Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lady Gaga: Artrave Birmingham Review

Long ago, hell might have frozen over before I could ever have contemplated attending anything like a Lady Gaga concert. Not any longer. There’s no denying the talent of a genuinely versatile singer, songwriter and pianist whose first three albums speak for themselves and whose ability to capture media interest is legendary. But what about a full on live performance, especially the opening date of her UK tour in Birmingham? What chord would this strike with someone more deserving the label of big dinosaur than little monster?

Not the most promising of starts, regrettably. Two eminently forgettable support acts. The first, well meaning but out of his depth. The second, a painfully thudding and excruciatingly loud synthesised beat accompanied by a crazed performer whose sole contribution appeared to be waving her arms by way of accompaniment. Insider tip: arrive at 8.45 ready for the full two hour Gaga set, or just spend the first hour playing a private game spotting the fan best dressed for the occasion. Plenty of competition.
So what to expect when the curtain dropped and Gaga herself appears through the stage set tunnel, accompanied by a battalion of dancers and dressed in the first of many outrageous costumes, launching straight into a sequence of songs from her latest album Artpop? Thankfully, no diva behaviour and no lip synching. Just raw focused energy, hitting all the right notes. All the more so when the music briefly paused and she gave the first of her mini speeches, proclaiming forcefully that no artist needs managers or record labels. Will this deter Simon Cowell from pulling every string he can to get her on the X Factor live shows this time around? I rather doubt it. She’d be a match for him.

Anyone hoping for a break from the new material after Venus (and the seashell bikini) would soon have been reassured via Just Dance, Poker Face, Telephone and Paparazzi in quick succession. Soon followed by my own choice for song of the night, You and I – Gaga the born again rock chick, as she worked the crowd alongside the guitarists who had followed her to the end of the walkway? Well, any song that begins with ‘Been a long time…’ with a fast lead guitar solo midway through is going to have a certain attraction. If there’s any truth in the suggestion that her next project, hard on the heels of her jazz duet collaboration with Tony Bennett, is going to venture into classic rock, it’s going to be well worth the wait.
Back to the Artrave, with a slow piano version of Born This Way, not forgetting the two gay fans invited up from the audience to sit beside Gaga by way of thanks for their fan mail. Bang Bang was undoubtedly a tribute to Cher, not just the song but the costume and giant black wig, even if Judas might have been a less complementary gesture in Madonna’s direction. No further explanation needed for Bad Romance, before Swine (‘you’re just a pig inside a human body’ – wonder who that one was really meant for?) to end the main set and a final piano solo performance of Gypsy for the encore. Not forgetting the last costume change, the long white flowing number.

The true little monsters will have loved it. The undecided and the curious will have experienced a full blown assault on the senses. But in an undeniably positive way. I’m glad I went. And if Gaga’s next project is going to involve classic rock, there really will be no stopping her.

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