Live Review: Lady Gaga

1 July 2012 | 1:14 pm | Adrian Potts

It’s very Leigh Bowery-cum-Rock Eisteddfod.

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There are many certainties in life: taxes are taxing, death becomes us and Lady Gaga will do unusual things. She doesn't disappoint for the Born This Way Ball. Curtains lift to reveal a giant spooky castle with band members tucked into various rooms as Gaga emerges on a horse. A horse! With umpteen thousand people screaming at the stage. Won't it fright? Oh, wait, it's actually a number of dancers wrapped in a horse costume moving in impressively coordinated unison. Convincing and clever.

After much fanfare, Gaga disappears and re-emerges in a sort of couture-Alien (the Ridley Scott version) outfit to perform Highway Unicorn. Next up Gaga appears above a huge, inflated, pregnant doll. There's more commotion before she drops out of the womb and is birthed onto the stage. It's very Leigh Bowery-cum-Rock Eisteddfod and heralds a cracking rendition of Born This Way, all high-throttle synths and beats bigger than Gaga's not un-sizable wig. This style of song dominates the first half of the show and while there's an array of tricky set and costume feats, Gaga – who, unscripted, is usually very quick-witted and charming – seems obscured by the rock-opera production and token calls for the audience to put their paws up. The spirited ballad You And I redeems as Gaga takes to a keyboard and shows off her pipes sans a thumping dance track.

She ticks off a checklist of hits: Just Dance (done in a '60s boudoir), Judas (with kidnap and more guns) and Alejandro (more weapons, this time care of a machine-gun brassiere). Thankfully, there's less pre-rehearsed banter and she's more personable and likeable for it. She unveils a new song, which gets iPhones across the audience onto 'record' mode, named Princess Die, about, yep, Princess Di. It draws genuine gasps from some in the crowd who seem to be thinking, 'Gurl, you sure you wanna go there?' They are put at ease by a great ballad, with belting vocals and vivid lyrics that serve as a dark take on modern fame.

A futuristic-goth Rocky Horror vibe permeates the entire gig, with black boots, motorbikes, aliens, leather, wedding attire and yet more guns and murder. Gaga recreates an iconic image from Hustler magazine, with two women being pressed into meat grinders onstage, to make some sort of statement about objectification. Whether she's railing against it or just passing comment is unclear – encumbered as she is throughout the gig by Osteoporosis-inducing high hells – but hey, your Beyoncés and Rihannas wouldn't be game to do anything like this, so points must be accredited for injecting some substance into a stadium show. In a way, Gaga's best and worst virtue is that she walks the fine line between Eurovision-esque camp and being an inventive provocateur. There're many shades of both throughout the Born This Way Ball, and her ambition sometimes exceeds her reach, but as she signs off with Edge Of Glory, keytar in hand, climbing onto her castle's turret as the techno comes on, well, it's mightily fun to just enjoy the spectacle for whatever the heck is.

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