Last night, Lady Gaga brought her Born This Way Ball to Montreal, 2 years to the day after the release of the single. I saw her on the tail end of her Monster Ball tour in April 2011, and even though that show was well oiled, this one was bigger, better and even crazier. If the Monster Ball tour had everything but the kitchen sink, for this one the hardware store ran out of sinks halfway through.
Gaga’s influences are wide and varied, and sometimes she wears them on her sleeve a little too much (much was written about Born this Way’s resemblance to Madonna’s Express Yourself), but everything gets processed through her blender and comes out as something that is more than the sum of its parts. Her stage show borrows from various sources and at times has more in common with musicals than rock shows, but she makes it something uniquely her own. And crazy. Boy is it wonderfully crazy…
Gaga’s fans, collectively known as her Little Monsters, are extremely devoted to their Mother Monster. I’ve rarely seen a cult of personality taken to this extreme; the only examples I can think of would be 30 Seconds to Mars’s Jared Leto and Marilyn Manson. The fanbase’s dedication also reminds me of the KISS Army: they come to the show dressed up, and are religious in their devotion.
Lady Gaga’s very involved in causes involving bullying, and her message of being yourself and seeing the beauty in everyone clearly resonates strongly with her young fanbase. Second song of the night was Born This Way, whose lyrics lay down the resonating theme of the show:
“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Lots of fan interaction (one fan even got a phone call from the stage) brought the chosen few to tears of joy, but slowed down the pace of the show. As it went on, it felt like the show dragged on and struggled to keep its momentum but luckily the hits kept coming, and the spectacular visuals kept the energy high enough.
The huge stage set was dominated by a multi-storied castle that housed the band. Sections could also move to allow for different configurations or the movement of props. And there were a lot of them. Props came and went at an ADD-level pace. Gaga even managed to rock a keytar multiple times! She came out on a horse (!) that slowly went around the huge stage, and then moved out backstage. Why? Probably because at some point someone said “What if we used a horse?” and no one said no. In general, it seems like no one said no to any idea put forward while designing the show. And I don’t mean that in a bad way; this show is very impressive. But don’t look for a narrative thread. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.
(* I was far enough to think it was a real horse but I’ve seen a few reviews that called it a convincing fake horse so I may be wrong)
The show also allowed for a lot of more intimate moments where Gaga would sing while backing herself up on the piano or with a light accompaniment from the band. These moments allowed her to show her incredible vocal chops. (the girl has major pipes!) She’s not the product of studio wizardry. Sure, for the dance numbers, there’s a large amount of pre-recorded vocals to back up her voice, but she assumes it and doesn’t try to hide or fake it. She’s got a lot of talent. She was also very generous, with a concert that lasted close to 3 hours (even though large chunks of it where spent talking/preaching to the crowd).
As the show got to the end, it was obvious every time the screens showed a close up of her that she was exhausted. The encore break must have lasted close to 10 minutes! It got to a point where people started leaving. She finally came back for a solo version of her fantastic Edge of Glory which thankfully switched to the original arrangement halfway through, and a stripped down version of Marry the Night to finish the evening.
Tonight it was announced that she’s canceling her next few dates because of severe inflammation of the joints. That probably explains why the show dragged as it went on, and why she waited so long before coming back for the encore. If she was in that much pain, it didn’t show. She sang her heart out, ran around the stage in her incredibly high heels and gave everything she had. (Update: a few days later it was announced she needed surgery and the rest of the tour was cancelled.)
I realize I haven’t said much about the actual show. To be honest, it is hard to describe. I’d rather end with some of the pictures I took. It’s easy to dismiss her as a gimmick, but she’s a bona fide artist who writes terrific songs, and has an incredible voice. And with a show and personality like that, she might be the last of the rock stars.
- Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)
- Government Hooker
- Born This Way
- Black Jesus + Amen Fashion
- Bloody Mary
- Bad Romance
- Fashion of His Love
- Just Dance
- Heavy Metal Lover
- Bad Kids
- Born This Way (acoustic)
- Yoü and I
- Electric Chapel
- Poker Face
- The Edge of Glory
- Marry the Night
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