Lady Gaga at Conseco, set by set 

Our journey began with “Dance in the Dark” from The Fame Monster. Queen Gaga stood atop a flight of stairs, veiled behind a white scrim surrounding the stage. Her silhouette previewed a jacket with broad, square shoulders as she struck a series of poses from her stationary vantage point. The curtain rose and my eyes were burnt with purple glamor spewing from the jacket and matching sequin-studded sunglasses. Soon after, the jacket was removed to reveal a pleather leopard print leotard of the same shade. The plum explosion was perfectly offset by her vibrant, yellow, wavy locks.

The stage was a playground of platforms and stairs, accented by neon signs reading “ALCOHOL”, “Sexy/Ugly”, “Gold Teeth”, “What the fuck have you done” and a string of other related expressions. A bright green Rolls-Royce was parked diagonally stage left that was utilized first during “Glitter & Grease” (a tune heard only at live performances) and second when Gaga revealed a keyboard under the hood. She struck the keys to produce the sounds of an organ, which immediately led into “Just Dance”.

  • Christian Doellner

Her hosting city received the first of many shout outs ("What's up INDY?!") during “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich”. Commentary between Gaga and her crew of dancers gave context to the show. “What is The Monster Ball really all about?” one asked. “Well,” she replied, followed by silence. “The Monster Ball will… SET YOU FREE!” The crowd responded with elated screams of joy. She continued, “I created it so all my fans will have a place to go.” Stopping dead in her tracks, Gaga looked directly into the crowd, assumed a menacing tone, and added “Where all the freaks are on the outside.” And so began our three-hour adventure to the fantasy world known only as "The Monster Ball".

Gaga sang another unreleased tune named “Vanity”, which she wrote four years ago while living in New York. Immediately following and just before the close of the first set, she appeared from below stage on a platform, now dressed in a red cape and matching headpiece holding and playing an upright bass/drum machine/ keyboard combination instrument. She was accompanied by guitars and string instruments as they presented “The Fame” with a fresh, yet familiar, sound.

The curtain dropped and a mysterious, glitchy video played (featuring the clip referenced in the current Rolling Stone interview where Gaga discloses she is eating a real bovine heart) as the audience eagerly anticipated the next round of song and dance in our collaborative pursuit of The Monster Ball.

Gaga at Conseco.
  • Christian Doellner
  • Gaga at Conseco.

Our quest for The Monster Ball continued in the second set with a new backdrop. Gone were the signs and vehicle, replaced by a diagonal subway car stage left. Gaga appeared in a see-through plastic dress, nipples covered with white X’s, and a bizarre, oversized white habit fixed to her head. Her hands were covered with lifelike skeleton gloves. Gaga’s dance squad spilled from inside the subway car and presented her with the famous disco stick (envision a four-foot tall, frosty white torch that would make Lady Liberty jealous) as they replicated the body-swinging moves from the “Love Game” video with precision.

When the song concluded, Lady Gaga conducted a heart-to-heart conversation with her fans using her own personal experiences to make genuine connections. She talked about the evolution of her life over the last three years. She discussed the meaning of bravery and freedom and then declared, “Just remember- you’re a superstar… and you were born that way!”

Once her message of positive self-expression and courage had been delivered, Gaga moved the conversation back to The Monster Ball. “I wanted to take my friends to The Monster Ball, but our car broke down. So we took the subway and it always takes me where I need to go, but it dropped us off in this strange, dark place.” She wondered aloud, “Should I ask my friends for help? The Indy gays?” The crowd responded with shrills of excitement and the music came on for “Boys, Boys, Boys”. Gaga’s all-male dance troupe, dressed in assorted variations of tighty whiteys, filled the stage behind her. With her audience’s attention now fixed on the erotic same-sex choreography unfolding before them, Gaga disappeared for another wardrobe change.

Gaga returned to the stage to perform “Money Honey” dressed in a silver studded black bikini with an oversized keytar hanging from her body.

Never shying from crowd interaction, Lady Gaga sang “Happy Birthday” to one little monster in the front row, accepted a stuffed animal from a super fan (which she immediately ripped the ears off of in a theatrical tantrum and later apologized for), and even directly called one Virgin Mobile customer in the audience and invited her to watch the show closer to the stage. With a phone still in her hand, Gaga accepted another phone call (“Hello? Beyonce, is that you?”) and performed “Telephone” with little emphasis on props and heavy concentration on the dance routine.

