The last time Lady Gaga played the Bell Centre, it turned out to be the last show of her Born This Way tour as hip problems forced her to get surgery and cancel the rest of the tour. She came back this year with a vengeance, apologizing often for her previous sub-optimal performance (it really wasn’t though; she still gave a good show despite being in pain) and promising attendees the show of a lifetime.
Opening the evening were Korean K-Pop act Crayon Pop, 5 girls singing bubblegum melodies over what looks like aerobic dance routines. Their stuff is oddly fascinating even though musically it’s got as much substance as cotton candy. They got a great reaction from the crowd though, and I encourage everyone to check them out, even if just for the novelty factor.
They were quickly followed by perennial Gaga opener, Lady Starlight who spun beats and loops for 45 minutes. It seriously killed the crowd’s mood who cheered loudly anytime the music seemed to be heading for an ending. She got a roaring applause at the end of her set, probably because it was finally over. I’m not the target audience for this kind of music so I don’t want to appear too harsh, but there was seriously nothing impressive about what she did.
The house lights never came on after her set, and loud music set the atmosphere for Gaga’s ArtRave. Catwalks stretched far into the audience with various special sections allowing rabid fans shot at seeing their idol up close, and maybe even being brought on stage or backstage by the singer, and the main stage looked like a rave version of planet Tatooine.
I wrote in my review of last year’s show “if the Monster Ball tour had everything but the kitchen sink, for this one the hardware store ran out of sinks halfway through.” Well the ArtRave tour shows that Lady Gaga has grown as an artist; the visuals are more restrained, and there’s a cohesiveness to the show that wasn’t there before. (it’s still way out there… just a little less than before) On her Born This Way Tour, it felt like every idea they’d brainstormed had been put into the show but this year, it feels like they’ve picked only the best ones. She’s also cut down on the speeches and fan interactions which dragged the show down before. The show was punctuated by multiple wardrobe changes, including one that happened on stage with her back to the crowd (Let’s just say that the people with side stage tickets got an unexpected bonus). She emerged from that transformation dressed as a Japanese cheerleader caught in a candy explosion! Also where artists usually end concerts in a shower of confettis, she had them streaming at the FIRST SONG! And they kept making multiple appearances throughout the show (I hope the Bell Centre cleanup crew gets overtime pay).
The show relied heavily on material from her latest opus, ArtPop, with enough of her prior hits to keep everyone satisfied. She stuck to the more danceable material, with two notable exceptions: a soulful, quasi-a cappella rendition of Edge of Glory (a request from the audience from a girl who’d lost her uncle that morning) that showcased Gaga’s incredible voice. I feel that in its usual arrangement, this is the best pop track of the millenium so far, but the intimate arrangement was just as amazing. She also sang Born This Way as a ballad, solo at the piano (with the help of a young fan who’d stalked her hotel all day. Turned out the girl had pipes of gold too! Nt sure it was THAT spontaneous though.). And this is where Lady Gaga shines the most: when her beautiful voice is upfront and center, and when she puts all her soul into the music instead of hiding behind thick layers of backing tracks as she does when the choreographies prevent her from singing. Because despite all the gimmicks, media stunts and flashy costumes, at her core Lady Gaga is an amazing musician with a spectacular voice. This is her best tour so far, and it gives hope that she can let the crazy stunts behind her and focus on her music because this is truly where she is worthy of attention. The media have labelled her latest album a flop, but Billboard is reporting sellouts everywhere so obviously her fans still care (and they sang along to every ArtPop track anyway).
One of the key points of Gaga’s career is her close relationship with her fans. She often insists on the bi-directional relationship between her little monsters and Mother Monster, and shequite a bit of time to return after Bad Romance, finally admitting she had to pee!
A great concert by a great artist. Incidentally, Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance the day before at Tony Bennet’s concert during Montreal’s International Jazz Festival. They sang 4 tracks from their upcoming duet album Cheeks to Cheeks. I’m really looking forward to this record; it should be out this fall.
More (better) pictures can be found at Gagamedia.net
Setlist can be found at Setlist.fm.