Lady Gaga spent about as much time pumping up the self-esteem of her Little Monsters during the first date of her Artpop Ball tour at the BB&T Center as she did sassing them and talking about herself. It was more like sitting at the Christmas table with our real moms than squatting at the toes of the once-doting Mother Monster.
In 2011, it was both impressive and exhausting to watch her intensely connect with fans at the Monster Ball tour in American Airlines Arena. But the artRAVE, Artpop Ball isn't about showing affection for her people; it's about Gaga refining her look.
Whereas she once readily embraced the gifts the Little Monsters flung at her feet, last night she admonished the crowd, saying, "Stop throwing shit on my new stage, although drugs are fine..." What the fudge, Gaga?! What kind of mother talks to her little monsters like that?! A mean mommy. That's who.
At least twice last night, she spoke about how her appearance was a big thing -- and she didn't talk much -- adding that, of course, there's more to life than just looks. She started with, "All my wigs and my outfits are such a big part of who I am," tagging on later, "The light that you're looking for is inside you." It's not like she was abusive, but clearly, her focus has shifted. The spotlight is totally on her, not the crowd.
And to give props, her sharper style is impressive. It's almost like, if you can dress like a fabulous human octopus with a train of light gray tentacles spotted with pink, a costume that would make any drag queen or fashionista sick with envy, who needs loving fans?
An artRAVE, apparently, is something like where the land of the Snorks meets the Wizard of Oz's Munchkinland. Her dancers' costumes were colorful and fun and looked like what Broadway would do with getups for extras at a rave, with mod elements added for good taste.
The stage was way stripped down from the dirty Subway cars of the Monster Ball. It looked like Mykonos with a band of dudes wailing on their guitars all in white. Like the octopus' legs, the stage wove its way out into the crowd. An iceberg sculpture at the end of one of the extensions hid a piano where Gaga sat and played twice. It overlooked the "Artpop Lounge" where it seemed certain people could snag an "exclusive" drink from a hot bartender.
Gaga has never looked better, and almost every costume was flawless. She took after Katy Perry and Madonna in "Human Nature" in a green wig and black latex two-piece. She could've been Shakira, if your sight was poor, wearing a big blond wig and a shell bra with toned butt and thighs covered only with ripped fishnets. But when she came out for her one-song (only one!) encore, she had the long, white, straight locks of a snow-queen Cher, donning an incredible, glittering structured dress that was boxy and wavy, shaped in homage to the goddess of Moonstruck.
There were fun moments last night, like when she had three men help her undress onstage -- yes, she had on pasties -- and put on the furry boots and yarn hair of a kandi costume, bringing the full rave, though not a ton of art.
Her voice was soulful, and she sang throughout the set as she danced. Even the concession guy said, "She can really sing." And we agreed dorkily, "Yes, she really can." She started the whole set with "Artpop" and followed with a few newer songs, but then, after a lengthy costume change, played the Gaga standards. After hearing every one of her popular tunes, it was already clear the encore would be short, and she played only "Gypsy" on the piano to close out.
When two gay flags hit the stage, she did throw them over one shoulder and saunter over to the iceberg to the joy of the audience. And the one other time she accepted gifts, she put on a pot leaf lei and wore it during "Jewels N' Drugs." "You keep me so inspired," she said, sounding uninspired. Then she reluctantly agreed to put on an ugly vest someone threw at her feet. We can't blame her for immediately removing it. Maybe her fans need to get her more chic presents?
Who knows? Moms can be weird sometimes, and eventually us kids need to grow up and allow them to express who they are, instead of asking for their reassurance all the time. It seems Gaga's enjoying the empty-nest stage -- if we can call it that -- and though awkwardly adjusting to her new role as refined parent in a quest for self-knowledge, she's keeping the door open to let her Little Monsters in, just with new rules.
"Cake Like Lady Gaga"
"Do What U Want"
"Born This Way"
"Jewels N' Drugs"
"Mary Jane Holland"
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