Last night, downtown Los Angeles was transformed into an East Village performance art scene on steroids as Lady Gaga returned to the Staples Center with her Monster’s Ball tour, this time with opening act Scissor Sisters in tow. There was no shortage of Little Monster look-a-likes in the audience. From the looks of the crowd, Halloween seemed to come early this year. Ultimately, the still slightly unseasoned live performer delivered a rousing rendition of her uberly-successful show, celebrating her 25th birthday with the city of Angels.
I caught Gaga’s Monster’s Ball for the first time in the giant mud pit that was Lollapalooza in Chicago last August. All of the elements from that performance were in place still this time – with the addition of lead single “Born This Way” from Gaga’s upcoming second full-length studio album of the same name, due out May 23. The new song, which debuted about six weeks ago during the Grammys, was performed twice – first mid-show in a stripped downtempo version, and later, in exact Grammy replica form, to close the show. The show’s theme roughly follows the Lady’s search for the so-named legendary Monster’s Ball, and the journey towards self-acceptance which is achieved with the slaying of the repressing savage beast at its helm.
Gaga’s voice, show-personship and talent remains as top-notch as ever, nearly one year into this current tour. Her talent is unmatched for a performer of her young age and the show is a rousing fun romp from start to finish. Dramatic opening number “Dance in the Dark” still kicks off the show with silhouetted-Gaga emerging from behind screens in a sequined purple leotard with oversized shoulder pads. Between then and the closing number, a veritable simulacrum of pop divas of yore rolls out before her adoring fans. Highlights include her politically and religiously charged “Teeth” number, and mega-hits “Paparazzi,” “Alejandro” and “Bad Romance.”
Gaga does, however, speak more than the average performer to her fans, and with her message of that night, the show feels fresh. A huge proponent of gay causes, the Lady spoke passionately Monday evening about providing help for homeless LGBT youth, whereas last fall, she was instrumental in pushing hard for the overthrow of the U.S. Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Perhaps in a dig on her competition, she took a particularly pointed stab at performers who lip sync on TV, perhaps unseemingly making the jab seem directed towards a competitor’s high-profile release that saturated the market today.
Monday night, of course, was Gaga’s 25th birthday, which was referenced several times throughout the evening. Although no celebrity guests joined her on stage, at the end of the evening, her dancers, musicians and crew presented her with a cake, parts of which she tossed out to the crowd.
Opening act Scissor Sisters, who emerged from the same Lower East Side NYC performing arts scene as Gaga, performed a shortened 5 – 6 song set from their usual full-length concert. The Jake Shears and Ana Matronic led band crammed in all of their best-known hits (“Take Your Mama,” “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing”) into a digestible appetizer for a crowd that surprisingly seemed unaware of their vast talents. For those who haven’t seen the band’s full set in a slightly smaller venue, by all means, do so.
Gaga’s seemingly continuous Monster’s Ball tour continues with dates set through early May, leading up to her aforementioned new album release. Fans must certainly hope that with the new material’s unfurling upon the eager masses, that the old tour is scrapped in favor of a whole new concept, as the current theme is starting to feel stale as it revisits markets now for second, and sometimes third, appearances.
Of course, no single pop culture musical artist is making waves like Gaga continues to do currently. With the wealth of talent at her fingertips, I have no doubt that one day, her followers will look back at the Monster’s Ball tour as nothing more than the warm-up to her long and storied career.
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