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Concert Reviews:
Lady Gaga Unleashes A Monster At The Joe

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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DETROIT -- In Lady Gaga's world, style is substance, sights mean as much as sounds and flash is king -- or, if you prefer, queen.

Put together correctly, the result is a ball -- in this case, a Monster Ball.

Gaga's Monster Ball, which began a two-night run Tuesday (Jan. 12) before about 8,000 of her fans at Joe Louis Arena, was as flashy and splashy as the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated star herself, a 100-minute bag of frequently arresting eye candy whose parts, nevertheless, were greater than their sum. Gaga may be a relative rookie on just her first album (and an expanded follow-up), but she already has a formidable string of hits to support headliner status as well as ideas popping out of seemingly every orifice -- which were paraded, to a fault, on stage at the Joe.

The multi-faceted New York-born artist has studied her forebears well -- particularly her Madonna concert DVDs, from which Monster Ball liberally cribbed its look and attitude, as well as the muscular ensemble sensibility displayed by Gaga and her 10-dancer troupe. And besides warming up the crowd with a nearly-hour long set of Michael Jackson hits on the P.A., Gaga and company also tossed some vintage "Thriller" poses into the choreography of "Teeth."

That didn't make Monster Ball bad, of course -- just, well, young and perhaps a bit unseasoned. Pacing was the primary problem; there was plenty of energy in individual pieces but no sense of flow as Gaga, who changed costumes 10 times, parsed the proceedings up with short, artsy film clips and plenty of chatter to give props to her "little monsters" -- even calling one named Brandon as part of a cell phone concert to invite him backstage for a post-concert drink (although, since it was 18, she said it would have to be apple juice). Only during a hard-rocking segment that included "The Fame," "Money Honey" and "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich" did it feel like Gaga loosened up the throttle and let the concert run on its own steam, to good effect.

Monster Ball's staging, meanwhile, was a star in its own right, filled with moving parts and inventive lighting effects that mitigated some of the evening's lurch. Particularly impressive was the encore rendition of "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)," which Gaga -- who apologized for changing venues from the originally planned Fox Theatre -- performed inside a gyroscope-like device (dubbed The Orbit). A four-piece live band, mostly hidden behind video walls, also gave Monster Ball more oomph than Gaga's previous Fame Ball show, which visited the Royal Oak Music Theatre last March.

It's worth remembering that Madonna's first tour offered only a hit of the performing juggernaut that she'd become, and Monster Ball certainly puts Lady Gaga well beyond contemporaries such as Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. It may not have been a slam-dunk winner, but it will certainly bring us back to see what she does next.

Some tickets, priced $45 and $35, remain for Gaga's second Monster Ball show at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 13) at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets for the Fox Theatre shows will not be honored and must be exchanged for new tickets at the point of purchase. Call (313) 983-6606 or visit www.livenation.com.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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