If Lady Gaga and her fans were a couple, they would be that couple: that loved-up pair of paramours in your life always making uncomfortable public displays of affection and loudly declaring their love – and, on occasion, screaming out from the upper reaches of an arena that “oh my God, I love your bum!”. That couple who dress the same – sometimes in meat, mostly in sequins – and can’t tear their googly eyes off each other, and who you just want to tell to “get a room!”
When they do just that, as they did in Allphones Arena this Saturday night for the Sydney leg of Gaga’s ArtRave tour, it’s a big messy mutual lovefest. Gaga (Stefani Germanotta) doesn’t just dedicate a song to her ‘little monsters’, or tell them they are “one of the most authentic fanbases of the new millennium”, she pauses mid-song during Dope – “I need you more than dope” – to repeat lines that underline just how important they are to their queen. She schools them in her love.
In return, her fans don’t just cheer and compliment her admittedly very impressive buttocks, they almost convulse with admiration for a full two hours, shrieking and clawing the air on command and throwing flowers and flags and plush toys at her as if she’s a singing, dancing Princess Di memorial.
For the casual fan, there’s something surreal about the whole thing – but it’s never less than mesmerising.
When her ladyship was last in town, back in 2012, she was on top of the world – her second album of all-new material, Born This Way, was a hit, and the Gaga schtick was still considered innovative as opposed to wearing thin. Two years later, and the Gaga brand has taken a few hits – 2013’s ArtPop might be best described as “troubled”, selling poorly despite solid tracks like Applause and Do What U Want, and slack-tongued twerkers are grabbing the headlines while Gaga’s big statements – fashion or otherwise – are met with a shrug. Check out ringtones for these songs here.
But she still knows how to treat an arena. The ArtRave set was suitably elaborate, a squiggle of runway stages sprayed with igloos and ice crystals as if Mr Freeze and Elsa the Snow Queen had just done battle at Allphones. And the costumes were as ridiculous as you would hope for: Gaga changed on stage at one point into a multi-coloured fluoro Harajuku number; sang Paparazzi (gorgeously) as she was strangled by what appeared to be the spawn of a Dalmatian and a giant squid; and opened the night in a golden leotard with a blue orb protruding from her chest and golden wings spreading out from her back.
The tiny woman inside the outfits was a revelation: that huge voice soaring above the mess of noise in big numbers like Bad Romance and Alejandro. She was especially strong when settled at her white piano – on Dope, tears dropped from her face as she gave her arena full of fans pretty much everything, and a pared-back Born This Way gave the song the heft that its pro-LGBTQI message deserves.
The little monster inside this reviewer was slightly disappointed that we had to wade through a number of newer songs before getting to bona fide Gaga hits, and that when these came, several – Poker Face, Telephone and Just Dance – were truncated and presented as a kind of medley. But then there were moments like Do What U Want, when Gaga sat like a queen in an elevated giant silver hand and the bum-complimenter behind us screamed out “You are such a b—h!” and we knew it was the nicest thing you could say at such a moment.
And then there was the moment of the night, when Gaga sorted through the toys and tat thrown at her feet and plucked out a letter. It was from a man in the audience who had spoken to her during her last tour and whom she had encouraged to come out of the closet, despite his concern about how his parents might react. “Through your music you’ve helped and set free many people,” he wrote, now happily out, embraced by his parents, and thankful for Gaga’s help.
The arena cameras homed in on him, and so did Gaga, telling her people to make sure he was backstage later. Then she firmly repeated the order – make sure he’s there.
Great bum, great heart, very good show.
Below are some photos of Lady Gaga making her way back to LA after her trip to Sydney.
Gallery Link: http://www.gagaimages.org/thumbnails.php?album=2575