San Jose doesn’t see many crowds like the one that turned out to HP Pavilion on Monday night.
There were plenty of fishnet stockings, hoochie-mama shorts, lacy lingerie and dangerously low-cut tops. And that was just what some of the guys were wearing.
The gals got really crazy for the occasion, dressing up in hats that could’ve doubled for bird nests, wild costumes and otherwise revealing outfits. There was even one young lady that showed up wrapped in yellow “caution” tape.
Caution, indeed. For this wasn’t just another concert — it was Lady Gaga’s “The Monster Ball Tour 2010.” And, fittingly, it felt far more like a true event than just a night of music.
At this point, readers can be forgiven for thinking, “Didn’t we just read a Lady Gaga concert review?” Well, yes and no. The last time I reviewed Gaga was back in December, when she brought her “Monster Ball” to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a two-night stand. I also reviewed her show back in March 2009 at the Mezzanine, which was part of her “The Fame Ball Tour.”
I can’t think of another case where I reviewed a performer three times in such a short time period. But Gaga’s ever-increasing popularity — and the lightning fast way that’s she matured from hot newcomer to, arguably, the most popular entertainer on the planet — forced my hand, although not in a bad way.
Of the three Gaga shows I’ve seen, Monday’s HP date — the first of a sold-out two-night stand at the venue — was by far the most accomplished and rewarding.
It was amazing to witness what she’s done with the “Monster Ball,” changing it to a degree that, beside the song selection, only barely resembled what was seen back in December. The show, which is broken into four acts, now stands as a fully realized piece of conceptual pop art.
Even more surprising is the way in which Gaga has evolved. She wasn’t nearly as raunchy or vulgar in San Jose, nor was she hell bent on trying to come across as shocking or controversial. While she operated on pumped-up bravado in San Francisco, she exuded confidence this time around, both in her stage show and talent. She has strengths and weaknesses — her dancing, for instance, would number among the latter — and she’s become a great judge of what works best for her.
Yet, one gets the feeling that Gaga still has yet to peak as a performer, which is one of the reasons why fans should eagerly anticipate the star’s next stop in the Bay Area — March 22 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Tickets are on sale for that gig through Ticketmaster.
Monday’s two-hour show, which is to be repeated on Tuesday, opened with “Dance in the Dark,” from Gaga’s second studio album, last year’s “The Fame Monster.”
Wearing the first of many wild outfits — a glitzy purple number with shoulder pads that stretched out further than they do in the NFL — the 24-year-old New Yorker worked a stage that was initially designed to look like a dingy back alley of a major metropolitan city. There were two levels, separated by something resembling a fire escape, and the cityscape was dotted with neon signs advertising everything from “good food” and “drugs” to “implants” and “dentistry.”
Donning a large spiky hat, the kind one might wear to do battle with a triceratops, Gaga shimmied through minimal dance routines accompanied by guys and gals that looked like rejects from the cast of either “Rent” or “Mad Max Beyond ThunderDome.” Thus began our wild ride in pursuit of the Monster Ball, which Gaga told us (and we believed) was well worth finding.
“The Monster Ball will set you free, San Jose,” she exclaimed.
Gaga would settle into the role of evangelist quite nicely — far better than she settled into her dancing shoes — and she sold the messages that filled her between-song banter like she was working a revival tent.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket,” said the woman who charged as much as $178 per ticket to see her in San Jose. “Because tonight, and every night after that, you can be exactly who you want to be.”
First, of course, we needed to find the Monster Ball. Gaga would lead us through two more set designs — moving from the cityscape first to a subway station and then an evil-looking forest — and along the way she treated the crowd to such hits as “Just Dance,” “Telephone” and “Alejandro.” Then we’d finally get to our destination: the Monster Ball (aka, Act IV).
We knew we’d arrived because, well, there was a monster — a hideous looking two-story-tall creature with the face of a piranha and long squid-like tentacles. Fortunately, Gaga was there to guide, performing the smashes “Paparazzi” and “Bad Romance,” and to battle the creature with a bra that doubled as a flamethrower.
And they saw there’s nothing new under the sun. Those people obviously have never attended a Lady Gaga show.