Love it or hate it, there is absolutely no denying that Lady Gaga has a passion, talent and determination rivalled by very few other artists in the music industry. Last night she performed her latest show, artRAVE the ArtPop Ball Tour at The O2 in London to a sold out crowd of Little Monsters.
If Lady Gaga baffles you a little, I suggest seeing her perform live. Her aims, character and story are all put in a loud neon context and suddenly she makes perfect sense. The wigs, the clothes and the attitude all comes into play to form an icon preaching for acceptance and equality with over ten thousand people cheering in support and wholehearted agreement. If that doesn’t lift your spirits, I don’t know what will.
The tour is loud, outrageous and in your face, and when you’re one person on stage it needs to be that way. Your message could get lost in the immense space between you and the back row, so you’ve got to make it big. Unfortunately that is my main criticism of the artRAVE show – Gaga’s attention is so drawn to the standing fans that surround the winding stage that the audience further out can feel like distant spectators to a party they’re peering in the window of. In some ways, it proves my suspicion that lights and costumes aside, a back to basics Gaga in a small New York venue would be an incredibly powerful experience.
The set list is littered with the huge hits, although often in cut down versions, and some of the best tracks from the ArtPop album are sung with such power that it makes you wonder why the record didn’t do better. Opening with ArtPop, G.U.Y. and Venus the show barely slows down for a moment until there is a slight breather midway through for a heart-warmingly stripped back version of Born This Way. Her vocals barely slip throughout the entire two hours, with a range, power and tone to them that demonstrates perfectly how much of her music is definitely her music.
With a live band alongside her (the bass player easily being my favourite), there’s a clout to Gaga’s show that it would lack should she have resorted to a more backing track focused performance. A keyboard encased in something resembling Superman’s Fortress of Solitude was the focal point of the more poignant numbers such as Dope, Born This Way and the encore, Gypsy.
My personal highlights were of course my favourite Gaga song – You and I and her amazingly vibrant rendition of Bad Romance. Treating the audience to a peek at her latest album Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett, she performed a gorgeous arrangement of Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) with a trumpet solo that made me go weak at the knees. There’s absolutely a massive music geek inside Gaga, and that really helps her create such great arrangements of songs that still interesting to listen to six years on.
I once wrote an essay on why Lady Gaga is a feminist, inspired by the writing of Camille Paglia, and there’s a huge part of me that wants to do a sort of updated version, so prepare for that to be posted on here in the near future. Gaga is a performer, an artist and a top quality musician. Her drive is undeniable, although her disdain for the music industry is somewhat ironic given her rise to fame through the business. If you get a chance to see the artRAVE tour, or Gaga perform ever, I’d absolutely recommend it.