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Lady Gaga proves she’s no wannabe

Photo credit: Mariano Vivanco

Photos: Mariano Vivanco

About halfway through her show, Lady Gaga rose from the bowels of the stage seated behind a scorched-looking piano, a chauffer’s cap sexily tilted on her head.

 She leaned forward into a real microphone – not the headset clamped on her most of the night – and unleashed a stripped, potent version of “Born This Way.”

 In its rawest form, steered by Gaga’s monster of a voice, the song bore zero resemblance to the dance classic it is universally compared to – Madonna’s “Express Yourself” – and instead, shuddered through the Gwinnett Arena with searing poignancy.

 By following it up with the torchy new “You and I,” a sweeping power ballad straight out of the early Elton John songbook, Gaga proved in four minutes what her entire show strived to accomplish in nearly two hours: She’s nobody’s wannabe.

 While there is no denying that the girl formerly known as Stefani Germanotta has spent thousands of hours studying not only Madonna, but David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and possibly even a little Marilyn Manson for extra shock effect, her approach is wholly different.

 While her heroes concentrated on pure performance, portraying themselves as untouchable icons in their own Broadway musical, Gaga frequently breaks the fourth wall, addressing her fans with varying levels of appreciation and intimacy.

 “I didn’t used to be very brave, but you have made me so brave, little monsters,” she told her loving flock, who instantly forgave her 9:45 p.m. start time upon hearing the first electro-buzzy notes of “Dance in the Dark.”

 With her messages of empowerment – “Reject anyone or anything who made you feel you didn’t belong,” “Please leave tonight loving yourself a little bit more than when you walked in,” – and tales of her own supposed high school bullying, Gaga started to sound like an after school special. Sure, the message is important, but it also gets diluted after its sixth rendering.

 That type of connection, though, is what motivated hundreds in the sold out crowd of more than 13,000 at Monday’s concert to dress in fishnet stockings, blond wigs, feather boas and the occasional dog chain.

 She is their champion, the former misfit now sporting straw-colored hair who boldly snarled “I will NEVER lip-synch. Not. One. Word,” during “Teeth,” which eventually devolved into a lot of Gaga rolling around in dry ice screaming about how Jesus loves everyone.

 But even though the melodrama of her performance can be a bit draining, she’s definitely inherited Madonna’s work ethic and fierce creativity.

 LadyGWhether tossing out “Just Dance” with a cool nonchalance, skipping around in one of her trademark leotards and knee-high black boots with her cadre of dancers, or cruising down the catwalk in a transparent getup with a plastic Flying Nun-type habit for the delightful disco of “Love Game,” Gaga was a tireless showgirl.

 It’s apparent she isn’t a natural dancer, yet you could clearly see the effort she put into mastering her moves with a chorus line of shirtless men in spandex underwear during “Boys, Boys, Boys.” Even when she nearly wiped out on a discarded jacket during “Poker Face,” Gaga barely missed a step.

 She might have a see-through heart, but she is, first and foremost, a professional.

 Though there were plenty of eye-popping production elements in her show, such as a scary-cool forest set and weird piranha-octopus blowup creature that towered behind her as the “monster” in “Paparazzi” – both visual upgrades from her earlier theater run, which brought her to the Fox in late 2009 – Gaga really doesn’t need to rely so much on spectacle.

 She loves her performance art, sure. But as she demonstrated with her two piano tunes, there’s no reason to mask that kind of vocal talent.

18 comments Add your comment

Lady T

April 19th, 2011
9:42 am

I think she is a pretty person, inside and out, society needs to let people be who they are, because at the end of the day, who are we to tell God who to let into Heaven. Her performance was one of the best i’ve ever seen.

Patricia Stultz

April 19th, 2011
9:55 am

I think she is SO amazing. I am her Number 1 fan. Now, after seeing her, I will tout her praises as long as I’m alive. She is talented, inovative, intelligent, brave, and giving. She has a superb singing voice, is original, humble, and is someone that can get a sixty plus grandmother out of her seat screaming until she is hoarse and can barely speak. What a show she puts on. Electric is all I can say. When she speaks, it is as if she is speaking to me, especially when she is talks about one’s insecurities and how one can rise above them and be anything one wants by working hard and having a focus. I LOVE YOU GAGA!! YOU ARE AWESOME! I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOU!!! XXXXX

Chode McBlob

April 19th, 2011
9:57 am

Who does she appeal too? Teenagers? She reminds me of what Madonna was like with her outlandish costumes.

Diane L.

April 19th, 2011
10:00 am

This was the best concert I’ve ever seen. She managed to be huge and theatrical as well as tender and intimate. There was a wide range of people there, from suburban mothers and preteens to the kinkier tranny-types. Lady G made all feel welcome. She can belt out the numbers, and croon them. It was music, it was theatre, it was dance, it was performance art, it was soft-core porn, it was deeply spiritial. It was a remarkable night.

Diane L.

