How Lady Gaga (and the Monster Ball) Changed My Life: The Concert Review

A little over a year ago I was at a Girl Bar and this song came on and the dancefloor went mad.

Them: “Haven’t you heard it?! This is Poker Face! Don’t you love it?”
Me: “Meh.”

I didn’t; in fact, I’d never even heard of it. I’m one of those late adopters who’s skeptical of anything everyone else seems to like. The fad will fade, you know. Quickly. And then I’ll be on my fence, smugly not loving “Poker Face” just like all the other smart people.

However, I work for Autostraddle. And Lady Gaga is Autostraddle’s President Goddess, so I’ve been more or less constantly exposed to her work since May. And it grew on me. Initially, the theater geek in me appreciated her as a performance artist and the big homo in me dug her activism and involvement with the National Equality March (as my bank account can attest, I absolutely cannot resist a cute activist girl). I can’t scowl at a lady who’s up there thanking God, the gays, and her fans all the time!

But what really did me in was the Bad Romance video. It was like crack and steroids and love potion all at once, I watched it a trillion times, and when Lady Gaga passed through Chicago earlier this month you bet your ass I was gonna haul my misanthropic self down to the show with all the rest of her “Little Monsters.”

Except that unfortunately Stubhub doesn’t have an unemployed student discount. I wallowed in misery as the first two Lady Gaga Monster Ball shows happened in Chicago and I watched my friends enjoy themselves via their Facebook profiles. Then it was Sunday. The third & final Chicago Monster Ball day, and because of that venue change fiasco I had another chance!

So excitant for Lady Gaga!

Conflicted, I did what any girl would do and consulted the Internet. The responses were evenly split, but it was hard to argue with those who were for the concert: “GAGA > FOOD” and “Bad Romance live = once on a lifetime.” And my favorite (pro or con): “How much of Lady Gaga do you get to eat for $108?”. In fact Autostraddlers and other friends were so supportive of my Gaga concert ambitions that they even offered to mail me food!

As luck would it, I didn’t have to decide. About three hours before showtime an Autostraddle/Internet miracle occurred, I got the golden ticket, had a minor coronary, sped to the suburban venue, parked/screamed at a police officer, dodged already-drunk girls in the parking lot, and got inside! AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

Firstly; everything was sparkling. Straight girls in sequins and gay boys in glam accounted for 90% of the crowd. 5% wore fabulous Gaga costumes. The remaining five percent (me, the children, and the old people) felt as if we’d entered some kind of alternate glamtastic universe with open bars where everyone is nice to everyone and you can have your pic taken Gaga style.

I tracked down some of that costumed 5% for photos and they happily obliged.

Some of the fabulous Little Monsters that I met.

In the foyer I spoke to a little old couple (the husband prefers Bruce Springsteen, the wife wanted to see the ‘fabulous outfits’) and met a boy who lent me his homemade razor-blade glasses (by forcing them on my face and scaring the crap out of me.) Then I hired a Sherpa to find my seat, which was next to a boy in pink hot pants and a girl dressed like Rainbow Brite. I was so far up the back and to the left that I think I was sitting in O’Hare’s airspace. Thank goodness for the jumbo projection screens.

The boy was no photographer/I am no model.

This is the boy and his glasses as featured on ladyvirgin.com

I was sitting near this girl.

Semi Precious Weapons, much to my surprise, were the opening act, there to get us “wet and excited for Lady Gaga.” I love rockin’ glam boys, especially the kind who aggressively make uncomfortable straight boys even more uncomfortable like when Justin Tranter yelled, “You think you’re horrified now, just wait until I’m f*cking your girlfriends later!” Or you know, just wait ’til a few minutes later when unprepared front-row kids got an eyeful of his boyjunk as he changed from a dress into leggings onstage. He taunted security, telling, “this is rock ‘n’ roll. You dance, have sex in public, and bleed. All at the same time!” It was delightful chaos, even in suburban Chicago.

Fact: The first time SPW played with Gaga was in 2006 to a room filled with 12 people. I’d say things are looking up for everyone.