Gaga’s singer/songwriter skills were showcased midway through the show when she took a seat at the grand piano sitting center stage. She began with an awe-inspiring rendition of “Speechless”, dropping out to let the crowd sing a few lines alone and then kicking her right foot up to pound keys at the song’s climax. Gaga led into another heart-to-heart discussion with the audience when the song sings, “Could you give it all up?” by looking at her fans and answering, “I’d never give it all up.” Between spurts of playing, she spoke again of her desire to avoid conformity and to be her unique self. Regarding her refusal to fit the Hollywood mold, Gaga exclaimed, “[I’m happy] as long as I can continue to make music and still get piss drunk with my friends at the same ole’ bar in New York!”

Next, attendees of The Monster Ball were privileged to hear “You and I”, a brand new song from the album Gaga is currently constructing. She warned that it was inspired by her mother’s West Virginia roots and veered from her typical electronic sound. She balanced the slow, country ballad (about “a guy [she] fell in love with that had long hair”) with flashy moves that eventually landed her body in a horizontal position 180 degrees from the bench she started on, essentially hitting the keys and singing into the microphone from a completely backwards position inside of the piano.

The angelic sounds of a harp filled Conseco when Gaga concluded the piano set. A large contraption began to lower from the ceiling; a double halo apparatus covered in miniature LED screens. Lady Gaga walked to the center of the catwalk stage as the device fell and encapsulated her. “I don’t feel so good,” she exclaimed between deep gasps for air just as she disappeared again. “Oh no! It’s a twister!”

Another video played, simulating a tornado and extreme weather conditions, as we waited for the final leg of our journey to The Monster Ball to commence.

When the storm passed, Lady Gaga reappeared in her most elaborate outfit of the evening- an elegant, white dress covered in feathers and shimmering strands of icicle garland. A matching headdress had been installed; three miniature folding fans (also made of feathers) faced outward, simulating a peacock in full show. Perhaps most impressive was the living nature of the dress. The fans atop her head slowly contracted and expanded, as did the lower, flowing portion of the dress. Indeed, Gaga had successfully transported us into a fantasy world where fashion literally comes to life.

The platform she stood upon began to expand and raise her into the sky. The scissor lift-esque mechanism was noticeably bouncy at first (as opposed to a smooth ascension) and for the first time in the show, a slight deviation from perfection was detectable. On the ride to the top, Gaga immediately apologized to her little monsters, “I’ve never built my stage like this before” and then sang “So Happy I could Die”.

Back on the ground, Gaga explained the scenery change once again. “That twister left us in a scary, dark place in the middle of Central Park.” She exited, rave music filled Conseco, and another video interlude played. The show resumed to a gloomy and sinister stage decorated with park benches, fog-covered ground, an aged fountain, and spikey black blow-up trees devoid of any foliage.

Lady Gaga emerged from hiding once again, this time in her most ridiculous outfit of the evening; imagine Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force meets Cousin It from The Adams Family. Thankfully, it didn’t stick around long and was soon taken away to reveal a druid-like cloak of earthy tones. She performed “Monster” and facilitated a third change of attire, ending in a black leather one-piece swimsuit. After a dramatic and bloody action scene, she finished the song with red stains originating from her neck as she screamed, “He ate my heart and then he ate my brain!”

Next, she sang “Show me Your Teeth”, utilizing strings, drums, and guitar to once again leverage on live instrumentation for variety. Before moving into her most recent release “Alejandro” (which Gaga says is a celebration and an admiration of gay love), she laid on the ground between the legs of one of her male dancers. Looking up at him from the ground, she told us a story. “Michael is from Germany. Wie gehts, Michael? I like Michael because he likes American girls.” She paused. “And I also like Michael because he likes American boys.” The crowd erupted and the song began.

Another video break presented The Manifesto of Little Monsters, after which Gaga emerged to sing and dance to “Poker Face” in a glitter body suit.

The stage fell dark and quiet. An enormous, menacing angler fish loomed in the shadowy background. Lady Gaga (now dressed in a green Tinkerbell-like outfit, complete with a short fluffy tutu and white, high heel boots) and a few of her friends timidly shuffled across the stage in an interwoven group. “The Monster Ball is just over here!” she exclaimed. Her cohorts were not convinced and soon abandoned her. “Paparazzi” came on, the Tink dress was ripped away, and Gaga was quickly garbed in full military fembot gear, which she used to battle the “Fame Monster” lurking at the back of the stage.

“We did it! We defeated the Fame Monster! Now, let’s go to the Monster Ball!” she yelled to her fans in excitement.

Gaga emerged from backstage one last time dressed in a body suit embellished with tiny, diamond-shaped mirrors. She stood inside of the orbiting rings made famous during her Saturday Night Live performance. Her dance crew arrived dressed in sexy, new age spacesuits. Together, they closed the show with “Bad Romance”, an appropriate celebratory song with a larger-than-life sound that all the little monsters had been waiting all night to hear.

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