Lady Gaga -- Concert Review

Lady Gaga (Getty)
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The show actually began outside Staples Center as skyrocketing star Lady Gaga brought her Monster Ball tour to downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday for the first of two sold-out nights.

Fans dressed from provocative to wacky, from showgirl to fetish to Mardi Gras, including some in drag, paraded about and posed for camera phone photos. When Gaga later spotted some of them around the runway on the general-admission floor, she beamed, a happy spiritual leader of her "little monsters."

The 19-song show -- which included musical bits between set and costume changes -- kicked off with "Dance in the Dark," performed partly behind the stage's massive video curtain, Gaga's silhouette finally giving way to the big reveal.

The singer, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has emerged as a pop culture wonder during the past two years; she has become this generation's Madonna (even if she's still around), along with evident nods to David Bowie and Prince (plus a purple ensemble, yet).

She set off the celebration of "Just Dance" playing a keyboard tucked under the hood of a dead car and later stepped out of a subway car as a burlesque Flying Nun, a sort of monster mother superior, for "LoveGame."

The myriad outfits ranged from a stripper bra and panties to an angelic number with wings in wedding white as she strutted, bumped and grinded, whipping her long blond hair when it wasn't covered and panting with melodrama throughout the night.

With a loose story line about trying to get to the Monster Ball, Gaga offering the narrative was a bit awkward, though "just being you" was a running theme. "The Monster Ball will set you free," she exalted. "I want you to leave loving yourself more."

There was lots of talk about liberation and acceptance -- some of it sincere, some mired in glitzy shtick -- offset by fun camp elements and some innovative choreography, much better than the usual writhing or mechanical moves in so many pop concerts.

Her band added a rock dynamic, somewhat heavy-handed at times with cliche guitar squeal, to punctuate many of the numbers. Standouts included the wry, party-time tunes "Boys Boys Boys" and "Money Honey."

Promoting the RE*Generation campaign to help homeless LGBT youth, she called a fan at random in the higher levels of the arena and promised him a kiss at the end of the show. Yes, he was giddy.

Taking to the piano solo and intimate until the band kicked in, Gaga dedicated the confessional ballad "Speechless" to "drunken assholes" -- especially her father, whom she said was in the audience.

Even better was a soul-dipped singer-songwriter rocker that she said was newly recorded but unreleased. "You and I" proved that she could drop all the theatrical trappings and continue to soar.

In one hit-and-miss pairing, the ABBA-gets-twisted surge of "Monster" was contrasted by the drawn-out and labored "Teeth." Oddly, the one song she could have extended more, especially with a sing-along, was her megahit "Poker Face," which instead came off as rushed, almost a throwaway.

But she made up for that with a rousing, almost epic closer in "Bad Romance." And just when the crowd might have thought she'd run out of over-the-top displays, the curtain drew back to find her singing in a rotating gyroscope sphere. She then sashayed down the catwalk one more time in another skimpy outfit, shooting sparks from her chest and crotch as the final catchy dance-beat blast left fans in a state of pure gaga.

Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles (Wednesday, Aug. 11)

Set list:
Dance in the Dark
Glitter and Grease
Just Dance
Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
Vanity
The Fame
LoveGame
Boys Boys Boys
Money Honey
Telephone
Speechless
You and I
So Happy I Could Die
Monster
Teeth
Alejandro
Poker Face
Paparazzi

Encore:
Bad Romance
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