The Monster Ball Tour: Chicago

REVIEW: Detroit -- Gaga, ooh la la! Decadent dance pop diva-in-training GaGa took over Joe Louis Arena Tuesday night with the same might and will with which she's hijacked pop music over the last year-plus. The 23-year-old born Stefani Germanotta came armed with an array of hits and a daring 100-minute performance art spectacle, fit for a gallery space but blown up to arena proportions. The show drew from a host of influences from across the pop culture landscape, but the end product was thoroughly Gaga. Her Monster's Ball outing -- originally set for the Fox Theatre but moved to the Joe in a last-minute switch due to production concerns -- was like Madonna's Blond Ambition tour filtered through Kanye West's Glow in the Dark outing, as directed by Andy Warhol. The stage was set on an angled ramp and was entirely framed by a white border, so as to resemble a piece of art come to life. Gaga was joined intermittently by as many as 10 backup dancers but often appeared alone, and proved she could carry a stage whether singing, dancing or playing piano while standing atop its bench. She gleefully toyed with the performer/ audience dynamic, alternately begging for the audience's approval and acting as though she didn't need it. At one point, she lay down in the corner of the stage and compared herself to Tinker Bell, the fairy from "Peter Pan." "Tinker Bell will die if you don't clap for her. Do you want me to DIE?" she asked the crowd of 8,000 strong. "Scream for me!" (Later, her use for her fans seemed to run out as she mock-killed the audience using a fake machine gun.) She needn't have worried about the level of audience love. Gaga's fans -- or "monsters," as she calls them -- provided her with plenty of adoration, as many came dressed in their finest Gaga attire. In a dazzling show of devotion, fans came dressed in leather, glitter, sparkles, face paint, short skirts and body suits, a level of mimicry that recalled fans at early Madonna concerts. Of course few outfits were as daring as Gaga's, who dressed in a series of leather ensembles that somehow always seemed to accentuate her backside. She switched between bodysuits, fetish wear and tops made out of mirror balls, and came out in a light-up suit during the opener, "Dance in the Dark," that resembled something out of "Tron." Gaga's persona is a complex commentary on the crossroads of fame and celebrity, though there's a genuine authenticity at play that keeps her from venturing into parody. Her refreshingly imperfect vocals were a reminder that she was singing into a live microphone throughout the show, and though the concert was tightly choreographed, there was always the danger that it could careen at any given moment into uncharted territory. She worked Detroit and her trip to the Garden Bowl Monday night into her often R-rated stage banter, and made a plea for "gay marriage in 2010!" during "Boys Boys Boys." The show's boldest moment came during "Paparazzi," when Gaga's hair was tied to two rings that slid along a track attached to a pole, held up by two of her backup dancers. Not quite sure what it meant, but it was impossible to look away from. That's Gaga's greatest strength: Her ability to make you stop and stare. Now that she's proven she can captivate audiences at the arena level this early in her career, the question is, where does she go from here? Can she get any bigger? The answer is uncertain, but just try looking away as she figures it out. Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer

REVIEW: It was one of those nights when you could practically feel the buzz radiating out of the building. Arriving at Joe Louis Arena as the newly coronated queen of dance-pop — or at least its unstoppable princess — Lady Gaga delivered an intelligent, intoxicating, often otherwordly set Tuesday night for a crowd of about 8,000. The first in a two-night stand, it was metro Detroit’s second visit from the New York star in the past year, this time on a Monster Ball tour accompanied by explosive hype. With 45 minutes of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits priming her colorfully attired audience, the party was in full flight by the time she took the stage to a roar at 9:25 p.m. Gaga covers a multitude of worlds: pop you can think to, music you can escape to, spectacle you can drop your jaw to. Tuesday she drove home the point. Looming behind a projected grid in a light-studded outift — first of the night’s many costumes — she opened with a writhing performance to the skin-rattling throb of “Dance in the Dark.” In an energetic, oddly quick 95 minutes, Gaga dropped philosophical musings and X-rated banter between the edgy, techno-laced material from her two albums. The numbers came fast: There was the “Thriller”-esque choreography of “Monster” with her skilled dance crew; the loping menace of “Teeth,” like a reprocessed old show tune; the nursery-rhyme catchiness of “Boys Boys Boys”; the high-tech whimsy of encore song “Eh Eh.” She donned sunglasses, black leotards, strange masks, red lingerie and a variety of quirky outfits on a gleaming, tightly cut stage, where cages and giant gyroscopes were wheeled on and off. It quickly became clear why this show had been moved from the smaller confines of the Fox Theatre. This was a night for thoroughly romping in Gaga’s pet theme: fame, her personal monster. Amid a stunning spectacle of lights, smoke and sinewy choreography, she confidently worked a line between detached pop star and playful fan friend. She chewed intelligently at the concept of celebrity: yawning at the crowd’s applause, furiously demanding its approval, gushing in appreciation. “Paparazzi” found her lofted overhead — handcuffed to a bar. Sprawling to the floor, Gaga screamed at her Joe Louis fans, exhorting them to scream for her. And even as she played up the inaccessible distance of stardom, she presented it as a communal haven of sorts: Fame is, after all, a collective effort. “Some people preach messages of hatred and divisiveness,” she said early on, “but here at the Monster Ball we celebrate love and unity.” The lighting toyed with that point: For 90 minutes its attention was focused firmly on Gaga, searing the stage with an array of tones while keeping the audience in a conspicuous deep darkness. Only with the finale of “Bad Romance” did the standard bit of pop-show ceremony kick in, at last bathing the crowd in bright white. The blur of sincerity and guile, real and unreal, seeped into the music itself. Sleek synthesized tracks were met with the organic bite of Gaga’s voice. Even as she took to a piano for the show’s most traditional moment, she sat cross-legged and aloof as she made a limber vocal workout of “Speechless.” “I hate the truth,” she smirked at one point. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a young pop star arrive in town promising this sort of impact, then delivering from front to back. It was easy to forget that this is a performer who’s still getting acquainted with arena stages; the sheer dazzle and poise belied a 23-year-old artist still settling into her groove. And that’s the really good part. This looks to be a long, fun, wild ride with Lady Gaga. Hang on tight. Brian McCollum, Free Press Pop Music Critic

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