Gaga fans got into the spirit of things
It’s only appropriate that fans’ first glimpse of Lady Gaga at her Nashville concert came as a projection on a 50-foot-high video screen.
Hundreds of those fans had arrived at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night dressed in their favorite larger-than-life Gaga garb, mimicking the pop superstar’s looks from various media appearances. There were “Telephone” video Gagas with soda cans rolled in their hair, “Just Dance” throwbacks with platinum blonde wigs and oversized sunglasses, and one fan with the full face-obscuring mask and hat Gaga donned at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
But Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, wanted to leave Nashville fans with a new image: a dedicated live performer who’s quickly building a legacy.
“Come on, little monsters,” she exclaimed from inside a giant red robe and headdress, plucking an upright bass for “The Fame.” “Take my picture! I want to be a Nashville star.”
Few celebrities have had as much attention heaped on them as Gaga has in the last three years, and in concert, she isn’t bashful about asking for more. At one point, she compared herself to Tinkerbell, lying motionless on the floor and asking the crowd to bring her to life with their applause. But she also puts plenty of focus on those “monsters” — her preferred term for her fans — thanking them for their support and urging them to conquer their insecurities.
The highly theatrical “Monster Ball” show, in turn, tells a very loose tale of Gaga and her cohorts traveling to the Monster Ball, where a person is free to be “whoever — and whatever” they wish.
“Maybe when you leave (tonight), you’ll leave loving yourself a little bit more than when you walked in,” Gaga told the Nashville crowd.
As anyone who’s seen Lady Gaga play a piano in one of her highly impractical outfits can tell you, no other tour around combines plastic pop-star spectacle with honest musicianship like hers does. She swore emphatically that fans would never see her lip-sync. Although backing tracks assisted with harmonies, Gaga’s live voice — impressively soulful and on-pitch — was always in the mix. She switched between extravagant dance routines and costume changes to capable turns on the piano and organ, though those sections weren’t short on spectacle either.
Flames shot up from her piano as she pounded out the chords to “You And I.” Earlier, she’d stood on a hovering platform for a solo on an obelisk-shaped synthesizer, and broke a fingernail in the process. She decided to award it to a fan in the front row, tapping the shoulder of a security guard to hand it off.
“Some people would find that to be gross,” she said. “My fans, however, are amazing, and are very free. If I could collect all of your fingernails and toenails, I would.”
Instead, fans were constantly lobbing less-gross gifts in Gaga’s direction, from stuffed animals to friendship bracelets and homemade T-shirts. She appears to see this adoration as a very long-term relationship. Late in the evening, she told them she had recently gone to see heavy metal vets Iron Maiden in concert, seeing people who’d been fans of the band for decades pumping their fists and singing along.
“‘I just said to myself, ‘That’s what we’re going to be like in 30 years.’”
It’s still all but impossible to picture a version of Lady Gaga other than the world’s newest superstar, a fearless 25-year-old fueled by ambition and adulation, caught up in the thick of fame. After Tuesday’s show, however, it’s at least easy to see those same “monsters” following Gaga on her unpredictable path for decades to come.
Reach Dave Paulson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-664-2278.