When Lady Gaga announced the plans for her Monsters Ball tour, she referred to the production — with typical hyperbole — as a “pop-electro opera.” Well, doggone it if she didn’t deliver just that — Viking horns, death scenes and all — as she kicked off her four-night, tour-ending home stand Wednesday night.
What the 80-minute show lacked in length, it made up for in depth, with the singer bringing out just about everything she’s recorded to this point, delivering some of the tunes in relatively straightforward fashion and some (like a stripped-down, vamped-up “Poker Face”) with a wink and a knowing smile.
Despite canceling several shows in the past week due to the standard pop-star twofer of dehydration and exhaustion, Gaga evinced little wear and tear, bounding energetically about the stage and demonstrating surprising vocal power — and a more surprising lack of reliance on backing tapes, evidenced by vocals that were sometimes breathless or out of time.
With the supporting band concealed behind a frequently changing background and Gaga herself only cursorily attached to a keyboard, it was easy to focus on the spectacle more than the sonics. That clearly wasn’t what the show’s star had in mind, given the synth-heavy but tough arrangements of “Bad Romance” and the steamy “Teeth,” but it was certainly possible to sit back and simply revel in costumes and choreography.
While some of her tricks were straight out of the Pop Diva Handbook — lifts courtesy of oiled-up backing dancers and mid-air twirls on sparkly hydraulic contraptions — Gaga drew just as much from fringe-dwelling performance artists and post-modern Gotham drag shows, pushing the envelope without going out of her way to point out she was doing so.
Yes, the camp factor was sometimes a bit high — staging a mock collapse after comparing herself to Tinkerbell, she chided the crowd for not applauding loudly enough by shrieking “Ya want me to die?” But like that character, Gaga was able to transform the crowd into true believers — and make this venue something like the happiest place on earth for a little while.