i wrote this for the fly:
O2 Arena, London
Lady Gaga‘s festive freakshow rolls into London’s O2 Arena for two days entertaining girls, geeks, gays and even a few family units. The singer hops from Karen O-style studded leather jackets to Madonna-inspired breast cones complete with live fireworks, taking just over two hours to perform eighteen songs.
Most popular music cynics make an exception for Gaga whose brand of surrealist-shock chic has both enamoured and bonded an army of odd-balls, using collective appreciation of wacky hats and haircuts, pork product dresses and gender obscurity but perhaps most importantly, the love of a truly great pop song. And Lady Gaga well and truly proves her pop credentials tonight by firing out crowd pleasing treats such as ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Poker Face’, mobilising the assembled devotees at this opening night show. Despite carting her crazy array of costumes and charisma around the globe for more than 150 dates (The Monster Ball tour began way back in November 2009) the Lady displays no sign of weariness as she grabs the O2 by the balls and entertains.
With only one full length album released she necessarily deploys a hefty dose of chat to fill her arena slot but cleverly mixes pensive life stories with filthy monologues and queasy videos to create a theatrical grand gesture. This is no ordinary gig. There’s a touch of Tim Burton to the sets and the audience anticipate the next costume choice as much as they do the next hit to be played from Gaga’s ‘The Fame Monster’ LP. Revelling in her position as pied piper for the socially awkward she sports a succession of oversized capes, leopard print leotards and boxy dresses as she looks out at glammed-up O2 Arena audience who have ‘got their Gaga on’ by wearing all manner of wigs, weird sunglasses and OTT dresses. On the odd occasion when she’s not hiding behind masks, monsters and costumes, and relies solely on her voice to grab attention, she proves to be a delicate human being, just like everyone else. And it is this rare flash of reality that keeps Gaga close enough to the ground to make her relevant. Seated at a piano she gives a haunting performance of album track ‘Speechless’ giving a glimpse of the inner Gaga and proving that she can sing and play her instruments, too.
‘Alejandro’ gets the full performance package with boy dancers kissing, but it is the perfect pop of ‘Poker Face’ which commands the loudest roar of approval. For ‘Paparrazi’ she fights with a giant monster, getting floored before rising from the bowels of the stage with fireworks exploding from her cone-shaped breast plates. Lady Gaga has already inspired a generation and the endless energy and enthusiasm of her performance means that no one goes home feeling short-changed by their trip to the Monster Ball tonight. Despite the incredible sets, wild hairstyles and provocative fashion, underneath it all is a genuine musical talent and a girl with a very relevant story to tell.