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Concert Reviews:
Lady Gaga's latest Monster Ball attacks the Palace

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, September 5, 2010

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AUBURN HILLS -- The Monster Ball has grown up.

Earlier this year, during two shows at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, Lady Gaga's Monster Ball was a fledgling musical theater piece, filled with dance-pop hits and appealing eye candy but lacking in flow and thematic unity. It was a Monster that had yet to, in Gaga parlance, find its "Teeth."

The upgraded version of the Monster Ball that Gaga brought to town Saturday night (Sept. 4) at the Palace of Auburn Hills had the bite its predecessor was missing. It had grown in size, both in terms of staging, including a ramp that jutted halfway onto the Palace floor, and material, with another 40 or so minutes of musical and visual razzle dazzle. But the two-hour and 10-minute show also felt more cohesive and fully realized, an over-the-top musical theater piece -- which Gaga herself likes to refer to as a "pop-electro opera" -- that has more going on in a single song than some artists attempt during an entire concert.

Presented in four "acts," with more than a dozen costume changes, elaborate choreographed production numbers with Gaga's 10 dancers and edgy, sometimes disturbing video segues, Monster Ball clearly draws from its forebears -- particularly Madonna, and not just because of the blonde resemblances between the two. But it also showcased the 24-year-old New York native (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) as an original artist in her own right; at no point was that truer than a two-songs set -- "Speechless" and the newly revealed "You and I" -- during which Gaga played piano and engaged the sold-out Palace crowd with both melody and verbiage, mostly positive affirmations aimed at her fans, the demographically broad Little Monsters, and irreverent comments such as, "This is really a special place. Every time I play here you guys have a Bud Light in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It reminds me of my dad...my favorite drunk (expletive)."

Gaga also made a fan named Jose's night by calling him on his cell phone and inviting he and his friends to come closer to the stage and meet her afterwards. And she made a few references to seeing Jay-Z the previous night at Comerica Park (though curiously not mentioning homeboy Eminem).

Gaga still has a tendency to talk too much during the show -- We get it; she's the queen freak who wants all the other freaks to know how cool they are. Ad nauseum. The show's "plot," which has Gaga and her crew still searching for the Monster Ball two hours into the concert, gets a bit arcane. And some of the video pieces are still speed bumps that hamper the show's momentum.

But those shortcomings were less damaging than before and easy to endure when Gaga and her dancers swirled through "Dance in the Dark," "Just Dance," "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich" and "The Fame" or cavorted through a spooky forest during "Monster" and "Teeth" and fought off a giant "Fame Monster" puppet while singing "Paparazzi." The Monster Ball is, at its heart, a dance party, and Gaga kept the Little Monsters moving all night long, until the final notes of "Bad Romance."

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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