The Darkness are already in full swagger with ‘Growing On Me’ when we reach the ‘vertigo seats’ in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. Hair metal died in the ’80s, everyone knows that, but if there’s an act who have a chance of reviving it, it’s these guys. They know what they’re doing is retro but for the duration of this too-short set they channel the spirits of the deceased and retired and put their Spinal Tap-esque over the top experience in our faces, windmilling guitar arms and hand stands. The material that was so popular in 2003 comes flooding back to us and we forgive them for their years in the wilderness. Alternate thumbs being raised in time to I Believe In A Thing Called Love in a long-forgotten but instantly recalled dance move. Singer Justin’s falsetto is faultless and an extended vocal breakdown during Love On The Rocks With No Ice shows the full range of his rock scream. He banters with the audience about catsuit commando dilemmas, flashes them a quick moon and seems completely at home with this stadium setting.
It’s all about Lady Gaga this evening though, her entrance a royal procession emerging from the castle onstage. Yes, a castle that clicks and whirrs, opening like a doll’s house to reveal different incarnations of Gaga. Astride a robot horse, she’s shrouded in a silver blanket – recognisable by powerful voice alone – and paraded on a horseshoe-shaped runway that extends into the crowd, flanked by knights waving G.O.A.T. flags (later revealed to be an acronym of Government Owned Alien Territory, naturally). She’s an alien, you see, escaped from custody and her mission is to procreate and birth a master race. We’re told this by the glowing face in the prism hologram who sends out the order to give chase and kill. It’s linear up to a point: Gaga appearing behind a giant set of open legs and a pregnant belly, presumably pregnant with the master race, a set piece that neatly segues into Born This Way.
She speaks to her audience, identifying herself as a concept, neither male nor female, human or alien. A speech about being either with her or against her morphs into a rollicking version of Judas during which she bounces around in a turret, getting carried off, tied up and escaping with a machine gun. It’s impossible to really know what’s going on unless you have the lady herself sitting beside you, whispering in your ear as the show plays out. And it’s because of this it’s a mild relief when she sings Just Dance in a pink dress, uncovering her face. Pink aside, lady like is not in this girl’s vocabulary. She smokes onstage, squats in an ungainly fashion, quite clearly not giving a fuck as she’s a motorbike with a female passenger and asking Black Jesus if he gives a fuck. He doesn’t.
As is customary, during Bad Kids the stage is showered with gifts from the audience, gifts inspected by Gaga in her own inimitable fashion. Barbies are ripped apart as she sings I’m A Little Teapot and while the givers of the gifts are doubtless thrilled to be invited backstage for tea, the rest of us get restless during this overly-long acoustic interlude. She introduces new song Princess Die, making sure we know that “it’s D-I-E” and scanning the crowd shows that many already know the words. Being a Gaga fan is a lifestyle choice for these people. Fierce defence of individuality and being true to yourself is what some people need to hear and here they get it by the bucket-load. Gaga and her fans develop an insular language of monster paws and princess highs, references that baffle the fairweather fans.
Gears switch again after this, You And I brings strip club Gaga to the fore, grinding towards the audience and singing her heart out over the classic rock guitar. An extended Spanish guitar intro into Americano soundtracks a veiled wedding, the bride revealed not to be Gaga when the lady herself appears suspended from a meat hook along with animal cadavers in the return of the meat dress. She unhooks herself and dances through this circus of debauchery, the Godfather-style wedding ending with the bride machine-gunning her husband down while Chicago-like dancers look on gleefully. The meat represents how we treat women you see, the bride exacting a fitting revenge. In case we didn’t get the point, female dancers are fed into a meat mincer during Poker Face, the handle cranked grimly by Lady Gaga.
And it all ends, with finely-belted Marry The Night necessitating another foray onto the runway with a handpicked band of ragtag fans in tow. Fans who weep at being so near their idol and hug her as she teaches them to stand well and swig whiskey like rockstars. Lessons that we all would like to learn.