LADY GAGA 24/6/12
BORN THIS WAY BALL, SHOW 4 OF 4
ALLPHONES ARENA, SYDNEY
As published on Vertigo Magazine online on July 8, 2012.
Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball has finally reached Australia, with four sold-out stadium shows in Sydney alone. And the woman behind the self-proclaimed “electro-metal pop-opera” certainly knows how to play to a crowd of 48 000 people in one city.
After a 9pm start with no supporting act or entertainment to keep the crowd nocturnal (the ticket deceivingly stated 7:30), Gaga finally made her grand entrance parading around the catwalk (the walkway surrounding the Monster Pit, which encased the select devoted fans that waited all day) with her dancers and an animatronic horse. Combined with the medieval castle set, the first thing that came to mind was a darker, twisted version of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Mother G.O.A.T (Gaga Owned Alien Territory), a hologram of Gaga’s face in a diamond-shaped prism, appeared as the show’s narrator and announced: “Space renegade Lady Gaga has escaped. Alien fugitive objective: To birth a new race. Operation: Kill the bitch!”
Dubbed “too homosexual and pornographic” in some parts of Asia, Gaga put on a provocative show, with a staged sexual rendezvous with a dancer and shooting of said dancer taking place within minutes of the ball starting. She then gave birth to herself, graphically emerging from an inflatable lower body, complete with sound effects (“Born This Way”). The audience, consisting of a cross-section of Australian society – many being mothers, very young children, high schoolers and not as many dressed-up little monsters as I expected – were unfazed by the mature elements, which just shows that Gaga attracts the uninhibited, the unconservative, even if they may appear to be (and really are!) just like you and me.
As she sings “Bloody Mary”, the singer rotates around the extended stage, standing upright and only moving via the technology beneath the floor, perhaps metaphorically referencing the show’s theme of government control. The audience is somewhat unresponsive to these grandiose elements and focus their attention on waiting for Mother Monster’s best-known hits, and they come in succession, in the form of “Bad Romance” and “Judas” to name a few. Gaga then takes a moment to speak directly with the audience, saying: “I am not a woman. I am not a man. I am not a creature of your government Australia but I am you. I am everything that you love about yourself and everything that you hate and I am not even real. I’m just an image that your mind has created. I would not be here without your creativity.”
Old favourites “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” are sure-fire hits for the 21 000-strong crowd and possibly her most recognisable songs, with the ability to bring everybody off their seats and paws in the air. One highlight was Gaga taking a breather from singing (no, there’s no lip synching here) and sorting through messages from fans in the Monster Pit. For some minutes, she invited several little monsters to meet her after the show and was showered with gifts on stage, to which she said: “Did someone just throw a carrot at me? Oh, it’s brown and all bruised! Wait, what did you say? It was Born This Way?” She tilted her head back and laughed so endearingly that you realise, despite her claims, beneath the face prosthetics and meat dresses on the red carpet, she really is like anybody else after all.
Speaking of the latter, Gaga’s meat dress made another appearance – along with a Christian Dada origami crane dress and a dozen other eccentric creations. Her surprisingly playful personality shone through the whole night. “I’m a bit sad today; my vagina’s been weeping for hours because this is our last show in Sydney!” she announced, mimicking the crying with her hands. “But it’s alright – everything’s going to be okay – because if you ever need me I am just a telephone call away.” Cue yet another hit single to get the crowd dancing.
But one of the real treats was hearing her sing “Hair” acoustically on a keyboard attached to a Harley Davidson-style motorbike. This raw moment showcased her powerful vocals perfectly, silently sending tingles down people’s backs and tears to their eyes as their Mother Monster addressed the fans who were “singing the lyrics from heaven”, a nod to the ball’s second theme of discrimination (Gaga has most notably spoken out against bullying and sexuality-based hate).
After some more sultry numbers – one which included a woman grinding on Gaga on the motorbike during “Heavy Metal Lover” – the energetic choreography continued well into the night, with “Americano” and “Alejandro” proving to be visual spectacles as Gaga perched on a meat couch, matching her dress for a previous number. “Sydney, are you having a good time? Well, if you’re not, I don’t give a fuck”, she proclaimed, before preaching to the audience to never care about what other people think.
Mother G.O.A.T returns to lip-synch half of “Paparazzi”, before Gaga appears atop the castle and, using her Disco Stick, kills her. The audience, the majority of which is there for the curiosity factor, offers an underwhelming response – most likely due to being more engrossed with the music than the show’s concept. The themes of government authority and discrimination, combined with the somewhat Tim Burton-like, adventurous medieval theme make for a heavily theatrical production, explaining the non-university student-friendly ticket prices. In explaining her style, Gaga said: “I would sing and they would say I was too dramatic. So I went to acting school and they said I was too pop.” The Born This Way Ball is a perfect combination of the two, and it isn’t hard to understand how the set-up, as loud and eccentric as it is, reflects her personal creative vision.
Gaga placed the cherry on top of her enormous red velvet cake with an encore consisting of get-up-and-dance hits “The Edge of Glory” and “Marry The Night”, reigniting the crowd with an infectious zeal for celebrating life and the moment. Peering over her blue-shadowed eyelids, she asks, “Sydney, will you remember me? Because I will remember you!” Hobbling from the venue in outlandishly tall and glamourous Gaga-esque heels (oh, how we suffer for our art), we say, oh yes, Mother Monster, we will.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Lady Gaga continues her Australian tour into July before the European Born This Way Ball kicks off in August.