If I were a sinner, why would Jesus let me play the Garden?
On Wednesday night, I became a full-fledged monster…again.
July 7 marked Lady Gaga‘s second performance at Madison Square Garden–her hometown show during the second American leg of her seemingly ceaseless tour, the Monster Ball Tour.
Gaga’s tour has improved dramatically since the last time I saw her last year in Boston. Dropping the forced perspective, minimal bluntness of the initial Monster Ball tour stage, the arena-armed Gaga has given us room to breathe, and the results are much more memorable.
Once a self-indulgent art installation, the Monster Ball Tour now operates as a cheeky, playful homage to The Wizard of Oz, as Gaga and her clan of gender ambiguous, S&M-clad buddies traversed the sketchy, unfamiliar streets of New York City to try and find the greatest party of all time–the Monster Ball! And just how would they do that? Why, by following the Glitter Way, of course!
The new-and-improved show includes the best musical bits of the first leg, including the greatest video interludes remixed and refreshed (including the one where she vomits blue glitter all over herself, which I affectionately refer to as “Vomi-Gaga,” now with a bloody good bit of cannibalism to boot.) The dancing is sharper, the energy has reached a new high, and everything about the night just felt good–even while watching Gaga eat her own bloody heart out.
Particular highlights included the performance of “LoveGame,” which incorporated both the opening subway sequence from Gaga’s performance at the Much Music Video Awards in 2009 and the throbbing, rave-inducing Chew Fu Ghettohouse remix breakdown at the song’s end. Just like last time, as the words “disco stick” stutter over and over on top of the remix’s punchy beat, the stadium burst into nothing short of pure, hysterical euphoria (which you can see here). Such bliss.
Then came a personal favorite: “So Happy I Could Die,” performed on high in one of the Haus of Gaga’s newest contraptions–the living dress. In short, it’s a gorgeous, bat-like gown with the ability to move on its own. As Gaga belted one of my favorite cuts from The Fame Monster from a platform center stage, the dress slowly expanded and constricted, as if she were wrapped inside of a living, breathing silver Komodo Dragon. Who needs fur when you can wear it alive?
There was also the obligatory piano bit with “Speechless” and the arena-rock, Elton John-friendly ballad from her upcoming album, “You & I.” Now with Gaga, the piano prowess shtick is kind of nothing we haven’t already seen before: The spins around the piano stool, the leg in the air, standing straight up on the stool while playing–yes, we’ve seen it all before, and yes, she’s very talented.
Yet she trumped expectations still again tonight. In the final few moments of “Speechless,” the singer suddenly hopped on top of the piano and, peering over the keys with an eager glimmer in her eye, began playing the final few chords of her power ballad backwards, delivering what was undeniably one of the best vocal performances I’d ever witnessed or heard from her. Just watch the six minute mark above…Unbelievable, to say the least.
Of course, there was also the Fame Monster himself, a kind of Anglerfish-meets-Cloverfield monster creation come to life that ends up making a cameo behind Gaga and her lady friends prior to her dramatic performance of “Paparazzi.” I won’t say exactly what happens, but it appeals to the live action, Disney World-loving part of me in a way that no pop star ever has before.
Like the last time around, Gaga continued to bark out commands ad nauseum: “Dance, you motherfuckers!” we demanded. “Clap for me!” “Show me your fucking teeth!” “Paws up!” “Get your dicks out, New York!” But make no mistake–it was all out of love.
As has come to define the Gaga, the show was colored with positive self-affirmations and long monologues of praise directed toward her fans. “I was right where you are,” she said suddenly, pointing to some unsuspecting little monster at one point during the night, “looking right up here at some bitch on the stage. This is proof that you can be anything in the world that you want to be!” she bellowed. The crowd roared in approval.
As the show went on, Gaga would occasionally double-take while looking out into the crowd, briefly distracted. “Get that camera on her!” she yelled to a cameraman at one point, earnestly pointing at a little monster in the front row, decked out in her Gagaloo greatest.
Later, while wielding a disco stick, La Gaga took a minute to shine her light across the stadium to see the faces of all her fans, quietly murmuring to herself in approval and occasionally chuckling aloud. “Oh my God, you’re all so beautiful.” If the singer’s obsession with her own fans is a lie, it’s a convincing one.
Having already gone once, It was wonderful to witness what has been essentially the evolution of the Monster Ball From wheeling out a single, sad looking tree for the performance of “Monster” a year ago, to the now full-blown twisted forest set that the song came to be performed in during the second leg, it’s beyond clear that Gaga’s artistic vision (or at least, her budget for set design) has expanded tenfold in less than a year’s time.
