January 22, 2010

Photo Essay: Lady Gaga's Monster Ball at Radio City Music Hall

I didn't go to many concerts as a kid. I remember seeing TV commercials for Huey Lewis and the News performing at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in fourth grade and dying to go, and knowing there was no way my sister and I could convince our parents to buy the tickets and drive us. We saw a couple oldies acts at the New York State Fair's free stage, but it wasn't until I was in college that I really got to see a proper show on my own, without parental supervision (Tori Amos' "Under the Pink" tour, at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse).

Things are different for kids now. They're carted around to soccer games, dance classes, and play dates from birth. When I helped launch the Kidz Bop concert tour, we saw newborns and pre-teens alike being dragged by their parents through the aisles, with bags of popcorn, buckets of soda, and multi-colored pigtails. They bought t-shirts, stayed late to meet the cast, and posed for toothy photos that their parents posted on their own Facebook pages.

Whenever I asked my parents to do anything when I lived with them, they always treated it like it was a big favor. From letting me wear nylons and lip gloss to picking me up from drama rehearsal, I owed them bigtime.

So although I lived through an exciting time of pop music in the 80s which gave rise to many of my favorite artists of all time - Stevie Nicks, Madonna, George Michael, Prince, Michael Jackson, Billy Idol - living in a small city with parents that wouldn't even let me apply to more than one out-of-state college prevented me from having real, face-to-face access to any of them.

So what do I do now? I spend more money on concert tickets trying to see late-career concerts by these arena-touring artists than I do on anything else.

Last night, after buying overpriced tickets on Stubhub, I had the chance to see Lady Gaga at the peak of her career, in concert at Radio City Music Hall. It was an event. Edith and I were surrounded by young poseurs wearing their own sparkly eye masks, corsets, leotards, and tiny, jaunty hats - male, female, gay, straight, it didn't matter. Everyone looked totally different from each other, but somehow in the montage of all the painted faces, we saw a common thread of impersonation that was undeniably Gaga.

Sure, we were a little old, us in our mid-30s, getting spilled on by frozen cocktail-swilling underagers from New Jersey. But we were a part of the chaos and mayhem - truly a Monster Ball - as much as, say, Diddy was, seated only a couple of rows ahead of us. (We wonder: did he have to buy his tickets on Stubhub too?)

Whether Lady Gaga was hoisting a keytar or getting showered with nuclear green sputum on the enormous video screens, she was a presence to be reckoned with.

"Do you think I'm sexy? Because I think you're sexy."

Not since Madonna has a pop star evoked such emulation and adulation. In more than one costume and speech, Gaga was evoking her own best Madonna impersonation, for a new generation.

We got to hear Gaga's real powerhouse vocals on a couple piano-driven ballads, including the cabaret version of "Poker Face" and her tribute to her father, "Speechless."


"Do you like my show? No? Then you can f-ing leave!"

Boys Boys Boys
"Boys Boys Boys"

Poker Face
"Poker Face"

Bad Romance
"Bad Romance"

I'm not sure I'm one of the "little monsters" that Gaga addresses in the audience. The most dressing up I did for the concert was wearing my silver star-shaped earrings and a pair of four-inch heels that allowed me to peer over the heads of the dancing girls in front of us. But am I misunderstood, lonely, and tired of being told "no" - the commonality that the former Stefanie says she shares with her fans?

Most certainly, I am.

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