Live review: Lady Gaga @ the Pepsi CenterBy Ricardo Baca | July 29th, 2010 | 2 comments
Was Wednesday’s Lady Gaga concert the most unique mass spectacle of the year, Denver? Possibly so — considering the inexplicable costumes, the outrageous energy, the unexpected use of makeup and the creative spirit that couldn’t be tamed.
And that was just the crowd that filled the Pepsi Center.
The star of the Monster Ball, of course, was Lady Gaga, the well-outfitted pop star who owns America’s collective imagination in 2010. Her ultra-stylized stage show didn’t disappoint with its creative garishness, its neon smuttiness, its over-the-top fabulousness.
Gaga was the evening’s ringleader in hotpants (and space-age nun habits and Fever Ray-mutated red gowns). Some of her vocals were real, and others were augmented by backing singers and a healthy track. But when you compare Gaga to her peers and predecessors, this Lady is a legitimate performer.
Cue the piano intro to “Just Dance” — the hit single that started it all for Gaga, which came early in the night. Bending over the open hood of a broken-down prop-car, Gaga’s gloved fingers found a piano instead of an engine. Always one to remind her fans that she can actually play (a la her “Saturday Night Live” performance from last season), the cameras zoomed in on her tickling fingers as they led the rapt arena into one of the biggest pop songs of the last decade.
“I created (the Monster Ball) so that my fans would have a place to go — a place where all the freaks are outside,” Gaga told the ravenous crowd. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or how much money you have in your pocket, because tonight and every night after you can be whoever you want to be.”
Gaga’s set included all the jams you’d expect — including “Paparazzi,” “Telephone,” “Alejandro” and “Poker Face,” which pulled up the rear of the show. The costumes revolved around themes previously exploited by Madonna — the sexual, the religious, the strange — but Gaga personalized each approach with an admirable flair.
The Monster Ball’s set pieces were urban (a subway car), sexy (a broken-down car) and supernatural (an enchanted forest) — relatively muted compared to the tight-fitting costumes that adorned Gaga and her minions. And they weren’t the only ones dressed up.
“Look at all your costumes,” she said to the full arena, smiling, between “Love Game” and “Boys Boys Boys” in the first half of the show.
Gaga knows spectacle. (A flaming grand piano during “Speechless?”) But she also knows killer pop music. (“Telephone” didn’t need Gaga’s partner Beyonce to succeed — and a brassy new song, “You and I,” won over the crowd on first reference.)
And that rare combination makes her the biggest pop star in the world — a title she could possibly hold on to if she plays her cards, and manages her poker face, right.
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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post. He is also the executive director of the Underground Music Showcase, Colorado’s premier indie music festival.
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.