April 19th, 2011
10:04 am

Chode, the outlandish costumes are just one part of her appeal. The woman is an amazing performer. She writes her stuff, she dances, she plays the piano and she sings…much better than Madonna ever did, I might add. It’s a “show” so all the costumes add to that. Artists push the envelope. It may not be your cup of tea, but I thought Lady Gaga’s show was stupendous, amazing, colossal, the best show I’ve ever seen. (And I meant deeply “spiritual.”)

Chode McBlob

April 19th, 2011
10:11 am

Diane. Madonna wasn’t my kind of music either. But I was just wondering because she gets a lot of publicity.

Julia

April 19th, 2011
10:20 am

The “weird piranha-octopus blowup creature” at the end is actually a gigantic angler fish.

Jacob

April 19th, 2011
10:31 am

I was there. It was definitely a night to remember. Gaga is a superstar. Plain and simple. She’s also one of the few people sticking their necks out to help those in the gay community. First it was black rights, then women, and now it is gay people. Gaga is the beginning of the new civil rights movement and i feel it’s only a matter of time before i’m marching behind her with a picket sign, white stilleto boots, and glitter spray. The concert was 200% amazing and Gaga will never be brought down. Never. All hail the mother monster! <3

steve

April 19th, 2011
10:34 am

A very fair review. The show was pretty good. The performer was stellar! It’s difficult now to be at least partly derivative in the pop world and Lady Gaga’s influences show through. Nonetheless, she is a refreshing, legitimate talent and a lot of fun to watch and listen to. And who can argue against a message of acceptance and love – especially when it is echoed back by 13,000 fans!

pcBobby

April 19th, 2011
11:12 am

Wow, late, late concert start. When did it finish? She’s proving what a major contribution she is to music. Just like Elton, she will grow and only get better.

/

April 19th, 2011
11:31 am

looks cult like to me

Christy

April 19th, 2011
1:44 pm

I like a few of her songs and got tickets free from work so I thought…why not? I can say without hesitation I will enjoy the few songs I like on the radio and never make that mistake twice. It was the superbowl of people watching and things you will probably never see again. I went to hear music and was pretty disappointed. She didn’t sing all that much for a concert, and when she did, she never seemed to finish a song in its entirety. It’s shock value, personal message delivery, incoherent rambling and a little music in the background, which she mumbles to every now and then…basically a Madonna concert in the 80’s. We waited over an hour after the opening act, which was extremely tacky and unprofessional, but then again…I’m talking about Lady Gaga here so…it is what it is. I’ve seen some amazing artists in concert and she doesn’t even get a mediocre rating. I would be totally ticked if I had actually paid for those tickets. I’m not sure what concert the person who wrote this article attended, but it definitely wasn’t the one I went to last night.

WilliamB

April 19th, 2011
8:33 pm

I’ll second Christy – this concert blew. The opening band was horrendous – didn’t fit Gaga’s genre at all and did nothing for the mood. Then a 1.5 hour wait for on-again off-again entertainment interspersed with a heavy dose of preaching – the point of which we’ll never know, but I could have stayed at school if I had wanted a lecture. She did point out that there was no lip-syncing in the concert – not surprising since there was not a lot of singing either. It was a grindingly boring expensive costume party. The kids in front of us fell asleep.

Heather

April 20th, 2011
12:41 am

I went to her concert on monday, my first time seeing her. I’ve been to at least 60+ concerts probably more and she was by far one of the best I’ve seen. When she performed “Born This Way” with just her and the piano I almost wish that’s how she would have recorded it. It was raw, pure, and really got the message across of what the song is about. She is a class act, one of a kind. Strip away the crazy makeup & costumes and you have a normal girl with feelings that come across in her music. She’s awesome and def worth seeing!! :)

Sharie

April 20th, 2011
7:45 am

I thought it was an awesome concert. I don’t even care that it started late! My only problem was with the GA Floor! Was sooo packed. This tall avatar looking guy came & stood in front of me & wouldn’t budge! I was very close to the stage but still had a hard time seeing her.

Diane L.

April 20th, 2011
10:29 am

I don’t even know what concert William B and Christy attended. I could understand if if they were OFFENDED by Lady Gaga…because she used a lot of profanity, heavily sexualized dance moves and costumes that left her nearly nude. But to call this show BORING? Not a lot of singing? There was almost constant singing, as well as dancing. Perhaps it was difficult to discern the vocals amidst all of the other pyrotechnics. The opening band was “Glam Rock” and the lead singer got everyone around me on their feet and clapping before Gaga’s show. Perhaps the children were sleeping because it was past their bedtimes. Tacky? Okay, that’s in the eye of the beholder.
Christy…you ever get free tickets from work again, I’ll donate money to your favorite charity and take them off your hands, because these tickets were wasted on you.

Angela

April 20th, 2011
11:38 am

i went to see her, only knowing her from the media and the radio. i left a fan. this was the BEST SHOW that i have ever seen. she gives a positive message throughout the show, she is real and a professional. BRAVO!

ron

April 21st, 2011
10:37 am

we drove down from columbia to see the show everyone from fans to arena staff were very friendly free/shady parking since we got there early on was great we saw her in charlotte last sept upper bowl was nice to have floor tix to see her up close as i am a big fan both shows were excellent so much talent.we loved gwinnett arena w/shade grass/landscaping. gaga rules