson’s: she touched her crotch numerous times. A parade of zombie-like male backup dancers accompanied her when she performed “Poker Face” at this year’s Grammys – a veracious ode to Jackson’s “Thriller” video-film and his This is It tour re-conception. Her lengthy, cinematic videos are very Jacksonian in nature.


Further, Gaga owes a great deal to Marilyn Manson in terms of “shock value,” fashion, and dramatic scenes. It’s no surprise she released The Remix and that Manson has a cameo on “Love Game”. Indeed, Manson noted in 2009: “I was most impressed by her paparazzi photos. I thought that it looked the way that rock stars should look, as exciting as something Warhol or Dali’ would do. And I don’t consider her to be similar to her contemporaries – the other girls that do pop music – simply because she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s very smart, she’s not selling out, she’s a great musician, she’s a great singer, and she’s laughing when she’s doing it, the same way that I am” (Rolling Stone June 11, 2009). 


But Gaga also thoroughly examines stardom like Manson in his “The Dope Show”; her Vegas-style drama-gig tonight had to be loosely based on The Wizard of Oz—but “home” was New York, not Kansas. She changed into countless outfits, and she played upon Catholic icons – one memorable getup was part nun and part tramp, with tape in crucifix form over her bust. One of her videos tonight could have been a sequel to Manson’s own short film Doppelherz (2003). She’s also quite vocal, and during “Alejandro” she said:  “You know the words.  Sing it!”


She stuck to her script tonight but for one moment prior to “Telephone”, she asked a fan what was in her hair, and the fan responded “balls.” Gaga then said she likes balls, which got a loud reaction from the fans, whether or not they got the cute wordplay. Highlights included the blood-soaked Gaga during “Alejandro” and numerous Elton John-indebted piano numbers. Fans were also treated to a low-key “Speechless” and the new “You and I”, prior to which Gaga told the audience that it was about a former lover from Nebraska. “Boys, Boys, Boys” was dedicated to the homeless LGBT community, and the crazed encore, “Bad Romance”, had the audience losing their minds.       


Expect more Billboard hits and sold-out gigs from Lady Gaga in the future. If not, it’ll be due to a public’s short attention span. Gaga’s notoriety is warranted; she is a true musician and entertainer who clearly knows how to put on a show.


Setlist: Dance in the Dark; Glitter and Grease; Just Dance; Beautiful, Dirty, Rich; Vanity; The Fame; Love Game; Boys, Boys, Boys; Money Honey; Telephone; Speechless; You and I; So Happy I Could Die; Monster; Teeth; Alejandro; Poker Face; Paparazzi. Encore: Bad Romance.

William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


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