Last Night: Lady Gaga at Toyota Center
Note: These photos are pre-approved shots of a previous Born This Way Ball performance provided by Team Gaga, not from Thursday night's Houston show.
Photos courtesy of The Picture Group
Check out Gaga's Little Monsters in our slideshow.
Lady Gaga Toyota Center January 31, 2K13
Lady Gaga knows what the people want, and she gives it to them. She knows that some people just come for the spectacle, so she brings along a giant gothic castle and a variety of strange props to go with it. She knows people want to hear the hits, so they're dished out regularly.
She knows that the little monsters want to hear the gospel of Gaga and so she preaches about being brave, being yourself, and not taking any shit anymore.
It's visually stimulating and emotionally stirring, a guaranteed formula to send most of the crowd home happy.. It's so good that it isn't until later, in the car ride home or right before they fall asleep that they realize that much of the show didn't make a lick of sense.
Not that it needed to, of course.
Lady Gaga is not the world's best storyteller. This would not be a problem except that she loves to tell stories, from big epics about aliens and freedom to small personal stories about stargazing and perseverance.
She lucked out with her first large-scale tour/production, The Monster Ball. That story might have been silly, but it was basic and relatable: Gaga and her friends need to get through a city to get to the party, along the way she fights a giant angler fish. This is something that everyone can identify with; we all have to fight giant angler fish sometimes.
As for the current Born This Way Ball, it's the most bizarre self-help class you can imagine. It's a story that starts with the Born Brave Bus outside the venue and ends with her kissing a random fan and telling him it was destiny; be yourself and the best things will happen.
What any of that has to do with the story line involving aliens and world domination and giant floating heads I'm still trying to work out. By the time she's playing an alien who happens to be playing Lady Gaga I decided it was better to just zone out and enjoy the imagery.
She was fed through a meat grinder. She gave birth to herself. She was some sort of half-motorcycle/half-human hybrid. They were all things that were visually interesting but perhaps intellectually vacant.
Now, here is a list of things that Lady Gaga excels at: writing excellent pop songs; wearing meat; singing and playing piano; merchandising; interacting with her legion of devoted fans.
It's those moments of interaction that make the show shine. Sure, she does the same bits in every city, but she does them because they work and because Gaga genuinely cares about her fans.
Whether it's a phone call to a random member of the audience or bringing someone up on stage to dance during "Scheiße" she knows how to create moments that make the crowd feel good and give someone in the audience a memory they won't forget.
I think there's a strong case to be made that she could easily tour as the world's fanciest life coach. Maybe she could do two shows next time she comes to town: one where she comes out and talks to her monsters for an hour, building them up and getting them ready to face the world, and one where she destroys the stage with the power of her music. It would be the best of both worlds.
Personal Bias: Gaga was my gateway drug in to pop music, and I believe that "Telephone" and "Paparazzi" are perfect songs.
The Crowd: An even mix of high fashion, low culture, free expression, and a lot of people expressing their individuality by dressing like a famous pop star.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I don't have any ugly friends," said by a woman alerting her neighbor that she didn't need to be told that her friend was gorgeous.
Random Notebook Dump: I bet at least one person has looked at half motorcycle/half human Gaga, got a boner, and then felt real awkward about it. That or they thought they died and went to odd fetish heaven.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.