Semi Precious Weapons (and some ladies) photographed by Justin Hyte.

The second opener was Jason Derulo, a Michael Jackson wannabe-slash-Kanye West psuedo-breakdancer who was replacing Kid Cudi. I would’ve liked to have seeen Kid Cudi.

Between sets the atmosphere was free and buzzing as the audience danced to Beat It and vendors roamed the aisles selling glowsticks. As Gaga told us later, she made this show so we could dress up, be ourselves, and love one another, like Pride! The real freaks, she said, are the ones locked away outside! Yeah!

I didn’t really even mind the gigantoid jumbo-screen commercials, ’cause it’s hard to be anti “donating $25,000 to end youth homelessness,” especially in the LGBT community, like Gaga is doing in her partnership with Virgin Mobile to raise money to fight youth homelessness.

At last! Gaga time! The production value was clearly off the charts from the get-go. Everything was flashing lights & smoke! She got everyone going right away with Dance in the Dark leading straight into Just Dance. Mid-song she said lovey things about Chicago, whipping the crowd into a gyrating hormonal frenzy. At the songs end, she’d wave her hand in the air like a magical mute button and all the Little Monsters went dead still.

At which point Gaga screamed: “Haven’t you heard? I have a huge dick. And balls. [mimed jerking off] Now dance, you motherf*ckers!”

Cue LoveGame, and sexy dancers doing sexy dancing in sheer, flesh-toned leotards. I actually thought they were naked at first.

This is what most of my pictures look like. So pretty though, right?

Lady Gaga bantered with the audience as she introduced the fourth song, Alejandro. I’ve read criticisms of this part of the show, how the between-song banter is scripted and rehearsed. To which I say DUH. IT’S THE F*CKING MONSTER BALL. It’s a theatre piece, it’s performance art. (Oh my God, I’m defending a pop star. Who woulda thunk.)

And well, it sounded sincere and seemed to have a purpose. Like before Alejandro when she talked about her favorite ‘monsters’ (alcohol, death, sex, etc.). She replaced some Robertos and Fernandos with Chicagos while singing. That led into Monster, and my favorite sketch of The Monster Ball.

After informing us that all we need is love, art and each other (not money) Lady Gaga asked, “Am I sexy? You’re sexy. Do you think I’m sexy? [pause for cheers] I don’t believe you! [lays on floor] I’m like Tinkerbell, you have to clap if you don’t want me to die. DO YOU WANT ME TO DIIIEEEE?!?”

Just like that she has you eating out of her hand! It’s magnetic! You’re loving it and loving yourself before you even have time to hate it and hate yourself!

Clap for Tinker-Gaga so she doesn't die!

She transitioned from sexy-time into super-creepy time with the lighting and costumes for Teeth. The lighting and costumes went all red, black and gorgeous.

Monster Ball Gaga Teeth

And at the end, Gaga and the dancers struck a strange pose for an almost uncomfortable amount of time, with wide, toothy grins and heads cocked like birds or The Gentlemen. I couldn’t get a clear shot with my crap camera and so I reproduced it for you:

Inspired by Teeth‘s repeated refrain of “my religion is you,” Gaga segued into talking about how churches hate her but she doesn’t care ’cause she has us, which is the same thing we tell ourselves when our families banish us to conversion camp and kick us out of our girlfriend’s youth group.

After telling us about her special love for Chicago (since she got her big break at Lollapalooza 2007), she says, “Hey, hey, Little Monsters, I hope you’re having a good night. I dedicate this song to you” and broke into my favorite song of all Speechless. We were not speechless howevs, everyone sang along. You could feel the love in there, even though we knew she actually wrote that song for her Dad but whatever she’s Lady Gaga, she can dedicate her songs to as many people as she wants.

My favorite anecdote was next about a time she was being driven through Boston (“I’m from New York, I don’t drive”) when she saw a girl in the car ahead rocking out to Fame Monster. Gaga wanted the fan to notice her so she stuck her head out the window and waved — to no avail. But the girl in another car rolled down her window and directed a Bad Romance-style claw-hand at the other fan to show solidarity. Gaga was amazed that two of her ‘Little Monsters’ signaled each other and so she now wants the claw to be the international symbol for all of us. And so she made us practice.

