Iron Lady

[Live] Lady Gaga, Sheffield Arena, 4th June 2010

Following my moderately successful social experiment attending a Rihanna concert, I thought I may as well stand at the back being cynical about Lady Gaga too. My usual habitat is investigating the latest drone-prog sensation in some sticky-floored shitshack, but I can play the role of cultural explorer too – I’m Lauren Laverne. Gaga’s live shows are renowned for providing more skanky bangs for your buck than the latest Zooey Deschanel film, so I took my position, arms folded, and saw what went down.

The first thing to note about Gaga is the blind worship she engenders in her ill-advisedly dressed followers. After the obligatory bullshit ‘artsy’ intro video she performed Dance In The Dark stood motionless, silhouetted behind a curtain. In the dark. The first of many subtle metaphors. The occasional sharp jabbing motion of her arm was enough to draw deafening screams from most of the crowd. It was like the Nuremberg Rally all over again. She even repeatedly implored the crowd to make the sign of The Claw – stolen shamelessly from Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. Bloody cultural Magpies.

As she’s not exactly heavy on material we soon launched into the tiresome pop rock opera part of the show: endless tracts of primary school level theatrics centred around her quest to get to the Monster Ball. Although clearly based on The Wizard of Oz, the narrative thread actually had more in common with Danny Dyer’s little-known masterpiece, Malice In Wonderland, right down to the neon signs flashing meaningless slogans like ‘sexy ugly’. Fortunately after a couple of minutes stilted banter with her parade of freaks (trained dancers) she unleashed the first solid gold hit of the night, Just Dance, and the tedium which preceded it was obliterated. The tempo remained high as she blasted through Beautiful Dirty Rich, The Fame, Boys Boys Boys and then the mercifully abridged version of Telephone, performed inside a mock-up subway car.

Although allegedly subverting female pop aesthetics, Gaga spent most of the show wearing a leather bikini, showing off her toned and waxed to within an inch of its life physique with aplomb. Sure, she might be a bit beaky, but I fail to see how dying your hair urinal cake yellow is really skewering the stereotypical blonde bombshell image.

The relentless disco assault soon subsided as a costume change was masked by another video, this time featuring shocking imagery such as green vomit and Gaga biting a lump out of a still beating heart – ooh, she is offal. She then returned dressed as a standard lamp, presumably in a nod to the possessed one from the critically acclaimed third film in the Amityville franchise, as events took a turn for the turdulous. Taking a seat behind the piano she emoted her way through the Bowie-esque Brown Eyes, then onto Speechless, complete with flames spiralling from her Steinway, before an interminably long rendition of Teeth. Seasons changed. Governments fell. I went to the toilet. I came back again. And still she was yowling on, repeating her frankly confusing catchphrase of “I’m not a dentist, I’m a free bitch.” Then she broke off for five minutes to shoot the shit with a member of the audience and open a specially made card – big mistake, that envelope could easily have contained anthrax or razorblades – before picking up where she left off for the first of about three  jazz breakdowns. The rest of the audience seemed to love it though, so maybe it was just me who couldn’t handle the tooth.

After more ramblings from the Tao of Gaga – something about you can only cast a shadow if you’re stood in the light, never let anyone stand in your way, a watched pot never boils, the pace thankfully lifted again for a run through Alejandro and Poker Face. Another am-dram interlude – these bits really did gargle hairy monster balls – led to the highlight of the show, budget-wise if nothing else. Now warming to her theme, Gaga mused that fame is y’know, a bit like a monster, so what better way to express this than a subtle exploration of…. ah fuck it, get the 30ft animatronic fanged squid onstage. And shout “Look! It’s the Fame Monster!” just in case anyone missed the point. Credit where it’s due though, singing Paparazzi whilst writhing in the clutches of an eight-tentacled corn log, before shooting flames from your tits, is one of the more memorable ways you can close a show. Anyway, after a brief exit from the stage, and a mere 2 hours and 20 minutes after she had first appeared – seriously, I’ve seen shorter Yes gigs – Gaga re-emerged to belt her way through the song which we’d all been waiting for, the one which will probably define her career: Bad Romance.

Sure, there was a helluva lot of filler, and I could have well done without a lot of the theatrics, but it’s better that somebody puts too much effort into a show, rather than not enough. Otherwise I might find myself droning on like a Paul Weller fan and saying “it should all be about the music.” And then I’d have to kill myself.

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