Pop phenomenon Lady Gaga‘s latest offering, ‘Artpop’, may not have touched the dizzying heights of her first previous releases, but really, having established herself as a household name in pop music, it scarcely matters. Her most recent release, a jazz album with Tony Bennett, exhibits her vocal prowess to a greater extent than ever before, and demonstrates another dimension to Gaga’s persona, one we mightn’t have associated with her. Tonight’s Artrave concert promises to capture all of Gaga’s wackiness.
The stage is set up quite peculiar, with an array of igloo-like structures scattered across the stage that leave plenty of space for all the antics in store for tonight. A long intro sequence plays before Gaga finally appears in a winged costume, but despite the dramatic entrance, the beginning of the show is surprisingly lacklustre. Artpop is a messy gloop of synths and beats, while Gaga’s vocals are faint and not particularly tuneful. G.U.Y is better, and the chorus shakes off some of the sloppiness that pervades the opening tune, but these first few songs are very disappointing and lack the star quality we’d expect from Gaga.
Venus marks a turn-around for Gaga, with the song-writing just that small bit more sophisticated. Breakdowns and a powerful chorus generate some much needed energy, and even the dancing seems more coherent and confident. Gaga gives the first of many speeches this evening, going through her history and reciting all her hits. It’s a bit self-congratulatory, and it’d probably be better if she actually played the songs, although announcing to those who are there just for the hits to “grab a glowstick or get the fuck out” is a nice touch. She eventually delivers, and hits us with a triple whammy of Just Dance, Pokerface and Telephone. Guitars beef up the sound, and all three songs sound massive. Gaga’s vocals are clear and powerful, and the anthemic choruses emerge triumphantly from the craziness of the verses. It’s spectacular, and the poor start can be easily forgiven after this.
Gaga plonks herself behind a piano for Dope and You and I, and without synths and vocal effects surrounding her, her impressive vocal abilities shine through. You and I explodes from a quiet introduction into an all out stadium rock belter with guitar solos and epic full stage knee-sliding from Gaga. What follows is Gaga’s declaration of peace and love, to follow your dreams etc. It’s a nice message to be sure, but reading a fan letter in full is perhaps a tad over-the-top, as is inviting a rather startled girl onstage to sit awkwardly beside Gaga as she plays Born This Way on piano. She certainly treats her fans well but perhaps the meet and greet sessions are best left outside of the live show. This intimate crowd interaction takes up a good chunk of the show that might have been better spent delivering a fuller version of Born This Way.
Judas and the particularly impressive Aura sees the return of the party anthems, and wearing a green wig, she emits an incredible liveliness, screaming wildly, and the lights and dancing reflect this more manic section of the show. Alejandro, with its bouncy upbeat synth line,s really showcases her ability to churn out top-quality pop tunes again and again. An abrupt change of style sees Gaga tackle the Cher track Bang Bang and once more Gaga proves that she doesn’t need autotune to produce a truly remarkable performance.
The final section of the show continues to deliver top-notch pop classics such as the delightful Applause, and the slightly darker Bad Romance. A short encore sees the brilliant piano-driven Gypsy performed, an emotional ballad that radiates energy and passion, and is a grand conclusion to the show. After a stumbling start, the strength of Lady Gaga’s back catalogue and her all-consuming charisma ensure that this Artrave was an enjoyable spectacle.