Live Show Review: Lady Gaga at the Oracle Arena (Plus Pictures!)



So, Lady Gaga? You may have heard of her. She played some songs at the Oracle last night. It was pretty chill.

PSYCH! It was fucking bananas. We're talking at least eight costume changes; fire, sparklers, smoke, and countless other pyrotechnics (literal and figurative); a small army of muscular, appropriately freaky-looking backup dancers — and an audience of 15,000 or so little monsters hanging on to every moment. It was, in other words, more or less exactly what you'd expect from a Gaga show.

The whole show was entirely, unabashedly, choreographed, down to the stage banter (she must've uttered the phrase "born this way," also conveniently the name of her newest single, at least 15 times). But in this context, that speaks less to laziness or unoriginality than to professionalism and good planning: at this scale, a more spontaneous show could feel sloppy. This, however, was nothing less than a supremely well-organized spectacle of the Gaga-patented variety: totally fucking weird, yet simultaneously, as adherent as anyone to the pop-concert formula. If there's anything Gaga knows, it's how to give her fans exactly what they want, and she hit every mark last night.

She took the stage around nine (and after, of course, a protracted smoke-and-screen sequence), sporting titanium-yellow hair and a see-through plastic dress with well-placed white Xs, like some sort of post-nuclear hospital nurse; From there, she ran, capably, though a long setlist of older hits and new songs — arranged more or less the way we've all already heard them, the better to sing along to. Her stage banter, too, smacked of formula and indulgence — lots of heartfelt discussion of being bullied, believing in your dreams, etc. — but the audience, a gender-mixed crowd of surprisingly diverse ages, ate it up, and her sincerity was infectious. (It's worth noting, too, that her voice was even stronger and better live than recorded, and that she was damn funny when she wasn't doused in earnestness.) All in all, it was ninety minutes of pure, perfect pageantry. At one point, she called a fan (shoutout to Jesse from Livermore!) on his cell phone; the stunt, apparently, raised money for charity (an LGBT one, naturally). At another, she was drenched in what was meant to be blood, lolling around in a studded bikini. At another, she implored the audience to "get [their] dicks out," though, sadly, few people seemed to interpret the order literally. At yet another point, she lit her piano on fire.

After all that, of course there was going to be an encore. Two, in fact, all awash in lights and effects and glitter and grease, ten thousand-plus people screaming and crying along. Welcome to the monster ball.