For her strange piano version of Poker Face, Gaga shot at us with a sparkler-emitting uzi (yes, it exists) while a keytar playing bear (or dog?) joined a keytar-playing Gaga who began singing The Fame/Money Honey/Beautiful, Dirty, Rich not quite a medley but not quite separated either and then before we knew it she was rockin’ a red vinyl bikini and singing Boys Boys Boys while all the male dancers flexed and vogued around her in suspenders. I kinda wished there were some androgynous female dancers there as well, but anyhoo it was all very 90′s sexy Madonna-esque. That led into a full length dancey performance of Poker Face. And then I got in trouble.

Some of the Virgin Mobile reps who were signing people up to win a phone call from Lady Gaga.

See, there’s no video recording allowed and you gotta stay in your seat but I couldn’t see from my seat! The sweetheart gay boys next to me let me inch past them so I could sneak 30-second video clips while the ushers weren’t looking. When Gaga, atop a moving scaffold, launched into Paparazzi with a shackle around her neck, I needed to get that shit on video.

Monster Ball Gaga Performing Paparazzi

So I got bold & edged out of my designated area at the exact moment he head honcho security guy showed up and ordered me back to my seat. Despite words of encouragement from the gay boys to damn the man ["F*ck the douchebag, do what you need to do to get your story!"], I was aware that getting kicked out at this point would mean missing Bad Romance! This show was changing my life, I had to be there until the end!

Instead of doing an encore – which wouldn’t have worked in a scripted, arty performance like this, and like duh who wouldn’t encore Gaga – there was just a longer pause and set change over before the final two songs. For Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) Gaga sang from inside a huge stationary orbit at the back of the stage which unfortunately meant I couldn’t see her, just her projection.

Monster Ball Gaga Orb

But next came the big one, Bad Romance. It was bright and loud and amazing. My notes said “beautiful! white! smoky! deafening!” and magically, it produced the only photo that didn’t turn out too tiny or blurry. The whole group bowed, danced/shimmied single-file off stage, and end of show. Though the people behind me said it was anti-climactic, I thought it was kinda perfect.

Look at how pretty Bad Romance was, you guys!

Monster Ball Gaga Performs Bad Romance


I don’t usually go to big venue shows. I’m used to paying ~$30 to see an indie band in a standing-room only venue where the audience is loud and rude. So really Amanda Palmer is the only show I’ve attended that rivals Monster Ball’s love & creativity.

But this was different. I’m not usually into dance music. I’m not even into dancing.

But being in that room in that energy and knowing that I wasn’t the only one there attending her first big stadium show — I actually felt like dancing. I know that it seems exaggerated or cliché that I say Lady Gaga and The Monster Ball changed me, but it did.

If I’d stuck to my surly roots and refused to give Gaga a chance, I never would’ve been in that room with all those people drawn together for the love of art, music, and being freaks. And it wasn’t for some glossy pop-star or orchestrated boy-band, it was for a lady who actually writes her own songs, and loves gay people, and says rude things on TV.

So I’m glad I stopped being so skeptical for once — because if I’d stayed on my fence, I would’ve missed the dancing.

Avatar of Elizabeth (aka Elli B.)

Elizabeth has written 3 articles for us.

34 Comments

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    I was at the show last night at Radio City and I could feel the entire floor shaking from people dancing. I’ve seen Madonna, Britney and Pink live and this was the most raw, hilarious and audience fulfilling version of a huge multi-million dollar production since probs the Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990. The audience banter alone was worth the price of admission. She actually stopped the acoustic (SNL/NYC version) Poker Face mid-chord when she realized “Oh my god, I just realized this was the same stage where I bled to death on mtv!”

