Lady Gaga hit the stage tonight at the Fox Theater and follows on tomorrow with her second sold out show. Virtually unknown in 2008 when her debut album launched, Gaga has become a superstar with hit after hit and 9 MTV music awards in 2009. Fans were treated with a powerful performance that speaks to how this newcomer to the pop music scene has risen so rapidly to iconic status. Beginning with the warm up act by Semi Precious Weapons the show builds a to a sexual frenzy climaxing with Lady Gaga in a techno theatrical performance. Gaga has taken the Madonna model into a new dimension.
The show opens at 7:30 PM with Semi Precious Weapons' androgenous lead singer Justin Tranter strutting around the stage screaming the "F" word and demanding of the audience "show me your tits" while the hard rocking metallic band shakes the room with thunder. The energy continues to build as Justin becomes the embodiment of Gaga's "super fans" chanting "Gaga Gaga Gaga...." This act, a little too raunchy for the six o'clock news, perfectly sets the stage for the burlesque-like Lady Gaga show. Unfortunately, the energy developed by Tranter is lost during the following acts by Kid Cudi and Jason Derulo. Semi Precious Weapons needs to truly open for Gaga rather than just warm up the audience.
Sometime after 9:30 Lady Gaga makes her debut with a box-like stage constructed to look like a television set. A transparent curtain displays videos of Gaga as a 60 second countdown ensues. Then inside "the box" Lady Gaga emerges from a cloud of fog on the floor. Soon Lady Gaga and her crew of ten dancers begin their erotic floor show surrounded by extravagant lighting effects. The message is clear, Gaga feels insecure about her sexuality and identity and needs to be worshiped by her fans which she calls "her little monsters". After receiving huge doses of fan adoration, the Gaga super ego emerges and she turns up the energy another notch.
The music is deafening, the energy is electrifying, the lights are mesmerizing, the bass rips your shirt off, the fog fills the stage like a horror movie but where is the band? This can't be a lip sync concert or can it? Eventually the side panels of the box are raised half way and we now can see the band playing behind the huge video displays. But not for long! Soon the light panels are lowered and we see a video of a woman vomiting a blue liquid on Lady Gaga. Then it repeats again, and again, and again, ad nauseam.
Lady Gaga leverages the sexual shock tactics she learned from Madonna as she feigns an exaggerated gesture of male masturbation at the close of Love Game known for its "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick" lyrics. Other examples of sexual shock tactics include having one of her male dancers simulate cunnilingus on Gaga, being suspended by her hair (emulating crucifixion of Jesus), laying spread eagle on a revolving dentist chair, and being carried around on the biceps of a male dancer with his forearm emulating an erect penis for Gaga.
Lady Gaga further extends the Haus of Gaga brand with an little inspiration from Cher. Gaga sports several couture fashions throughout the show. The style is super high fashion from hair to shoe. Where Cher was known for exposing almost every inch of her body in a nights performance through numerous outfit changes, Gaga is much less subtle. She can be seen prancing with a high fashion dress that exposes her behind and thong undies when she turns away from the audience in one scene and later in a skimpy red outfit that can be called little more than bra and undies as she dialogs with the audience "I think you're sexy. Do you think I'm sexy?" Lady Gaga has also adopted Madonna's pointed cone brassiere into her fashion designs.
Yes, Gaga puts on a sexy, high energy stage show which keeps her fans screaming for more; but, her talent is singing more than dancing. Lady Gaga struts around the stage half naked doing sexy things but she seems a bit stiff when choreographed with the troop of professional dancers. This was true of Madonna in her early days too. The main difference is Lady Gaga can sing and play the piano. Half way through the show she lets the band take a breather while she deviates from the techno-rock format. While standing in stiletto heels on the piano bench, behind up in the air, and banging on the keyboard she belts out the bluesy ballad "Speechless" which she explains was written for her father.
One of the most unusual ways Lady Gaga connects with her fans and propels herself to super stardom is by making them feel part of a special cult in which she is their queen and they are her "little monsters". She tells the story of how she saw a fan in Boston blasting her music in their car and couldn't get their attention until another car rolled down the window and made a claw-like gesture. From that point on the claw gesture became the universal gesture for Lady Gaga's little monsters.
Lady Gaga is outspoken and supportive of gay and transgender issues. She encourages her superfans to donate their time to helping the homeless and children disadvantaged by homophobic prejudices. She offers free concert tickets to those who donate their time and offers to match dollar for dollar contributions made to her designated causes.
Lady Gaga is poised to catapult to fame. It's likely that the next time she visits Atlanta she'll be in a large format venue like Phillips Arena. The opportunity to see her act up close and personal is quickly fleeing. If you want to see this dynamo in action the time is now. See Lady Gaga before her growing popularity makes it impossible to experience the up close and personal performance of a small venue like Atlanta's Fox Theater. If you are a die hard fan, tickets can be purchased through online brokers like stubhub.com and on the street. Prices start at $125 for nose bleed seats. Good seats are running about $200.
Sam Dobrow is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta, GA. More information about Sam is available on the web: samdobrowphotography.com