Stefani Germanotta—better known as Lady GaGa to “little monsters” everywhere—brought her sold-out Monster Ball Tour to the Gwinnett Arena on Monday evening. Long time musician and dancer, GaGa has been lauded for setting a new standard as a total performance artist and is arguably the most talked about celebrity on the planet; at 33 million Facebook fans and 9.5 million Twitter followers, it’s hard to see it otherwise. Among other things, this was the one of the few big-name Atlanta concerts to have sold out since Justin Bieber brought her—excuse me, his— show to Philips Arena last Dec.
GaGa’s tour has only a handful of performances remaining, including several sold out futbol stadiums in Mexico. As such, GaGa showed up ready to go all out—and she was astounding. I’ve been a little monster since GaGa’s single “Paparazzi” was released, so seeing this concert brought together three or so years of my own wish to see her in person – although there were actually a few aspects of her concert I found unappealing.
A good portion of the Arena was empty during the opening act, Semi Precious Weapons, with most of the people milling around outside taking pictures with the slew of crazily dressed fans. With a style comparable to a less edgy Jet, Weapons’ act was decent, but nothing super special; fans will probably remember more about their fun in the atrium than regretting missing the first act. Lead singer Justin Tranter – long-time friend of GaGa since her starting days in New York City – is actually fairly talented, and I myself got to speak with him back stage near wardrobe. He was incredibly humble, and he wished me the best of luck photographing the concert.
When GaGa finally hit the stage at 9:40 pm after an unexplained wait (she was slated for 9:15), it was as though the crowd became electrified; joy shot through the arena, and no one was immune. Even the elderly seventy-ish usher holding the door for me said, “Wow, she sounds really good!” The crowd was a nervous mixture of older married couples, and younger elementary and middle school kids, who apparently found it hilarious to occasionally launch foreign objects on to the stage (which was actually only hilarious when they were promptly escorted out).
GaGa’s performance was incredibly dramatic, and was loosely set up as a narrative in which GaGa and her dancers got lost on their way to the Monster Ball, a place where “all the freaks are free to be themselves without judgment.” GaGa came across in her performance as a tough-as-nails rock star versus the sequin covered glamour girl image that she used to tout. Between songs, GaGa often gave a speech more or less pertaining to “being yourself,” which, with her upcoming album Born This Way, did not seem out of place.
Her speeches did not seem scripted, and the audience got a taste of who GaGa really is, although she probably shared similar words of wisdom at every stop along her tour; still, with every GaGa-ism pronounced, the crowd went nuts. Set changes came after every three or so songs, and were marked with videos projected onto the lowered curtain. These videos seemed somewhat subliminal, and were often – for lack of a better term – trippy. Sadly, I guess my brain doesn’t comprehend super-high fashion.
GaGa has a wonderful voice, and claimed she never lip-syncs, screaming, “you didn’t pay to see some rich b**** fake it!” However, there were several dance sequences that remain questionable. GaGa’s back up dancers were incredibly talented. Interestingly, there were several moments where GaGa would stare back at the large projector screens on either side of the stage to check the video shots that were coming from her crew. It became a little distracting for GaGa to waltz out to the edge of the stage, then have her turn around and make sure her position was framed alright on the screen.
All criticism aside, seeing the Monster Ball was an incredibly entertaining experience. GaGa is extremely devoted to her work, and between throwing her body painfully down on the stage to singing at the top of her lungs at a burning piano, the twenty-five year old held me captivated for the entire two hours she performed.
The attention was always invariably on her, and she seemingly thrives in this atmosphere, claiming at one point that she “is like Tinkerbell. I’ll die if you don’t clap for me.” Walking out of the arena with her latest single “Judas” blasting, I felt more like I had just witnessed a unique phenomenon than a concert – a phenomenon I would gladly experience again.