Billboard, Rolling Stone and Take 40 Review Gaga's Artrave


Nostalgia might be for geeks, as Lady Gaga let us all know in "Applause," yet it's tough not to miss the Gaga of four years ago, when she ruled as the planet's most voracious pop goddess, slaying crowds with the glam-punk sleaze overkill of her Monster Ball Tour. Last night, in a Madison Square Garden homecoming gig, hardly anything in her performance would suggest it was the same girl. "Check yourself — make sure you're being you," she urged the crowd. Same, Gaga. Literal same.

Although it was billed as Artrave: The Artpop Ball, it wasn't much like pop or a rave — more like a run-of-the-mill arena-rock show, the kind where a band has a shoddy new album to flog. She blew off her great songs (no "You & I," no "Edge of Glory," "Telephone" only in a blink-and-you-miss-it snippet at the end of a medley with "Poker Face") to revive almost every track from the already-forgotten Artpop, her weakest album. The production values were so shoddy, it's almost like they were designed to distract you from a set list only her daddy and Nebraska and Jesus Christ could explain.

Gaga came out looking flash in golden wings, a silver-spangled unitard, a Suzanne Somers wig, black fishnets and stiletto ankle boots. Her dancers promptly escorted the wings backstage. (The dancers were often drafted into roadie duty, adding to the general air of confused staging.) Gaga mentioned that she was from New York several hundred times, yelling, "There's no place like home, motherfuckers!" But the show got off to a calamitous start with a barrage of sluggish new tracks that squashed the audience's energy level. It never really recovered. (There was more dancing in the crowd at last week's Slint show.)

Gaga did "Venus" in a clamshell bikini and a wig evoking Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., while her dancers wore sad little white costumes that made them look like Woody Allen and Christopher Guest playing sperm cells in Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). For "Papparazzi," she rocked a polka-dotted tentacle outfit that made it look like she had an inflatable rubber order of fried calamari growing out of her spine. T.I. spruced up "Jewels and Drugs" for a minute or two before disappearing all too soon.

The highlights of the night were Gaga's inspirational pep talks. "Celebrate everything that you love about you tonight," she urged us. "You deserve to be loved and happy!" She interacted sweetly with fans up front, inviting some of them backstage. (Where, presumably, the real party was happening?) Even though her speeches tended to drag on a little long, they were more fun than the musical performances. She did nothing at all from her best album, Born This Way, beyond sandbagging the title song by turning it into a hesitant solo piano ballad. There were thousands of people in the room who felt like singing "You & I" — but Gaga wasn't one of them.

"I have to get all kinds of prepared for how the party ends — all the lovemaking you'll be doing later tonight," Gaga promised early on. The show's actual end was considerably less climactic — after a one-song encore of "Gypsy" (not the same "Gypsy" Stevie Nicks did on this same stage last spring, sadly), the house lights came up, the speakers reprised "Applause," and it was startling to realize the show was already over. She didn't have superstar moves or hits saved up for the big finale — she decided not to do a big finale at all.

If you're a Gaga fan, especially one who witnessed the pop glory of the Monster Ball in 2010, it's no fun to see her fail on her home turf. But truth be told, there's a vast difference between a great Gaga song and a mediocre Gaga song, and for all her glitz and grandeur, great songs are the reason so many of us adore her. She might live for the applause-applause-applause, but it was the songs that got her there — and when she skimps on the songs, it's amazing how fast the applause dies down.

Lady Gaga is a post-pop musician with a serious oral fixation. Her artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball, which opened earlier this week in Fort Lauderdale before stopping at Atlanta's Philips Arena on Tuesday night (May 6), is all spirit and tinsel and DayGlo plastic — and blow-up appendages and bedazzled pacifiers and pig masks. A dozen pig masks. Talking about her performances is more fun than listening to them, but don't take that as an insult. There's just a lot to talk about.

The tour shares a name with Gaga's latest album, "ARTPOP," as well as 13 of its songs, and both creative pieces suffer in similar ways. The collection of songs ("Do What U Want," "Venus," "Mary Jane Holland," and "Sexxx Dreams," among others) is the weakest that Gaga has ever written — but disliking The ARTPOP Ball because of its songs is missing the point. "Tonight is about one thing: being 1000 percent you," Gaga told Phillips Arena's 15,000-plus attendees, as close to equal parts teen, tween, queen and suburbanite as I have ever seen in a crowd. "Atlanta, how weird can you make us?"

The ARTPOP Ball set turns each spectacle into a surprise. It's made up of a few domed buildings backed by a white roll of "sand" sitting in front of a zig-zagging, see-through catwalk that lights up. Both the catwalk and temple sit on top of walls, cracks and edges that throb pink, like obliterated gumball. Instead of bursting through one of those domes, however, Gaga rose from the floor, winged and wigged like '70s-era Elton with Versace bangs. "ARTPOP" led into "G.U.Y." led into "Donatella" led into "Fashion!"

