Do not fear – what you are reading is real. This Is Not A Scene is bringing you a Lady Gaga review; do not panic and do not adjust your computer screens as this is not The Twilight Zone, however one look at the “We are passionate about music, regardless of perceived genres or ‘Scenes’. We are not concerned about hair styles, how tight our jeans are or if our clothes glow in the dark… all we care about is the music!” portion of the About Us section on our website may give you some perspective on the situation.
Anyway, on with the show, as it were. This is it, the big return of Lady Gaga to the live arena. For the first time in over a year the newly-minted Queen of Pop has returned to claim the throne once again, this time in the intimate setting of The Roundhouse venue in London as the opening attraction of the yearly Itunes Festival.
It is this venue that the Gaga one has chosen to unleash ‘Artpop’ on the masses. ‘Artpop’ is the title/concept behind her as yet unreleased third studio album which is due for release later in the year, and as the entire set in tonight’s show is made up of all new material from ‘Artpop’ you can consider this both a live review and a preview of what’s in store when the album drops.
Lady Gaga is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most interesting, unique and entertaining performers of the current pop generation; bear in mind, though, that this is the woman that brought, murder, cannibalism, sex, Catholic-bashing and a hell of a lot else together in a giant orgy of disco lights, confetti and costumes that would make Liberace blush. A woman who turned up at one awards ceremony in a giant egg and another in a dress made entirely of meat, she’s the poison in Katy Perry‘s apples and the devil on Ke$ha‘s shoulder, and she is the puppet master pulling all of the strings and shows no sign of slowing down. The atmosphere inside The Roundhouse tonight is absolutely electric, reaching a fever pitch as Gaga arrives, emerging from inside a cage wearing an outfit akin to a burka as she opens with “Aura”, which really should be a single as it has dance floor hit written all over it. The lyrics are a little more open than you would expect from Gaga, but it is a brilliant way for her to re-introduce herself to her audience and certainly sets the tone for what’s to follow. Up next is “Manicure”, which see’s Gaga stripped down to a thong and seashell bra like some kind of mermaid/siren of the sea. Complete with massive wig, it’s big, it’s loud and it’s very, very catchy.
“Artpop” follows and gets a great reception from the audience, bringing with it come the first signs that Gaga has started to further diversify her sound. The second sign of this is “Jewels & Drugs” which follows, Gaga adorning a checked shirt, thong and heels whilst behind a keyboard, throwing hip hop signs around and being joined by Too Short and Twista, as well as T.I., who appears onscreen due to apparent visa issues. It’s nice to see her switching up her sound whilst stripping back and looking a little more loose onstage. Speaking of loose, “Sex Dreams” is up next, which, as you may have guessed, is about having dirty dreams about someone, and in typical Gaga fashion it involves her parading around in her underwear, sounding like ‘Bedtime Stories’-era Madonna and simulating masturbation onstage which, to be honest, isn’t a bad thing.
As we make our way into the last portion of Gaga‘s set she slows things down and brings out the, as she would put it, more emotional, raw material that she displays in the form of “Swine”, which she claims is about the person behind the persona, and before she performs it she takes of her wig and make up to present the real Lady Gaga onstage before sitting behind a piano with what looks like a diamante pig mask. She claims the song came from a place she never wanted to go back to, but she would do anything for her monsters (fans). The song itself refers to being ‘a pig inside a human body’ and being ‘disgusting’; now it’s not entirely clear if that’s how she views people or how she thinks people view her, but either way it seems to have struck a chord as there were people jumping on giant bungee ropes dressed as pigs. It might also explain why she has dubbed tonight’s gig ‘Swinefest’. After the march of the pigs the obligatory ballad reared it’s head in the form of “I Wanna Be With You” which, for my money, may be one of the best songs that she has ever written, and seeing her sit there onstage and perform it with just a piano is a spine-tingling moment which not only proves that she is a great songwriter but also that she can hold an audience by the hearts without all of the bells and whistles that usually accompany her. Unfortunately I had something in my eye that caused a leak when she played it so that was a tad inconvenient.
The big finale comes in the form of current single “Applause”, which was a slightly trimmed down version of her performance at the VMA’s, where she was flanked by dancers and was dressed like The Riddler on a country retreat. It was a welcome lift in tempo whilst also providing the audience with at least one song tonight that they are familiar with and one they can go singing merrily into the night. An explosive finale to a riveting, electrifying show.
Say what you like about Lady Gaga but she proves time and time again, both in her recorded work and in the live arena, that she is in a league of her own, for not only did she sing every note on stage without any kind of backing tape or backing singers – which seems to be incredibly popular with 99% of pop performers today – but she also managed to bring enough production and dancers/performers with her that it felt like the full Lady Gaga show we have come to expect but still feeling incredibly intimate and personal at the same time, and I think that is largely down to the rapport and bond she has with her audience and her manner onstage. It’s a very special bond she has with her fans and that shines through when she is performing.
Lady Gaga is the beating metal heart of the current pop scene; a rebel, a metalhead and a genuine musical outlaw, a true star who cannot and should not be categorized or pigeonholed into scenes or genres. She is an artist who is fully in control of her own destiny, a woman with a vision who is bold enough to return after a lengthy absence and play a set entirely dedicated to new material which shows that she not only has complete and utter faith and conviction in her music but also her fans. She took a risk and it paid off massively for her, not only as a reintroduction but as a preview of Gaga v3.0 as well. Lady Gaga is a rare breed and I, for one, hope she is around for the long haul. Get ready, the Queen is back and she just put everyone else on notice.