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Photos: Lady Gaga’s night of empowerment at MGM Grand

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Lady Gaga performs at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Aug. 13, 2010.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/www.erikkabik.com

By Don Chareunsy, Vegas DeLuxe editor

Superstar Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena last night was a creative and high-energy revelation that included quirky sets and costumes, surprisingly earnest and heartfelt emotion and a lot of Gay Pride, with a party vibe to rival any White Party or other circuit party extravaganza.

Lady Gaga has said in previous interviews that the show is more musical than concert, and she wasn’t lying. The nearly 2-hour performance, about her friends and her in New York traveling the glitter way to The Monster Ball, the ultimate party, is a wild mix of The Wizard of Oz, Wicked and Into the Woods, and the sets included a sparse Big Apple with neon signs (“drugs,” “good food,” “sexy ugly,” “BBQ”), a subway and a forest, where a larger-than-life monster resides.

Las Vegas received its first of many shout-outs during the third song, her breakout hit “Just Dance,” and this is where the night’s theme was set in motion. “The Monster Ball will set you free, Vegas! You can be whoever you want,” Lady Gaga screamed. During “Vanity,” she implored “put your hands up and celebrate yourselves.”

Lady Gaga at MGM Grand Garden Arena

After “LoveGame,” in which she breathed heavily into the mic because she was out of breath from dancing (and which she endearingly did throughout the concert), she said, “My name is Lady Gaga. Thanks for buying a ticket. I haven’t always been brave, but you have made me brave tonight.” She told the fans to forget their insecurities and alleged inadequacies, as she has dismissed her critics who have said she wasn’t thin, pretty or talented enough and said her music was too theatrical.

In case the audience and her fans -- they were deemed Little Monsters during the concert -- didn’t know that Lady Gaga is very gay-friendly, she shouted out “show your Gay Pride” to her BFFs, the Las Vegas gays, before launching into “Boys Boys Boys.” In a heartfelt moment minutes later, she thanked tour sponsor Virgin Mobile for donating $20,000 from each concert to her favorite charity RE*generation, an organization she described as assisting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths who have been kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation.

After calling a fan in the audience, glittery-top-wearing Elena, and telling her that she would bring her friends and her closer to the stage and greet her with a kiss after the concert, Lady Gaga launched into “Telephone,” the dance hit with Beyonce, after putting on a pair of signed boxer briefs from a fan in the audience who thanked her for helping him to accept himself.

Lady Gaga @ MGM Grand Garden Arena

Lady Gaga slowed it down with “Speechless” at the piano, which erupted into flames, then swirled into a tornado of flames before the song’s end. She congratulated her guitarist on his Las Vegas wedding yesterday, in which the bride wore Mickey Mouse ears. After “You and I,” her new song in which she was tear-eyed, she said, “I’m sorry I’m so emotional. I’m a girl. Maybe! You don’t care. I could be a giraffe!”

There were nods to religion, including a bleeding angel statue and a prayer to Jesus during “Teeth,” in which she proclaimed, “Jesus loves everybody.” Lady Gaga’s performance ended with four of her big hits: “Alejandro,” “Poker Face,” Paparazzi” and the encore “Bad Romance.” “We’ve burned the place to the ground! We did it, Las Vegas, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena!” Lady Gaga concluded after bowing to the audience and bidding adieu with her concert entourage after “Bad Romance.”

The night’s I-dare-you-to-not-look-at-me costumes included leather and animal print one-pieces (swimsuits or aerobic wear), a bright red cape with matching red bow and ribbon, a white nun’s habit with see-through plastic and white X’s covering her breasts, a larger-than-life white feather-like gown with angel’s wings, a green tutu dress and a glittery black gold cat suit.

Lady Gaga’s fans -- male and female -- of course came dressed to emulate one of pop music’s biggest icons in wigs, leather, fishnet, platforms, latex and flesh. A standout was one fan in yellow cautionary tape, and pretty much nothing else. The intermission between the opening act and Lady Gaga was all Michael Jackson in a nod to the late King of Pop and included a crowd wave(!).

Leach Blog Photo

Lady Gaga performs at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Aug. 13, 2010.

Leach Blog Photo

Lady Gaga performs at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Aug. 13, 2010.

Lady Gaga doesn’t have the emotional depth or music catalog of Madonna -- yet -- but the two music and gay icons are strong and indelible provocateurs who celebrate everyone joining their Monster Ball and dance-floor confessionals. Lady Gaga returns to MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 25 in the tail end of her world tour.

Semi Precious Weapons opened for Lady Gaga, but the entire opening act was sadly over before entering the arena because the box office couldn’t locate a concert ticket for more than an hour. SPW, who hosted an after-concert party at Studio 54, hired Lady Gaga before she broke out, so this gig is her payback.

Love or hate her, Lady Gaga is one loyal, well, lady.

Thanks to contributing photographer Erik Kabik for his photo gallery, and check out Las Vegas Sun colleague Justin M. Bowen’s images and Las Vegas Weekly colleague Josh Bell’s review, as well.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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