    :::hand claw::::

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    awww man i can’t afford to goto Gagas concert out here in NYC because the tickets are sky high from what i heard but reading this made me feel like I was there and its as amazing as I thought it would be, and I am sooo glad that you are now a Gaga lover, because she will be president one day *salutes you with the hand claw*

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    Elizabeth, I LOVE the graphics you made. I felt like I was really there! Like the one with the scary people and cheshire cat made me LOL. This sounds like an amazing experience. Great write-up! I’m so glad you eventually came around to the dark side :)

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    I think Lady Gaga is one of the few artists I would be willing to a) shell out an absurd amount of money for and b) go to an obnoxiously large venue for. I’m like you, most of the shows I go to cost me less than fifteen dollars, and there’s only thirty other people there. This awesome review only solidifies that view. It looks like an amazing time and a worthwhile investment.

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    Elizabeth this review is ace. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Gaga fan, but this write up has convinced me to take another look/listen to her – the concert really does sound like an incredible experience.

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    I’m glad you have been Gagafied!!!, I wish I get to see her live, I hope she comes to my country in the near future. All I have r youtube videos of the concert, which seems so orgasmically awesome.

    I just adore Gaga, a lot of people say she’s all gimmicks, style over substance but they just don’t get what she’s all about. I love her performance art aspect, the people that call her a gimmick just take her way to seriously. When in fact her act and music has such a humorous quality to it. If people just bothered to look at it beyond face value, but they are so use to the generic Britney’s n Rihanna’s of pop music that I can see y they think Gaga is nothing but a big gimmick.

    Anyway the bad romance video is EPIC!!!!, the whole video is visual commentary of her “bad romance” with the music industry n how fickle it is, n how in her case she is both the puppet n the puppeteer. The concept behind the video is so brilliant n I think the execution of that concept was nailed to the T.

    I’m officially a monster 4 lyf..

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    Yeees! THIS is a review I can get behind. (Thoughtful, descriptive, with no references to ancient philosophers just to show that you “get it.”) I have to admit that the Gaga maybe changed my life a lil’ at her concert, too–in the spirit of getting off the skeptical fence and all. ;) I moved from New Orleans (accepting, loving, sparkly) to D.C. (a vapid, souless place full of arbitrary competition) and have been struggling to find my identity here. Well, Gaga came out in that cape that looked like it was made of strips of old VHS video tape with white lights poked through it and I thought “Hallelujah! That outfit is delicious! Eff it, I’M going to be delicious, whether D.C. likes it or not.” And last weekend I took my pink wig out to the bars with me, and it had a grand ole’ time. Cheers!!

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    I went to the first 2 shows in Chicago and your review totally did the show justice! I can’t wait for the second leg of the Monster Ball tour this summer. New sets, new costumes, new monsters to meet.

    I had an absolute blast. GaGa is definitely worth the money!

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    I’m so glad you posted this. I went to the Monster Ball in St. Louis. I had to drive 10 hours on black ice to get there, we didn’t eat all day and after 2 glasses of wine, 2 beers at the hotel, and about 5 run and cokes at the venue, I think I blacked out most of the concert.

    I did send many text messages to friends stating the concert was def worth the 10 hour drive, so I must have really enjoyed it.

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    I had a very similar experience in Detroit. I waited until Sunday to get tickets for the Tuesday show, and literally waited in the car for the Fed Ex guy to drop them off. I also, have never been to a stadium concert before and usually only pay 15-30 dollars to see an act. Well worth it though! Gaga is amazing.

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    “I’m like Tinkerbell, you have to clap if you don’t want me to die. DO YOU WANT ME TO DIIIEEEE?!?”

    I know this doesn’t make sense, but it made me think of Riese projecting on Tinkerbell and making us all clap.

    Sweet review! This makes me wish I had seen her when she came to Montreal.

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    Umm this is like the best review ever. “You’re loving it and loving yourself before you even have time to hate it and hate yourself!” haha definitely the sign of a good concert. I can relate to the pop-music skeptic/general-all-around-misanthrope bit, and although this isn’t really the type of music I tend to listen to a lot I definitely dig what Gaga is doing and I think a lot of the things she stands for are totes admirable.

    Also, Buffy and Amanda Palmer FTW.

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