When the lights went down at San Jose’s HP Pavilion Thursday, the roar was deafening. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball,” the 26-year-old pop star’s third concert tour, was about to debut in the Bay, and her fans, the Little Monsters,” were ready.
Ever subtle, Gaga arrived riding a black unicorn out of a multi-story gray castle. Like Medieval Times on steroids, the structure is the main set for the two-hour plus show. The militaristic, flag-bearing minions following Gaga are her dancers, showing off many semaphoric talents.
There is, technically, a plot, but it’s largely irrelevant.
Gaga’s first get-up is an insect-like black and silver corset, with a mask, horned headdress and cascading veil. Designed by Georgio Armani, it is one of more than a dozen exotic creations made for this tour. Other designers include Salvatore Salmone, Versace, Moschino, Christian Dada, Void of Course and Gaga’s own Haus of Gaga. The controversy-causing gun-bra has been omitted.
Gaga pops her head over a massive, peach-colored balloon belly – with legs splayed on both sides – coming out of the castle. In moments, the zippered crotch opens, and Gaga emerges, because, as everyone knows, we were all “Born This Way.”
She sang most everything a fan would want, but some hits were given short shrift. Despite “Poker Face” being outrageously staged with Gaga and two female dancers in meat grinders (and meat dresses) a la Hustler magazine circa 1978, it was truncated substantially.
“Hair” opened in ballad-style, and didn’t gain the momentum it deserves.
But Gaga’s personable stage presence makes up for any flaws. She bounces on stage like a club kid because she is one. Without being a voracious music lover, she wouldn’t be where she is now, and she knows it. It is an honesty that never surfaces with ice queens like Madonna.
She embraces the grotesque, the “weird” in dance and dress more than any mainstream pop star in history. Her LGBT-friendly, anti-bullying crusade is to her credit.
She calls an audience member on her cell phone during the show, and reaches a 41-year old “Monster” with twins who flew out from Phoenix. Gaga invites her for whiskey after the show, and makes a $5,000 donation to a teen homeless shelter in San Jose.
Two encores close the night, with “Edge of Glory” and “Marry the Night,” belted out as passionate ballads, Gaga on her knees in a Versace robe. Melodramatic? Perhaps. Megalomanic? Maybe. Effective? Yes.