Little monsters rejoiced Tuesday night as Lady Gaga graced Music City with her presence when her notoriously hyped Monster Ball Tour played Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The packed venue hosted a highly animated audience of nearly 20,000 music fans of all ages, many of whom proudly donned full Gaga regalia. The show opened with a video of the outrageous pop star projected on a screen declaring “I’m a free bitch,” until the real Gaga appeared as a shadowy silhouette, striking multiple dance poses to “Dance in the Dark.” As the screen ascended and revealed multiple neon signs littering a city skyline, the yellow-haired singer slowly made her way down a multi-tiered staircase. She then proceeded to dance across the stage to a car, where she began playing her debut single “Just Dance” on a keyboard located under the automobile’s hood, as the crowd roared its approval.
The concert was presented in five acts (City, Subway, Forest, Monster Ball, Encore), and was an entertaining combination of musical theater and concert, which incorporated cutting-edge choreography, multiple costume changes, trap doors, and occasional macabre elements. The multiple sections were divided by short video films, which depicted Gaga purging her inhibitions with various acts, including projectile vomiting and eating a bovine’s heart. Such elements suggested The Monster Ball borrowed markedly from Andy Warhol’s methods of performance art rather than the typical dance pop shows by artists such as Rihanna or Madonna.
Midway through the set, Gaga arose from under the stage atop a black, gothic-looking piano and delivered a searing ballad version of “Born This Way.” Her soulful rendition was accompanied by an audience sing-a-long so loud it sounded as if Mother Monster was being backed by a full choir. Followed by “You and I,” which will be included on her soon to be released follow-up album scheduled to drop in May, the new song was reminiscent of 1970s style piano rock ballads analogous to Elton John and Billy Joel. Gaga performed this number with unrestrained energy like a woman possessed, as fire flamed up from her burning piano. During this segment, the singer undeniably proved she has the vocal ability and musical skill to back up all the hysteria surrounding her. Throughout the number, her powerful voice was on full display, as well as her proficient and impressive piano skills. (Hopefully, the singer will exhibit more of her abilities as a vocalist and musician during her future tours.)
But of course, no proper Gaga show would be complete without some of her trademark over-the-top antics. She amply delivered in this area with her performance of “Boys Boys Boys,” which included blatant crotch grabbing and simulated masturbation by her male backup dancers, with just a pinch of homoeroticism thrown in for good measure. Also, her infamous flaming bra made an appearance during her Music City stop, additionally accompanied by a pair of fire-spitting panties, which she proudly sported during her rendition of “Paparazzi.”
As the night’s performance continued, all in attendance witnessed the diva being devoured (as in being eaten) by her dancers during “Monster,” eventually emerging from the heap covered in blood. Add in a fiery fountain of oozing blood throughout “Alejandro,” and you will have a good idea of what lies in store during a Lady Gaga concert, which should help determine if she is your cup of tea.
The evening wrapped up with a giant, spinning orb encompassing Gaga as she returned to the stage for the encore portion of the show, which was comprised of “Bad Romance,” and a performance of her biggest hit to date, “Born This Way.” Unlike the previous ballad rendition, the final performance of the song was a full blown dance version that left the crowd on their feet and screaming for more. Although the hit-packed set list didn’t include the just released “Judas,” it was blasted from the stage as the audience exited the arena.
Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour was an exciting and highly entertaining show that clearly revealed the musical icon as a dynamic and engaging live performer. Hopefully, the outrageous costumes and mania won’t permanently upstage her true talent, which is making great pop music.