I saw the Lady Gaga concert last night at Lollapalooza. Before I get into the details about what I thought about this concert, let me just say this: Gaga has an amazing voice and sounded great live. In terms of actual singing voice live, probably one of the best.
I’ve never actually seen a female “pop” star live in concert, other than television performances at the Grammy’s or MTV Music Video Awards. The theme of this concert was Gaga trying to get to something called The Monster’s Ball. She never explained what the Monster’s Ball is, but kept referring to the crowd as her “little monsters.” It felt more like a Broadway show than a concert, and was interspersed with her ramblings and advice about life.
This is where it fell apart for me. Near the beginning of the show, she went on a rant about how it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket (remember, this to a crowd of people who paid $100-200 to be at Lollapalooza), and you can be whoever you want to be, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something or that you aren’t good enough or aren’t pretty enough. This became a running theme for the evening, as she went on and on in between songs about how long it took her to get where she was and how no one believed in her. As a note of perspective, she was 23 when The Fame was released in 2008. Madonna was 24 when her debut single “Everybody” was released.
Maybe I’m just a cynical old person, and I can appreciate that there may be some people in the crowd who needed to hear words of inspiration from a pop star wearing a bikini, but it all seemed so forced. Was she looking for validation? There wasn’t one moment of the show, including her ramblings in between songs, that did not feel extensively choreographed and planned out, and she didn’t crack a smile all evening. She also screeched and swore a lot, and didn’t even look like she was having fun, which is what I enjoy in a concert. Why go on and on about this all evening? It actually ruined the show for me. I really wanted her to just shut up and sing, because that is what I paid for – not to hear advice on life. (It’s somewhat cute when a 24 year old claims to know it all about life; I was that way once, but now I know better.)
At one point, while rolling around on the ground, she stated that she hates the truth and would rather be fed a line of bullshit. I expected her to go on and explain why since this sounds like the kind of thing a 24 year old simply says to sound deeper than they really are, but then she dropped that line of thinking and stated that she “hates money.” I hate it when people say they hate money, particularly people who have a lot of it, and even more particularly when they are saying it to a group of people who have paid said hated money to watch them sing songs on a stage. If you hate money so much, then go back to living in your studio apartment in New York and playing tiny clubs. After awhile, none of us will miss you.
Her two favorite positions on the stage were on her back rolling around (why do female pop stars do this?), or standing on the piano bench with her ass in the air while playing the piano. She came out at one point in a costume designed to look like a nun’s habit, then rolled around on the stage some more to talk about how she believes Jesus loves the gays, and then on the screen we got a picture of an angel (I think) statue with blood rolling down it. Charming, and all of this caused a good portion of the crowd to leave. (In fact, about a half an hour into the show many more people than I would have expected left to go watch The Strokes play.)
My very least favorite part of the show (and the part that seemed the most desperate) was when she sang the song that goes “show me your teeth.” She’s clearly jumped on the vampire bandwagon which began in earnest with the Twilight series, because she wore a black bathing suit type outfit and had fake blood all over her chest, neck, and arms while she was singing. It wasn’t shocking or art, it was just gross. (Earlier on one of the side screens we had seen video of her dressed in white and eating what appeared to be a heart. Also very gross.) For someone who seems to try to force her uniqueness upon us, it was surprising to me that she went with the vampire schtick, which is already so played out. And then of course she had to sing Poker Face – the one song I wanted to hear – while wearing this get up. I couldn’t even look at her.
In all, I’m glad I saw her live, but in my opinion the show itself would have been better without all her excessive preaching, and also would've been better if she toned it down just a little bit. She’s an extremely talented singer – why is she hiding behind all these crazy costumes and attention seeking antics?
Update: It struck me tonight, while watching Green Day perform, what ultimately bothered me about Gaga's performance, and that is this: her performance was entirely about her. She didn't care about the crowd or anyone who had come to see her. It was all about her, and her struggles. In sharp contrast, Green Day put on a show that was all about the crowd. They brought people up on stage, interacted, and made it quite honestly one of the best live shows I've ever seen. I'm not even a huge Green Day fan, but their show from beginning to end was awesome. Better than Gaga. And surprising or not, the crowd was a lot bigger than that for Gaga. Go Green Day. I can't even imagine how Soundgarden could possibly top their show.