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.
"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.