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Concert Reviews:
Lady Gaga Needs To Do More Than Just Dance

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009

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ROYAL OAK -- One album and a couple of hit singles does not usually make someone a star. But don't tell that to Lady Gaga.

Actually, the New York-born self-styled pop provocateur (real name Joanne Stefani Germanotta) considered herself a star even before last fall's release of her debut album, aptly titled "The Fame." And it's that attitude, as well as a keen sense for style, flash and disco stick-waving titillation that's helped her top the pop charts and look very much like Madonna circa 1983.

Its a tenuous kind of stature, however, and it didn't quite hold up when Gaga brought her Fame Ball Tour to town Wednesday (March 25) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

Give the 23-year-old credit for her ambition; Fame Ball is conceptually far more extravagant than most of the shows that play at the small theater/large club level. Its five costume changes, three moving light walls and trio of dancers gave the 75-minute concert a club-meets-cabaret feel, while the fans who packed the theater were clearly devoted enough to know every word of the 12 songs Gaga performed.

But like so many of her pop/dance ilk, Gaga fell victim to a bottom-heavy mix that boosted the music -- cranked out by DJ Space Cowboy, who also played guitar on "The Fame" -- well above her vocals, while her between-song patter was drowned out by audience noise. The video component of the production was sorely under-utilized, the dance routines were merely pedestrian, the lighting lacked true dynamics and the costume changes, while efficient, left Space Cowboy holding the ball well more than was necessary.

And Gaga's two-song "unplugged" set, seated at the piano for a stripped-down rendering of "Poker Face" and the unreleased "Future Love Song," were too drawn-out and kitschy to allow her to prove display her genuine musical talent.

There was certainly some good times to be had; just ask any of those in the crowd -- especially those dressed in their best glitter togs -- who sang and danced along to the likes of "Paparazzi," "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich," the chart-topping "Just Dance" or the show-closing electric version of "Poker Face." But there was no sense it was different than the fun they'd have on any given night in the disco. Gaga has the hits; now she needs to develop some depth in presenting them.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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