It's easiest to count everything off by costumes. The night was broken into distinct sections, separated by dance breaks. I counted five different wigs, but that's conservative. For "Venus," the night's fifth song, Gaga rose up again in a sparkling bra, flowered thong, and massive hair. "Manicure," song number six, was one of the night's highlights, the production so big it swallowed its individual instruments and wrestled them into a whole. With Gaga having come out of hip surgery last year, the show's the choreography traded on carnal gestures turned exhibitionistic: thrusting and swooning, with many fingers pointed at crotches. Gaga's dancers coordinated with each costume, too, often in ways that stretched the referential boundaries of the English language. Were they flare-bright American Gladiators reincarnated, all bared torsos and swelled shoulders — or, with swirls and spikes on their heads, did they look more like Whoville characters broken out of a storybook?

It was a night for Gaga's newest work, save for short swerves to the mega-hits. Donning a bob and knee-length white dress and heels, Gaga ran through "Just Dance," "Poker Face," and "Telephone" while, on a massive video screen behind her, another Gaga (and then five Gagas!) writhed wrapped in tinsel, like mummies made mostly of Spanish moss.

The bob-dress combo was one of her shortest-lived: next were the tentacles (around her waist, down her back, and sprouting from her head); and, like a seasick Ursula, Gaga performed "Paparazzi" as her dancers stalked her. Gaga tried smoking one of the tentacles, but nothing came out. Then she laid down in a giant, clear claw. The tentacles fell away, or disappeared, like a vision in reverse. (Thanks to the magic of stagecraft, the claw chair sat where giant flowers had previously sprouted.) Next in a green wig and leather hot pants, Gaga did "Aura," (much more fun when you can shout along to it in a stadium), the interminable "Sexxx Dreams" and "Mary Jane Holland," and then, as a respite, "Alejandro."

"I like a room full of people who aren't afraid to have a good time," Gaga said as she stripped again, this time in full view of her audience (had you been in the arena's corner seats, you'd probably have gotten full side-boob.) For her second-to-last costume, Gaga became a full-raving magical girl — a spin on the anime schoolgirl trope, but Gaga's skirt was colored like nightmare vomit and her socks looked hairy. Like the album that shares its name, the ARTPOP Ball finishes very strong, musically: "Bad Romance," "Applause," "Swine," and (for the encore) "Gypsy," performed last in a long white wig and a dress with a long white train.

The only constant was the audience, whose love for Gaga is like a mirror. "I wanted to create a show that is a celebration, an album that is a celebration, of all the beautiful things you've created over the last six years — almost seven years," Gaga said. Near the end of the show, she lay down on a long red bed that had risen from the floor and a stuffed unicorn almost smacked her in the face. A fan's note was attached to it, addressed to "mama monster." Gaga read it aloud. "I love you soooooooo much," it said (with a lot of "o"s).

Doubt Gaga's sincerity at your own risk. Toward the middle of the show, as she settled in at the catwalk's piano over the floor, Gaga spotted a fan's sign: "Can I sit with you?" So she invited a kid in a neon yellow hat from southeast Atlanta onstage, and took multiple selfies with him before singing about superstardom as liberation. They hugged a lot. When the kid stopped staring at Gaga, he looked out into the crowd and he smiled as they screamed for him — and for her, holding court between chords. "Just remember that it's never wrong to fight for love," she said. "You've done a beautiful job, you have. Keep going."


May 13th 2014 has been locked in any Little Monster's calendar ever since the dates for Lady Gaga's artRAVE tour were announced. Why is this particular date so special? It's when Gaga would be set to perform at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York City - and it's also the popstar's homecoming show. Mega fans of Gaga come from all around the globe to see her perform in one of the world's most famous venues and to share a moment with the star that you know she'll always remember.


"We're back at Madison Square Garden! Just a hometown girl livin' the dream. I belong to u NY. #SoldOut," Gaga tweeted today as she arrived at the show. She's a proud local, and she was bound to let everyone know as she performed her extravagant new tour, artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball.

If you saw Gaga's 2012 tour, The Born This Way Ball, you may agree that the new stage show is very different. The past tour had a few dramatic elements which built up the anticipation. ArtRAVE, however, is strictly party from the minute you step foot into the arena. It's an explosion of techno music and lights - hey, she didn't call the tour a 'rave' for nothing!

Unlike most concerts, the screens are alight with images even before the first support act. Little Monsters will be familiar with 'PetGa', which is an animated form of the singer that featured in the ARTPOP phone app. Well this character actually introduces the support acts, as well as Gaga.