Above all, the most glaring difference between the Monster Ball‘s new emphasis on fun. Far from the overly pretentious amateur-avant garde approach of the first leg (yes I know it’s Lady Gaga we’re talking about, but still), the second leg of the Monster Ball Tour was surrounded by an air of camp celebration and genuine mega-wattage entertainment that had the entire arena dancing and thrashing with their paws the entire night.
Last year, I concluded that the Monster Ball Tour was “the next step in the natural evolution of Gagaâ€™s artistry; yet another rung in her blood-laden ladder to icon status.” If only I knew how quickly she’d climb in less than a year’s time.
Well done, Gaga–you’ve staged a show worthy of rivaling that of your fellow pop legends.
All photos and videos courtesy of MuuserMonster, Parker. (Thanks for accompanying me to the Monster Ball, bb! I had a killer time.) Click here to see more videos.
On Thursday (two days ago), I heard a few rumblings and rumors across the blogosphere about a possible surprise appearance by Kylie Minogue at Splash Nightclub in New York City. It made sense, given that she was already in town for the amFAR Gala this week. So, after a few choice e-mails, her appearance was quietly confirmed and I found myself headed into the city in a last minute dash out the door late on Friday night.
Photo courtesy of HardCandyMusic.
After quickly meeting up with my blog buddy, Camille (of HardCandyMusic), we headed to the club at around 11:30.
And now, a brief side note: Splash was insane. I’d never been before, and I don’t know if it was just because of the night we chose to come (I hear it’s more reserved at other times), but it was like witnessing Queer as Folk‘s Babylon on E. No, really. I saw a butt within the first fifteen seconds of walking into the doors.
There was weird, amateur hardcore porn playing on the walls featuring actors wearing clown face make-up while lovely sentiments such as “FUCK FAGGOTS” flashed on top of the action. Everyone was making out, or groping, or something more. I got groped a dozen or more times. I’m no prude, but this was a full-on meat locker; a stewing cesspool of lust and creepers.
But it was no matter. Camille and I, along with a few of her friends, squeezed by to the stage area to begin standing our ground almost an hour before Kylie was expected to make her appearance. While we waited, we bopped around to the semi-decent music (there was La Roux and Whitney Houston) and excitedly chitchatted/yelled in each other’s ears about what we thought she’d do when she made her grand entrance.
As we waited, the crowd grew and continued to gather behind us. The heat that floated around the stage area was thick, sticky and heavy; a nearly tangible cloud of sweat and heavy breathing. I truly don’t ever remember sweating so much in my life. Literally, I was covered from head to toe. From me, from neighbors…at some point, I stopped being able to discern whether it was sweat or a flood of drinks were being poured on me from above. I like to think it’s the latter.
At around 1 A.M., security began escorting everyone off from the stage and sweeping out the bottles and glasses from the floor. The muscled-up go-go boys, previously whirling around poles with dollars stuffed in their trunks, were now lining the stage wearing their best pairs of tight briefs. I turned to Camille and mouthed “Oh my God, she’s really here.” I literally couldn’t believe it. She was here.
And then, as the house music swelled, the shrieks of a dozen or more gays stole our attention to the right side of the stage. There was Kylie fucking Minogue, walking up the stairs being guided right up to the stage, wearing a glittery silver dress and standing no more than a foot or two away from me. The crowd completely lost it (or at least I did–absolute shit show.)
After greeting the crowd with a lot of giggling and smiles, Kylie began introducing her new single, “All the Lovers,” which soon started to play above. The results were incredible: Despite the fact that we’ve only had the song for a little under a month, the entire crowd fired back with a loud, deafening sing-a-long. The power of Kylie.
For the record, Kylie Minogue is without flaw in person, and I’m proud to say that I can confirm this fact from one foot away. Her face is angelic, her smile infectious, and her body language? Utterly electric.
As she sashayed up and down the stage, she giggled gleefully and fanned herself often, dropping lots of nods and flirty winks into the adoring glitterati below. This was the definition of Kylie’s turf, and anyone could she she was gobbling up the moment.
Returning from the DJ booth after “All The Lovers,” we all expected that she would wish us a good night and head off. That is, until she turned right back around and announced a massive surprise–a mega-mix of her new album, Aphrodite.
Our mouths (or at least mine) dropped. This was the first time anyone outside of the press would be hearing songs from the new record. And just as quickly as before, the music swelled in and Kylie kicked off with an incredible first stomper from the record, “Get Outta My Way.” It was an insanely catchy, Light Years-esque number, and the chorus reminded me of the way she sings “get out of my way” in “Spinning Around.” Incredible.
During the song, Kylie reached across the banister and began holding hands with most of the front row for a few short seconds. And yes, dear Muusers…I held hands with Kylie Minogue. Well, her fingers. BUT WE WERE CONNECTED IN SPIRIT (See the one minute mark above.) During those fleeting few seconds, visions of glitter drenched ponies and dancing lollipops clouded my vision. So that’s what it’s like inside Kylie Minogue’s world, I realized.
