It is one of the year’s biggest tours: Lady Gaga’s artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball has been conquering stadiums across Europe, Asia and Australia and it is easy to see why. Not content with the standard big lights, backing dancers and band set-up, the Gaga experience is a multi-sensory assault mixing music, fashion and rave culture. Helming it all is the indomitable Gaga, whose personality shape-shifts from strutting hedonistic party queen to sultry torch singer to your favourite life coach. While it all makes for a hugely entertaining show, it nevertheless remains a provocative proposition for some UAE audiences. A variety of tour outfits from Gaga and her backing dancers, and a few set pieces may need to be modified to suit the region’s cultural tastes. Even with these few tweaks, concertgoers won’t be short-changed. A Gaga show delivers pop music’s ultimate mandate: to dance your worries away.
Resembling a mangled dagger, the stage protrudes deep into the crowd. On the main stage is a series of small white caves that house the five-piece band, dressed all in white, and forms the entryway for the dozen colourful dancers who dart in and out throughout the show. Most of the performance action occurs on the three sets of translucent catwalks extending off the stage, connected together through a series of small white staircases. Each platform serves a purpose: the one deepest in the crowd houses Gaga’s silver shell-encrusted piano. It is from here that she delivers some of her poignant ballads. Next to the piano is a trapdoor, where Gaga descends to make quick costume changes before emerging once again from the main stage. The central horizontal platform is where Gaga and her troupe do most of their choreographed dance work, while the last catwalk, on the other side, is mostly used by Gaga to address the crowd. It is important to point out, however, that this configuration is designed for a circular indoor arena. With the narrow Meydan Racecourse not purpose-built to host pop concerts, some stage modifications may be required.
They are out of this world. Gaga and her dancers underwent nearly 10 costume changes in all, spread across the show's five sections. Gaga enters the stage to the synth drones of the opening track Artpop in a gold leotard accented with brown feathers. Bulging from her chest is a blue gazing ball designed by the American artist Jeff Koons – her fans will immediately realise it's the same ball used on the cover of her latest album Artpop. Other outfits included a black latex ensemble reminiscent of the outfits in the film The Matrix and full rave garb for the EDM-inspired finale consisting of thick dreadlocks and colourful furry leg-warmers. The most eye-popping, however, was a pink polka-dotted octo-suit complete with tentacles. How Gaga manages to walk in that while wearing platform heels is a feat.
The public may not have been totally won over by Gaga's latest release, last year's Artpop, but the singer remains a big believer in her third album, with nearly every one of the tracks making an appearance among the 21-song set list. Most of Gaga's big hits are also there and the triple punch of Just Dance, Poker Face and Telephone in the middle forms one of the concert's brightest moments. Gaga cynics are also in for a surprise when they witness her perform a stirring group of ballads, solo on the piano. The anthem Born This Way will surely elicit plenty of lit mobile phones in the air.
The most scandalous moment
The singer chose to do a full costume change live on stage to kick off the show's final section (beginning with Bad Romance). Flanked by two black-suited stylists, Gaga essentially stripped from her black latex suit to wear her rave outfit. Gaga may also omit or modify for her Dubai show some of the more risqué choreography in Do What You Want and MANIcure.
The fan letters
There is no mistaking the bond Gaga has with her fans, many of whom thought up creative methods of reaching out to the singer. During the show, plenty of “Monsters” threw dolls and little toys towards the singer, some of which had fan letters fastened to the back. Gaga took her time to read a few letters and rewarded the authors with a backstage catch-up after the show.
Tickets for Lady Gaga's September 10 show at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai are Dh495 for general admission, Dh750 for grandstand seating and Dh1,295 for a Golden Circle Pass. Visit www.ticketmaster.ae to book. For a full set list of the Melbourne show, go to the Scene&Heard blog on www.thenational.ae