‘For those of you who are just here for the hits I suggest you grab a Guinness, grab a Little Monster and head for the bar. This is our fucking artRAVE!’ Mother has arrived and she is angry. Who can blame her? The party has been pooped long before the storm clouds burst outside the 3Arena. With tickets available at the door, spacious floor room and the lack of the grand spectacle of the Perspex runway that connects the Lady to her fans, this is hardly a Monster’s Ball but more an artRave in miniature, the bubble sadly popped.
This is not the rabid Irish crowd that once ravenously clawed for Lady Gaga, selling out as many as three nights in a row in the same venue only four short years ago. This is not the day-glo kawaii celebration danced out all over the rest of the tour, the Dublin artRave instead transformed into a strutting, head cocking act of defiance. It’s a relentless attack against the arms folded, dour couples dotted all over the arena waiting impatiently in ignorance for a completely different show to happen, a love-letter to the boy dressed up as an S&M swine, the girl covered in a veil of lace with a wonky wig. Gaga stands legs a-kimbo sea-shell bikini askew and spits out the names of her biggest hits like a scorned lover ‘Just Dance, Poker Face, Bad Romance, Marry the-fucking-Night!’ she rages into the darkness as if attempting to remind the crowd just who they are witnessing. This surly segment of the artRave takes a bizarre twist as just after she has admonished the pay-day, daytime radio stooges who gave up on her, she almost panderes to them by pulling out her old wigs and outfits to blast out those very hits. The life-cycle of pop has become squeezed at its glittery edges when a star begins to reference themselves from only two tours ago.
It is an uncomfortable sight to witness the normally uncompromising, forthright diva turn dead-eyed, reduced to going through the motions for the masses especially when the artRave doesn’t really require the now almost tacky trump of ‘Just Dance’ or the cheese of ‘Telephone’. The artRave should be all about ARTPOP, an album that possesses moments of unbridled euphoria that become glorious Technicolor when unleashed live.
Gaga is at her best and most enjoyable when she’s bombastic and bold, as the two words SEXXX DREAMS dominated the giant scrolling screen the heat sizzled from the stage as the horny love child of Prince and Janet boomed over the crowd, the Lady comes alive as the army of dancers clad in latex pulled her round on a pink inflatable bed. Tracks like the goofy genius of ‘Venus’ became pop pantomime as Little Monsters cry ‘don’t you know my ass is famous!’ as a crazed choir. The unexpected highlight is ‘Mary Jane Holland’, a silly tribute to getting wasted transformed into a gleeful moment of Gaga branded genius. It’s a reminder of why she stands apart from the empty sex mannequins that litter the charts. The performance is pure uninhibited fun, a triumphant moment of her original brilliance, her humour and fearlessness. No one can imagine pouty mini-pop Ariana Grande screaming ‘That’s me MOTHERFUCKERS!!’ then promptly balancing a chair on her head whilst dancing down the stage with two other pieces of furniture swinging out of her. It’s the deranged joy of Gaga wrapped up in a jumbo marijuana leaf.
Whilst the ARTPOP tracks grind together like a well oiled machine in motion, the night becomes slightly unstuck when the quieter moments crept in. Apart from a chilling note-perfect rendition of ‘Dope’, the emotional slowed down version of ‘Born This Way’ replete with a sobbing fan by her side and a jazzy cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ lose the ethos and momentum of the rave, which could have been seamlessly improved by a much needed injection of ‘Schiebe’, ‘Dance in the Dark’ or ‘Heavy Metal Lover’. The jarring Shania twang of ‘You & I’ should have been jettisoned for the full sledge-hammer brute of ‘Judas’, instead of just a chorus and verse flung into the mix.
The night is suspiciously low on Born This Way moments, a puzzling misstep as its dark techno throb is the gateway drug to the intense bruising electro of ARTPOP. Finishing with the triple whammy of ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Applause’ and ‘Swine’, this is the artRave as it should have been: a manic, unhinged assault, a colossal kaleidoscopic pop-fantasy slammed into your eyes and ears leaving your nose bloodied, a courageous battle-cry that bares its teeth in the face of the casual ‘fan’. No half measures accepted. Without compromise, without doubt, only pure faith in the wizard behind the curtain and the next step she will take on this crazed journey.
Lady GaGa photographed by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage