Another take on Lady Gaga

Gaga in leather. Photo by Christian Doellner.

Lady Gaga created a full-scale musical opera Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. The place was packed to the rafters in a way that hasn't been seen since Larry Bird steered the Pacers awry and the Simon's held the city in financial hostage, but I digress.

It was like a pre-teen S&M convention downtown, and everybody took the chance to express their tempered freaky side in a pretty safe and harmless way. Lady Gaga fans got exactly what they wanted when their favorite artist came to town.

The concert featured a loose narrative and just enough plot to string it all together but not to force anyone to actually "act". Costuming was also a huge affair, with Gaga and dancers changing after almost every song. An R-rated flying nun, a vanilla fry-guy with a flat top, and a giant animatronic wedding gown are the best descriptions I can muster for some of Lady Gaga's regalia.

Best supporting character award would have to be given to the expansive sets that took the entirety of the stage and still managed to change four or five times throughout the course of the night.

At first, I thought the musicians gyrating on their instruments were merely visual props, but as the show progressed it became clear that they were playing (albeit with a number of backing tracks rolling) and were actually very proficient at their instruments, especially the woman herself. A mid-set breakdown featuring Gaga solo on the piano let the musician and songwriter show her talent stripped of all the flashy packaging (the glitter and grease if you will). During the acoustic number the band picked back up for some straight-ahead rock and roll. The segment ending with Lady Gaga straddling the piano keys, hunched over the mic with her rear to the crowd.

Lady Gaga tends to use curse words during her concert like junior high kids when they get to hang out away from their parents, and each exclamatory remark was greeted with cheers from the audience, filled with junior high and high school kids.

Gaga's message seems to be a little mixed. For all her messages of just being comfortable with yourself, she puts a ton of effort into how she appears. Having not felt attractive in high school, she admittedly milks portions of the show when she asks the audience if they think she's sexy.

But therein lies her appeal. She plays an outsider in an industry that values physical attractiveness more than talent. Yet Gaga had to create a glamorous identity to position herself at the top of that industry and get people to even listen. She likes to push the line, yet there is never any serious threat that she's going to cross it.

A favorite moment in the show came during a more graphic video segment with Gaga doing her weird poses draped in dripping blood (kind of Nine Inch Nails lite). I turned around to see a row of tweens seated behind me with looks of utter confusion and fright. Most of the video segments were like bad art-school videos but with ridiculous budgets, but at least they allowed enough time for set changes behind the curtain.

The constant use of religious - specifically Christian - imagery and themes is curious. Examples include back-up dancers fondling themselves against luminescent crosses, or a mock statue bleeding and sparking. Most of it seems to be used merely because it is stock "shock".

At one point during the show, Lady Gaga announced that for each concert on the tour her sponsor, Virgin, will give $20,000 to support homeless kids in the LGBT community. This is a large population, as Gaga explained, because so many parents kick their kids out when they learn they're gay, not understanding that they were born that way.

Lady Gaga, however, was not born, but instead cleverly crafted. Her Indianapolis show gave testament to the incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail.


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