Later on, Kylie requested a water bottle with a quick fanning hand motion to her publicist. After dousing her neck a bit (and doing an extra sexy shimmy), the disco diva took a few quick swells and proceeded to soak the first few rows with the rest of the water. I was absolutely drenched in Kylie water. It was truly the holiest of baptisms.
Photo courtesy of HardCandyMusic.
More songs from the record followed, including “Cupid Boy,” “Aphrodite,” “Put Your Hands Up,” “Can’t Beat the Feeling,” and “Too Much” (we think, anyway). I cannot gush enough how incredible these songs sounded. The album sounds like it’s shaping up to be hit after hit, like “Love at First Sight” on repeat. The songs were all lush, anthem-worthy disco melodies nearly destined to become classics in the annals of pop. I believe it’s safe to say: Stuart Price, you’ve done it again.
At the very end of the mix, as the go-go boys behind her began wringing out their soaked (and rather see-through) tighty whities, Kylie gave us a last wink before one final tease: “I’ll be back very, very soon.” A hint at a new tour, perhaps? God, I hope so.
And to think, we weren’t even expecting her to perform. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shake the glitter out of my hair.
All photos courtesy of Camille of HardCandyMusic, except for the first photo, which is my own.
Many, many thanks to Camille for videotaping the entire performance in the videos above (as well as the pictures!) Had an absolute blast…Thank you so much for everything! It was a pleasure flying KM Air with you. Xo
Passing by Fenway Stadium on May 6, the street was paved with red and white. Pedestrians mobbed the street. Drunk men in Red Sox jerseys swerved into my path with their drunker girlfriends, while small children ran rampant and unrestrained. The air still reeked of stadium hot dogs and spilled beer as I waited in line to enter into the House of Blues. Making my way deeper into the venue however, remnants of the outside world soon began to slip away as we came to greet a dark, moody stage.
The set-up seemed minimal, if not dilapidated at first, complete with cracked, dusty glass boxes, old looking suitcases and knickknacks, and a large, weathered screen. It was only as the performances carried on through the show that the set took on a new life–the lanterns burning bright inside the glass boxes; the harmonium being played inside one of the suitcases, the screen turning into a mangled, metallic structure–molding JÃ³nsi’s on-stage world into a multi-colored show of nature and the elements.
Later that evening, Sigur RÃ³s‘ lead singer and beloved Icelandic figure JÃ³nsi Birgisson would bring his Go Tour 2010 to the House of Blues in Boston, an innovative showcase of the singer’s talents as a musician and his flighty imagination as an artist.
All in all, JÃ³nsi had performed nearly the entirety of his solo album Thursday night, beginning with the sobering beauty of “Stars in Still Water” and “HengilÃ¡s,” moving into the bouncy, alive territory of his sparkling up-tempos including “Go Do” and “Sinking Friendships,” and ending with the colossal, earth-shattering sounds of “Grow Till Tall.”
Given his status as the lead singer of Sigur RÃ³s, I had assumed the Icelandic crooner would stick to what he’s come to be revered for–his voice. And truly, he did: With each song, JÃ³nsi delivered his signature vibrato and alien cries and extended howls, at one point holding a note for what must have been over thirty seconds. His voice is just as it sounds on record–wrought with emotion and tenderness–meaning that I’d find myself getting choked up more than once as the night progressed.
Yet JÃ³nsi did more than just sing. In fact, it seemed as though the artist took turns at each instrument at some point during the night as he moved across the stage, plucking away at the piano, the guitar, and even playing the xylophones along with the rest of the band.
As a troupe, the group worked together effortlessly. While JÃ³nsi would be trashing about onstage singing or playing the piano, one player would be sliding together stone bowls into the microphone, while another would sit on the floor and thoughtfully pluck at the harmonium. All together, it was nothing less than organic.
While the whole of the concert seemed to envelop the entire audience, it was undoubtedly the finale that truly had the crowd speechless. As the noise of “Grow Till Tall” grew increasing distorted, it pushed the speaker’s deep bass capacity to the max, making it seem as though the entire room was shaking (or was it?) The strobes flashed like lightning, the instruments jarringly crashed atop one another, and the screen behind the band was shattered to pieces in a massive, threatening rain and wind storm that grew increasingly violent and blinding. All was destroyed in the end, leaving nothing behind on the screens and no one on stage. That is, until the band re-emerged for their final bow to wild applause and cheers from the elated crowd.
JÃ³nsi’s show captures and bottles the essence and magic of the live performance, unleashing a torrent of color and sound onto the audience who, like myself, looked on with nothing short of wonder and awe.
