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Lady Gaga puts songs over spectacle

Musical talent shines through the artifice

Image
Lady Gaga performs during her Monster Ball Tour on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010, at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Photo: Justin M. Bowen

Lady Gaga loves her fans. That, if nothing else, was the lesson to take away from the pop star’s concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where she paused numerous times to praise the “Little Monsters” who’ve made her so successful, to thank them for their dedication and to encourage them to express themselves. “You have made me brave,” she said while bravely wearing nothing but hot pants and a bra.

Lady Gaga @ MGM Grand Garden Arena

The relentless fan pandering got a little tiresome, especially since a large part of Gaga’s image is based on the idea that she’s completely disingenuous. But the show’s artifice was also often less than spectacular: Gaga’s restrictive costumes found her moving awkwardly around the stage; a vague, sporadic Wizard of Oz-like storyline came across as mostly incoherent; and the video interludes were ponderous and dull. Surprisingly for an artist whose success is built around her outrageous look and creative visual presentation, Gaga’s greatest strength onstage was her consistently underrated voice. While her dedication to singing live meant that she sometimes sounded out of breath and had to be supported by back-up singers, when she stripped away the extraneous trappings and just belted out her catchy, well-written songs, Gaga proved herself to be more than just the smoke and mirrors that her detractors see.

The Details

Lady Gaga
Three stars
August 13, MGM Grand Garden Arena

Sitting alone at a piano for “Speechless,” Gaga poured her heart into the song written for her father and dedicated to her fans. She then launched into a new song, “You and I,” with equal vigor and emotion, not needing any of the elaborate moving sets or silly costumes to convey the fierceness of her music. On the more dance-oriented tunes, whose studio versions tend to heavily process her voice, Gaga sounded mechanical much of the time, but also shone through with vocal flourishes. The over-the-top stage production worked best when it served the songs, as when pieces of the set doubled as instruments (a keyboard inside a car hood was a particularly clever touch). Much of the evening’s demonstrated fan adulation will fade as people move on to the next pop trend, but Gaga’s genuine musical talent will endure.

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