Lady Gaga at United Center: Live review + photo gallery
Lady Gaga’s massive ego may seem an unlikely hallmark of an underdog, but even as the singer catapults toward ubiquity, the characterization seems increasingly plausible. Think about it: Gaga has rapidly achieved a level of popularity that reaches school children and grandparents alike, with a whopping eight top-10 singles in regular rotation on the radio. Her songs and imagery have almost single-handedly revitalized both karaoke and Halloween. She sells out events like they’re, well, events—Monday night’s show at the United Center included.
And yet, at this year’s Grammys, Gaga stood out as the only act nominated for Album of the Year who hadn’t managed a number one album (she lost, to Arcade Fire, no less), and one wonders if deep down she preferred it that way. If the mass success of the forthcoming Born This Way appears a fait accompli (the single of the same name debuted at number one), the Gaga persona works best as a subversive party-crasher who aligns herself with life’s outcasts, from the LGBT community she explicitly supports to the corners of our cultural world that still manage to shock and surprise despite an ever increasingly resistance to such antics.
No mere pop star, Lady Gaga envisions herself an insurgent force of nature (see: the just-released “Born This Way” video, in which the singer literally gives birth to the universe… and a machine gun). As such, her shows transcend the usual pat promotional routine. No one doubts the power of Lady Gaga to put asses in seats, even if few people sat for
Monday’s two hour show. What makes Gaga so exciting is the feeling that she’s above the industry machinery even as she embraces its tricks.
Choreography and costume changes ruled Monday night as Gaga paraded confidently through her limited catalog, performing most of The Fame and its fame-cementing follow-up EP The Fame Monster. Wardrobe changes often prove momentum killers, but in Gaga’s case her various guises played into themes of escape, independence and the simple fun of dress-up. While other artists embrace fashion as a means of setting themselves apart, Gaga seemed to do it to bring herself closer to her proud flock. In fact, the crowd was every bit as colorful and dolled up as the singer. It's not entirely that they were emulating their idol. Rather fan and performer alike were simply snazzed up for the same funky club.
Of course, Gaga was always snazzier, dancing and singing herself breathless, transforming even the so-so old album cuts, such as “Monster” and “Teeth,” into epic productions. Little material was played from the upcoming Born This Way. She held the spotlight even as attentions were tempted by blood-spouting fountains, forests of spiky trees and a giant tentacle-monster puppet. Gaga’s spotlight-loving idol Madonna likes to play queen, but Gaga plays the part of the populist rebel, the loving leader picked by the masses to plant the freak flag for everyone. Call her Gay Guevara—the dance club freedom fighter somehow able to turn an arena hit parade into an act of defiance and celebration.
Set list, Lady Gaga at the United Center, 2/28/2011
2. Dance in the Dark
3. Glitter and Grease
4. Just Dance
5. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
6. The Fame
8. Boys Boys Boys
9. Money Honey
11. You and I
15. Poker Face
17. Bad Romance
18. Born This Way