See this tour while/if you still can–it’s entirely worth it.
And now, a montage of clips from the show, which do a little bit more justice than the photos.
This is my head penis!
As a massive cloth banner sporting the singer’s name was hoisted into the air, strange alien noises began overlapping and spewing into the speakers. “We are born, we are born,” they began to disjointedly chant, hastening and finally meeting in a frenzied rally cry.
At once, Sia pranced out with her band from behind stage wearing a red-and-white striped gown and a glowing light piece attached to her forehead, looking not unlike a glorious technicolor unicorn. “This is my head penis!” she announced while pointing at the contraption. The crowd cheered in approval, thus propelling her into the first of many Woody Woodpecker-like giggle fits.
Last Saturday, Sia arrived in Boston for the American leg of her We Meaning You Tour, a tour to promote her upcoming release, We Are Born, due out on June 7.
As the singer formally known best for her more solemn, downtempo work with Zero 7 or her classic ballad “Breathe Me,” Sia has certainly had an image reversal as of late: Saturday’s show was, if nothing else, a bubbly affair (literally!), complete with crocheted set design and colorful patterns.
On stage, the microphones and instruments were wrapped in fabrics and yarn. Even the amps were covered in fuzzy knits, making the show look a bit like it were an impromptu performance inside of a Mexican souvenir shop. As if to purposely counteract the rather dreary ambiance of her last few efforts, tonight was a spunky celebration of color and dance-ready pop tunes.
Sia herself is an effortless, understated powerhouse of a performer. Standing barefoot at center stage, the singer playfully twitched around–doing robot-inspired dances and playing with the fringes of dress–while effortlessly belting out some of the toughest, scale-heavy numbers from her discography including “Little Black Sandals,” “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine” and her brilliant cover of Madonna‘s “Oh Father.” Literally, these were studio-ready vocals (if not better than the original recordings!) being produced as though it were no big thing.
Aside from “Breathe Me,” the most celebrated songs of the night also happened to be the newest ones, especially the new single, “Clap Your Hands.” It seems no concertgoer, no matter how dedicated or ambivalent, can resist such a dirty bass groove as the one in her latest single. The entire audience seemed to sway and clap in unison to the song’s impossibly massive disco beat. “Bring Night” and “You’ve Changed” were equally beloved by the crowd, only further emphasizing the very real fact that a happy Sia is just as wonderful as a downtempo Sia.
Later on, after the “fake encore” (as she referred to her intial exit from the stage), the Aussie songstress returned to the stage with a set of colorful plastic wheel wings attached to her back. Yes friends, it was time for bubbles! From behind the singer, a machine began spinning the wings on Sia’s back, resulting in flurries of bubbles that carried across the venue. “This is the first time it’s worked the way I want it to!” she announced giddily, doing a quick victory dance before rounding out the concert with a moving rendition of “Soon You’ll Be Found,” complete with accompanying sign language.
As has come to be the custom at the Sia show, the singer was showered in a bunch of gifts from her fans, about half-way in (though she accepted gifts throughout the show), including a Barbie, a new purse, handerpants (no really, educate yourselves about that one), CD’s and more.
“Who wants to do some more heckling?” she would ask a few times throughout the show. As the crowd would begin to cheer, choice members of the audience threw out their best, silliest ‘insults’–or whatever was on their mind, really. “Your girlfriend is hot!” shouted one. “Thanks, I’ll tell her you said that!” she responded gleefully. “Your drummer is hot!” shouted another. Not exactly the jeers she was expecting perhaps, but silly nonetheless.
While there were no costume changes or major video installations, the singer kept the crowd engaged with her adorably off-kilter anecdotes and interactions with the audience. It’s hard to believe that the bouncy, effervescent character dancing around onstage is the same one soulfully belting out her songs like some of the best songstresses of the last century. But then again, you’d have to see it happen live to truly understand.
And now some random bits from the tour, courtesy of my camera. Prepare for shoddy video and audio! Apologies.
Photo courtesy of AzyxA.
On Utada Hikaru‘s last tour, the Utada United 2006 tour in Japan, the average audience size per venue varied from 20,000 to 50,000 attendees nightly. Tonight, the singer responsible for the highest selling album in Japanese history was about to play to a tiny club of about 300 people in Boston, a few of whom only vaguely familiar with the music she was to perform.
When I got to the venue around 5 p.m., there were already about fifty people waiting outside the door. As I later learned, the first people in line had been waiting there since 9:30 that morning. In a split decision for the sake of sustenance, I ducked into (or rather walked into, really…I never have to duck) the Qdoba next door for a chicken burrito, which I feverishly devoured while waiting at the very end of the line. It was perhaps not my most glamorous moment (and also, I suspect, the reason I vaguely smelled of cilantro throughout the night).