Lady Gaga fans flocked to Sydney Town Hall yesterday for the chance to see their idol in concert in the relatively intimate confines of the venue’s grand Centennial Hall.
Those who’d won their tickets by posting Facebook photos dressed in Gaga-inspired costumes were invited to walk the red carpet first, wearing the creations that had secured their place at the event as onlookers and other concertgoers cheered.
It was a joy to watch these winners, young queers most of them, get their moment in the spotlight. The tired debate about Gaga’s supposed exploitation of the pink dollar clearly didn’t mean jack to them — they were too busy enjoying strutting down a red carpet on a school night looking as freaky and fabulous as they wanted.
The touching Gay Pride effect was only dulled by the gormless trio behind me in line, who apparently didn’t realise there might be some creatively-dressed queers at a Gaga concert and kept a running commentary to the effect of:
“Oh. My. God. Look at those freaks!”
“Did you see that? That guy’s wearing HEELS? What the fuck?”
And my personal favourite: “These freaks should be on some show on SBS or some shit.”
Thankfully, once inside, I made a beeline away from the bigots and towards said freaks and, after an always-unwelcome appearance on stage by Kyle Sandilands, momentum started to build, thanks in no small part to the choice of warm-up music — the second half of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album. Jackson’s hymnal seven-minute classic Will You Be There? got everyone in the mood for church — especially with the Town Hall’s massive floor-to-ceiling pipe organs illuminated at the back of the stage.
Just as the crowd was getting restless with all this late-era Jacko, Gaga finally emerged. Straddling a giant slide for an electric rendition of Born This Way, she took time in the song’s breakdown for a quick (mimed?) go on the aforementioned pipe organ.
It was a rapid-fire first set, with Born This Way followed in quick succession by Just Dance and a medley of Poker Face, Telephone and Alejandro, Gaga barely pausing for breath between each song.
After an extended costume change, she re-emerged for the Mutt Lange-produced country stomper (and next single) You and I, dressed in funereal black and stalking the stage in a wheelchair. From my vantage point it seemed a very Joan Crawford circa Whatever Happened To Baby Jane reference, but later photos revealed Gaga wore a mermaid’s tail — indeed, she’d cribbed Bette Midler’s Las Vegas ‘mermaid in a wheelchair’ look wholesale! Watch your back, Bette — pop’s most brazen bowerbird is coming for you.
Next came a piano-ballad version of the lovably cheesy album highlight Hair, introduced with a tongue-in-cheek monologue about the song being about “the one thing I love more in the world, the one thing I can’t live without”. It would’ve silenced anyone who still questioned her enormous musical talent, but let’s hope when she next tours, we hear the song in all its upbeat, Red One-produced glory.
Then followed another extended costume change, as her band members took to the front of the stage for torturously long guitar and drum solos. Gaga’s campy appropriation of the hallmarks of ’80s hair metal — so enjoyable when employed for, say, that ridiculous Born This Way album cover — wore a little thin as the electric guitar solo entered its eighth minute. The lead guitarist, who looked like he’d been teleported straight from Poison circa 1987, was so masturbatory with his interminable noodlings I was afraid a great steaming wad of spooge was going to come flying out the end of his guitar.
Mercifully, Gaga returned to the stage before he had a chance to bukkake the front row to deliver her final, two-song set. Edge of Glory came first — surely her most undeniable, life-affirming song to date — followed by a fierce, furious take on her latest hit, Judas.
She departed the stage for the last time still in aggro Judas mode with little more than a sneer, but fans didn’t care. They’d experienced a stellar, hour-long show from the biggest pop star in the world.
And besides, it was better than staying home and watching SBS or some shit.