Friday night in Dublin, the closing night of Lady Gaga’s three night stand of her epic ’Monster’s Ball’ tour and surely the O2 is not about to let the bewigged one go out with a whimper not a bang? Yet sadly there was nary a sausage tiara to be seen, apart from a few Gaga-a-likes wrestling with their jumpsuits as the Duchess herself took to lying on the runway of the mobile phone arena screaming for a more enthusiastic response.
It’s a strange thing being a modern pop phenomenon. Adored by the pop sussed, the kiddiewinks, the disco darlings and now appropriated by everyone from the white van man, your nan, stuffy cultural commentators and boring old indie journalist men that are usually more obsessed with the subtle chord change in the latest assortment of dull guitar droners than the dizzy heights of the pop mountain. Gaga has become a talking point for all but not so much a ‘listening’ point for these people. She’s a dinner party ice breaker, a chance for non-pop obsessive’s to pretend they’re smart and appreciate her on a ‘Bowie level’ and for pioneering feminists to get all the words of her songs wrong…thanks Paglia.
Which is why there’s a crush at the bar during the non-single stuff and we’re treated to men holding handbags crying for Gaga to ‘just fucking sing’ when she attempts to say ‘Hello’ to the crowd. Therein lies the rub of being successful, as she calls out to her ‘Little Monsters’ to just be themselves no matter what and not to be ashamed of their sexuality, in the darkness thousands of Ben Sherman shirted men snigger at the young glitter covered boys with their faces up turned to the stage. Tonight is a conflict of Gaga the cartoon pop machine versus Gaga the wannabe Dada artist, grand dame of kook.
Appearing right on time from under the Steven Meiselesque veil of S&M style portraits, she stands as a tiny big shouldered silhouette on top of stage scaffolding belting out the throbbing disco grime of ‘Dance in the Dark’ – an ode to crazy ladies everywhere from Marilyn to Sylvia Plath. It’s a jump the gun beginning but its brilliance could have been saved as an incendiary spark plug for audience fatigue later.
As she stands, hands on hips starring into the crowd full of little girls under the neon sign that flashes Sexy/Ugly, bemoans the emphasis on beauty in society and talks of ripping the heads of Barbie dolls, her butter blonde Veronica Lake wig sticking to her brow, she looks like a crazy ambassador for wonky faced girls everywhere. This is not ‘girls so hot they’ll melt your popsicle’ but ‘girls so free they’ll beat you with their disco stick’ , this is not someone who has suffered at the hands of male brutality and then goes and sings a song with a sexist homophobe (Hi Rhianna!) but a ‘free bitch’; as she screams on the top of her lungs several times.
Interacting with the somewhat reluctant crowd she dazzles, turning in a true solid gold pop moment when she ties a star spangled bandana (thrown from the audience) round her head and struts down the runway to the strains of ‘Telephone’, the dancers crowding around her as mouths go dry from screaming the Beyonce rap. Well apart from the girl who missed the message of the song and spent it with her back to the action taking place ten inches away from her and talked on her phone. Oh the irony.
As stage sets go ‘Monster’s Ball’ is a thrilling trip of the Rocky Horror meets the Wizard of Oz, with Gaga being engulfed by a ‘disco tornado’ so she can change into her amazing Corpus Christi Crystal Barbie ‘living dress’ that moves around like the bellows of an accordion as she sings. The show stopper comes in the form of the ‘Alejandro’ set as a giant silver Jesus with wings starts crying a fountain of blood as Gaga’s fire-shooting bra goes off amongst the dry ice. They didn’t have that in Knock.
Everything is a true spectacle, everything is a moment, an image to remember. If the best pop shows make you feel like you are living in a giant video for three glorious minutes then this makes you feel that heart squelching intensity for hours, you are truly through the looking glass trashing the Mad Hatter’s tea party. The only calming respite is when she takes to the piano to sing ‘Speechless’, but even then she changes the lyrics to include ‘Dublin’ and anecdotes about her love of Jameson, never wanting the audience’s attention to wander. Although to be fair how could it when she starts playing the piano with her foot?
Attention spans and sanity were truly mangled when it came to the double whammy finale of a enormous Jabba the Hutt style monster’s head being lowered onto the stage as Gaga serenaded it with the shining pop beauty ‘Paparazzi’ before launching into the daddy of them all, the unstoppable rocket ship ride of ‘Bad Romance’. No pop song in the past ten years has come close to capturing its vein pounding life force, it stamps all over you relentlessly like Nazi jackboots and leaves you drained but insatiable. Bells, whistles, monsters and costumes aren’t needed for a song this sublime but if they did disappear who would we lose, the lady herself or just those who comment on her?