Portland—or, to be specific, 20,000 of Portland's most ardent Lady Gaga fans (many of them glittered, fishnet-clad and boob baring, see amazing camera phone slideshow below) learned quite a bit about their Monster Ball goddess last night, as the international pop juggernaut pranced, gyrated and bellowed through an 2 and 1/2 hour performance at the Rose Garden that in scope and production value topped most Broadway musicals—complete with a bastardized Wizard of Oz theme ("follow the glitter path to party at the Monster Ball"), an angel statue that cried blood and more costume changes than a Vegas strip club.
I was expecting pageantry and weirdness, but not much else. Instead, I was surprised to find a mind-bending cavalcade of happy musical insanity with (from what I could tell) no lip syncing—it was pretty much a huge ass costume party on and off the stage. In other words, here's four things I ended up just plain loving about Gaga.
1. Bitch can SING.
I know, every fan gives you the line that Lady Gaga isn't just another Britney Spears because she can play the piano and writes songs and blah-blah-blah. But until last night I had put her in the same camp as Ke$ha, an enjoyable guilty dance floor pleasure with the bonus of an eye-rapingly stunning fashion sense and giant Warhol-esque performative balls. Butwatching her hunker over a baby grand piano clad in a spiked leather bikini to belt out her new slow song "You and I" would convince anybody that this woman is the read deal. With a husky, honky tonk voice that slips and slides back-and-forth between soft sweetness and a blaring bus horn she is a commanding, genuinely interesting presence. Oh, and about 30 seconds in, the piano ended up on fire. So, there's that.
2. Costumes changes can be as interesting as dance routines.
From cigarette sunglasses to gimp masks, Gaga's medical experiment meets couture fashion explosions are arguably a bigger contributor to her worldwide fame than her songs. Her live show doesn't disappoint. I counted 14 costume changes, which careened from everything from a purple leopard bodysuit to a hair monster get up (which morphed into a leotard with long blonde locks dangling from the crotch), a jagged lightening bolt hat, the aforementioned skin-nurse outfit, a Matrix meets Catwoman coat dress, '70s disco onesie, full body gyroscope/geometric, silver Barbarella ensemble for the show closer "Bad Romance," and a sparkly green dress that was quickly ripped from her body, tentacle porn style by a giant, inflatable "Fame Monster" operated by a handful of puppeteers during her hit "Paparazzi." A high point came as her cadre of professedly bisexual dance slaves adorned her vinyl clad body with a sort of crunchy cellophane crown and cape, Miss America style. After a brief DJ interlude when she was hidden by a sort of weird disco ball chandelier she reemerged in a full sparkly, angular Glinda the Good Witch get up. The dress seemed to move via remote control, the two-foot headdress fanning in and out like an artificial lung as the platform she stood upon lifted at least 20 feet in the air. "I'm so happy I could die," she sang, shuffling forward on her her glittery, platform Lucite heels. The woman deserves to win a gold medal in competitive walking.
3. Lady Gaga next career will be as an inspirational speaker.
When she wasn't busy playing a keytar shaped like a giant arrowhead or bathing in a blood fountain during a sexy rendition of "Alejandro" Gaga spent her time thanking her fans and spouting words of wisdom in an booming long haul trucker yawp—kind of like Tom Cruise's Frank T.J. "Respect the Cock" Mackey in Magnolia. "I wasn't very brave at all," she says to her roaring legion of fans. "You made me brave. I want you to reject anything and anyone that every made you feel like you never belonged or that you couldn't be great.... You're 20,000 superstars, just looking up at some bitch onstage. That's what you'll be someday." (You can imagine the screaming and crying that ensued.) For all her boasts of embracing fakeness, the woman seems to have a genuine passion for her "little monsters" as she calls them, a bond that may actually extend beyond the millions of dollars that they pour into her coffers each year. Many songs were prefaced with a shout out to nonprofits serving homeless GLBT kids or more calls for her fans to embrace their beauty and creativity—and to basically say "fuck off" to the haters. It was all oddly positive and endearing. Especially coming from a lady with sparklers attached to her boobs and crotch.
4. Those Lady Gaga fans are just freakin' adorable...
...in a cheap hooker-in-training kind of way. Just look at these deliriously happy, inventively slutty dears (see photos and slideshow below). Mind you, many of these tween and high school girls (and boys) attended the show with their moms (I even saw a contingent of "AARP for Gaga" fans). Which, really, is kind of awesome. Think about it, if your teen daughter wanted to go watch a grown woman smear fake blood on her tits while screaming about equality and gay rights and taking a ride on her disco stick, wouldn't you wanna go too? That's what I thought.
FULL LADY GAGA DIEHARD PORTLAND FAN SLIDESHOW (with a few fuzzy concert shots too for your viewing pleasure).