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Lady Gaga’s The Monster Ball: A Review

November 30, 2009

On the 29th of November, 2009, the Lady Gaga monster landed in Ottawa, Ontario, at the third stop of what will be a 56-date world tour. Obviously, I was there to witness every second of it, and leave with my life changed forever (slight exaggeration but isn’t that what the Lady is all about?). The experience was top-notch, from the ushers guiding fans inside the arena by referring to them as ‘monsters’, to the intricate details of the show, that continued even long after Gaga exited the stage.

Having arrived slightly late (very Gaga of us), we took our seats as the first opening act of the tour – the Perez Hilton endorsed Semi Precious Weapons – launched into their second song. The perfect opener, they were shamelessly over-the-top, with the lead singer prancing around the stage in nothing but a short dress, before stripping naked and changing his outfit in front of the sold-out arena. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy and offending countless mothers, choice lyrics included “I can’t pay my rent, but I’m fucking gorgeous”, as well as the Gaga-dedicated “She don’t swallow top-shelf, she spits it out all over herself”. After they left the stage, we were promptly treated to a thorough set by special guest Kid Cudi, who kept the energy high and offered a nice change of atmosphere. After a 12-song set, the lights came back on, and Michael Jackson’s back catalogue began blaring through the arena. Notorious for being tardy, Lady Gaga kept the audience waiting for about 45 minutes before the lights went down, a one-minute countdown appeared on stage, and the screams became deafening.

The first thing worth noting, and one of the stars of the show, is the stage. Framed like a picture, it was like looking into a hollowed-out television, with screens on every side, penetrating deep into the back of the arena. The lighting and performance were completely contained within the contraption, flowing and changing along with the theme of the show – evolution. Our first glimpse of Gaga is through a screen of lasers, and she launches into ‘Dance in the Dark’, doing just that. For the duration of the first song, she is vaguely visible, cloaked underneath complete darkness and a wall of lights, the only suggestion of her presence being the string of lights attached to her torso. This is the birth of Gaga – a cell multiplying and growing. The first chords of ‘Just Dance’ then echo around the arena, the stage lights up, and the show goes into it’s next phase – the ice age. The song is performed in a cube, before Gaga exits, straps on a Keytar, and rips through ‘LoveGame’, surrounded by dry ice, dancers dressed in white, and adorned in a skeletal headdress. Next up, the element of fire takes over the stage, and we see the first signs of life through trees and animals. Dressed as a vulture, Gaga tackles ‘Alejandro’ and ‘Monster’, before stripping down to a black one-piece and launching into ‘So Happy I Could Die’ and ‘Teeth’, taunting the crowd and seeking their approval, aggressively asking “Do you think I’m hot? DO YOU WANT TO FUCK ME, OTTAWA?” This is when the Gaga we know and love comes alive – after the song, she spends about 60 seconds gnarling and baring her teeth to the audience, in complete silence bar her heavy breathing over the microphone. She drops to the floor, and begins to fake cry. “I’m like Tinkerbell. When I die, the only thing that resurrects me is clapping. CLAP FOR ME! CLAP! CLAP!” she yells, banging her fists in a tantrum. Darkness falls once again, and Lady Gaga, joined only by her piano on a dark stage, performs the standout track of the night – ‘Speechless’.

Lady Gaga performs 'Speechless' in Ottawa.

Dedicated to her father, she talks throughout the song, at one point thanking her fans through streaming tears and sobs. She stands on the piano bench, and in a quick reference to some of the less than stellar reviews her first two nights in Montreal and Toronto received, she screams, “Do you like my show? Because if you don’t, you can fucking leave!” before welcoming Kid Cudi back onto the stage as she takes a back seat playing the piano and performing backing vocals to his hit ‘Make Her Say (Poke Her Face)”. Next up in the evolution cycle is money and fame – dressed as Cleopatra and framed by giant glittering pyramids, Lady Gaga performs ‘Fashion’, ‘The Fame’ (“put your claws up in the air!”), and ‘Money Honey’. It’s at this point that the beautiful juxtaposition that is Lady Gaga reveals itself. Dripping in gold, dancing around an elaborate stage, Gaga asks the audience to “sing those ugly words!” The audience obliges, screaming “It’s M-O-N-E-Y, so sexy!” She stops, and giggles. “You’re DISGUESTING!” A poster-child for fame and money, she spends the night reminding everyone how much she hates both these things.

Enjoying a smoke on stage

“Have you pissed your pants? Because if you haven’t, you will after this show is done.” The crowd goes wild. A dancer struts onto stage, and hands Lady Gaga a cigarette. She lights it up, takes a few puffs, and waves her hand around. “If you know me, you’ll know that I hate money. But more than money, I hate the truth. Give me a nice big dollop of bullshit any day of the week!” Her very first hit ‘Beautiful, Dirty, Rich’ then blares through the ears of over 8,000 spectators, before the arena is thrown into darkness. When the stage reappears, we are in a post apocalyptic world, with scrap metal thrown everywhere and smoke eating up the set. Gaga performs ‘Boys Boys Boys’ with a gaggle of dancers, before straddling a chair for ‘Paper Gangster’. Her two biggest hits are then performed; ‘Poker Face’ with the now classic choreography, and then ‘Paparazzi’, where Gaga emulates Rapunzul with long braids that extend across the stage and drape over it as she is hoisted into the air by the scrap metal – a beautiful visual that is the perfect ending to world we have been immersed in for over 90 minutes. A hefty wait follows, before the encore starts up – set in the future. A performance of ‘Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)’ is set inside the infamous Gaga Orb, before the grand finale. Lady Gaga and her gang of dancers, all dressed like ambassadors from the future, put on a perfect rendition of ‘Bad Romance’ that has the audience drowning her out as they scream along to the hook. The song finishes, and the crew line up across the stage. They all bear their teeth and growl, before taking a final bow. The Queen exits the stage to classical music overlaying a beautiful video of her getting a tattoo done. The lights come on, and the fans – dressed in wigs, leotards, and sunglasses, with lightening bolts drawn down their faces, are exuberant.

“This is the last time you’ll feel like yourselves. After tonight, you will be monsters.” She may prefer bullshit, but no truer words have been spoken.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Neil permalink
    November 30, 2009 10:51 pm


  2. sysh permalink*
    December 1, 2009 11:34 am

    brilliant review!

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