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Concert Reviews:
Lady Gaga romps 'n' raves at Joe Louis Arena

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2014

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DETROIT -- She didn't specifically address it, but Lady Gaga was making up for some lost time on Saturday night, May 17, at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit was one of the cities the flamboyantly theatrical pop star had to cancel on due to a hip injury that required surgery during her 2012 Born This Way Ball Tour -- specifically a scheduled Feb. 16 show at the Palace of Auburn Hills. So that made Saturday's stop on Gaga's artRave: The Artpop Ball tour a bit of do-good, as well as a return to the metro area for the first time in three and a half years.

And Gaga did well -- very well, even, if not entirely perfect, which has been the trend of her performing career in general during the past four years.

The artRave show was much of what we've come to expect from the multi-faceted New York-born artist, an hour and 50 minutes of over-the-top visual spectacle that forged its own unique, action-packed blend of elaborate, Madonna-esque ensemble dance productions, Janet Jackson-style aggressiveness and the chatty, cheeky schtick of Bette Midler. Though provocative in spots -- Gaga rather explicitly mounting one of her 14 dancers during "G.U.Y.," for instance -- the 21-song show was mostly highly entertaining fun, a spirited and colorful dance party spiced with some progressive and inclusive, social commentary.

Gaga, who missed enough notes to show she was singing live (though the backing vocals were on tape), worked her way through eight costume changes -- one of which was done on stage just before "Bad Romance" -- with confetti spraying at regular intervals as she and her musical gang romped around a long stage whose ramps extended deep into the Joe Louis floor. The troupe also tossed T-shirts, stuffed animals and other swag into the not quite sold-out crowd, and Gaga picked select fans -- included a front-rower named Alex who threw her a heartfelt note inside a toy unicorn -- for a backstage visit after the show.

There were lots of points of connection, in other words, and plenty of Gaga's heartfelt professions of undying love and dedication for her fans. Where the show faltered at times was in repertoire and its focus on the "Artpop" album, the weakest musically of Gaga's three main releases. She played all but one of the set's 15 songs, and while early show selections such as the title track, G.U.Y.," "Donatella" and "Fashion!" sounded stronger than they did on the album, weaker fare like "Aura," "Sexxx Dreams" and "Mary Jay Holland" were speedbumps alongside judiciously deployed past hits like "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "Alajandro" and "Bad Romance."

A slowed-down rendition of "Born This Way," with Gaga solo at the piano, fell flat, as did "Swine" as a main show closer. The latter was redeemed by the encore of "Gypsy," however, and the unflagging enthusiasm of Gaga's fans certainly counterbalanced the songs that didn't work as well. She called herself "the luckiest girl in the world" at one point of the night, but that should not sell short the genuine skill and daring vision that really drove the artRave extravaganza.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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