The support acts were part of the whole artRAVE experience, and included a korean hologram named Hatsune Miku who sang K-Pop dance tracks - the animation even had (human) backup dancers! The other support was Lady Starlight, who a true Gaga fan would easily familiarise with. She was welcomed dearly by the fans in the audience, and danced around as she played music with just a drum machine - her personal tribute to techno.

The in-between-acts moments were filled with the EDM music you would hear at your modern day club. The party music put a very festival feeling in the air, and you could just tell that everyone was ready to have a great time.

Gaga started the show with an electric rainbow introduction. The screens were flashing and the crowd was roaring when the woman of the night rose up from the stage in a gold leotard paired with shiny wings to perform her album title track ARTPOP.

"New York City I'm home!" the star announced as she touched her crystallised piano for the first time. She commanded the crowd to get on their feet as she performed fan favourites GUY, Donatella and Fashion.

One of the most fun moments from the show was when her dancers hit the stage in colourful, galactic style outfits - you could almost have said they had arrived from the planet Neptune. Gaga rises again after a costume change and appears in her famous seashell bikini to perform hit Venus. Large flowers popped out on the stage around her as she shook her massive light brown hair about. The performance was heavily guitar based during the choruses - and Gaga even pulled out her own guitar to help finish the track.

Gaga went on the bring out the rockstar within during MANiCURE and exposed her hidden rapping skills when she performed her not-so-official song Cake Like Lady Gaga. After a quick costume change the singer revisited her roots and performed a montage of massive hits Just Dance, Poker Face and Telephone. She also performed a new song PARTYNAUSEOUS, which was inspired by the issues she faced while in Jakarta.  This sent her biggest fans wild amongst an array of blue and red flashing lights.

Possibly Gaga's most outrageous outfit was when she made the change into a blue tentacle-covered octopus. She elegantly showed off her new found form as she performed older hit Paparazzi.

Gaga returned to her piano to address her hometown, and spoke emotionally about her close friends who she used to "raise hell with" on the New York streets. She celebrated and congratulated their successes in music and art, which was a sweet personal moment.

The star stayed on her piano to perform a moving rendition of major hit Born This Way. This was when the audience was able to appreciate Gaga's true vocal capabilities. After the song, she spoke about the message of her music and asked her fans never to let anyone bring them down. She made a special acknowledgement to Vincent Herbert, who found her music and made it all happen.

After the special moment at the piano, Gaga picked up the mood when she introduced rapper T.I. to the stage to rap his verse on Gaga's unique hip-hop track Jewels 'N' Drugs. A very surprising moment for everyone in the audience - only in New York!

During the show, Gaga lay down on a pink couch and was thrown many gifts and letters. Gaga cried as she read out loud the stories of some of her most dedicated fans, and invited the writers backstage respectfully. Gaga shouted that she was "the luckiest b**ch in the world" as she gathered up many presents from her Little Monsters.

The star, who is known for her extravagant outfits, paid tribute to her ever-changing self by doing a costume change on stage. She bared all in front of thousands as her dancers entertained the crowd in fluro outfits.

Gaga may have taken a page from support act Hatsune Miku's book when she transformed into a fluro Harijuku-like girl, complete with multi coloured dreadlocks and bright green leg warmers. Whilst wearing the colourful piece, she brought out her iconic dance moves for Bad Romance and Applause.

Gaga's stage layout is ideal for all fans as the unique design allowed the star to reach out to many areas of the audience. Whether in seats or standing, you were sure to have a fantastic view from all angles and to be drawn in by the stunning light show and artistic backdrop scenes. Fans in the standing zone were treated to an overload of confetti and close-up time with the star. Even the bridges in-between platforms were transparent, so Gaga's standing fans never missed a beat.

Towards the end, Gaga said it was time to say goodbye, but not before she dramatically dropped in massive fan favourite Swine, which was when the real rave began. The dancers wore pig masks and started to have their own personal rave on the side of the stage. Gaga danced to the techno music like a real raver and crawled around like a pig as she made animal noises.

Of course, there was an encore waiting to happen, and Gaga hit the stage for the final time in a beautiful, glitzy white dress. She walked over to her piano and told the audience how hard it is to leave her hometown to venture the world. The final track of the night was Gypsy, which is an upbeat song about the star's crazy travels. Gaga even managed to shootout to her boyfriend, actor Taylor Kinney mid-song. Very cute.

The artRAVE tour is perfectly named and owned by Lady Gaga. It is a psychedelic party which will captivate any pop fan, and the night is truly an experience that cannot be missed. If you haven't bought a ticket to this incredible and colourful show, you need to buy one now! Gaga is always an insane and entertaining performer, and you will undoubtedly have an unforgettable night.