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A (Born this Way) Ball of a Time with Lady Gaga

Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz
29 May 2012

Lady Gaga at the Born This Way Ball (Photo courtesy of Vivian Tsui)
Lady Gaga at the Born This Way Ball (Photo courtesy of Vivian Tsui)

At times shocking, raunchy, mellow and just plain bizarre.

That summed up Lady Gaga's opening concert on the first night of her three-sold out "Born This Way Ball" concerts in Singapore.

[SLIDESHOW: CRAZY FAN COSTUMES]

So-called Illuminati influences, invoking Jesus' name in vain, macabre, irrelevant imagery and lots of skin and blood have come to be what one expects from a Lady Gaga concert.

And with the recent controversy her Ball has caused -- banned in Jakarta, age-restricted in South Korea — this reviewer really didn't know what to expect.

As it turned out, her two-hour , 23-song live set made for riveting, compelling viewing from an extremely charismatic (and yes, eccentric) show-woman, once you look past the "sacrilege" and profanity-strewn language.

The excitement was palpable from as early as three hours before Gaga's show -- when her "Little Monsters" army of fans consisting of face-less white monsters, a skeleton in a tuxedo — came all dressed to impress.

Little Monsters all dressed up for the Ball (Yahoo! Photo / Elizabeth Soh)
Little Monsters all dressed up for the Ball (Yahoo! Photo / Elizabeth Soh)

"Its painful. But anything for Gaga," enthused one female fan,who was perspiring profusely in a thick black cloak and towering platforms.

The Born This Way Ball castle set (Yahoo! Photos / Elizabeth Soh)
The Born This Way Ball castle set (Yahoo! Photos / Elizabeth Soh)

By 830pm, the 11,000-strong crowd was pulsating with anticipation and finally roared in unison when the curtain dropped to unveil a forbidding three-storey high Gothic-style castle, a scene straight out of Frankenstein.

And as the show kicked off, thousands of Little Monsters raised their claws (no, seriously!) to greet Lady Gaga's entrance as an… alien. To be precise, a "Predator-like" alien riding a living, breathing black steed, accompanied by her macabre chain-mailed henchmen, who in turn carried flags spelling out "G.O.A.T".

It was part S&M bondage, part futuristic, part Goth all rolled into one. My mind went blank -- which part of this was supposed to be Satanic, which part against animal rights, and, wait, what song is that she's singing again?

Creepy props included a death mask with eerily realistic features. (Yahoo! Photos/Elizabeth Soh)
Creepy props included a death mask with eerily realistic features. (Yahoo! Photos/Elizabeth Soh)

Before long, the song was over and she re-appeared -- screaming in the throes of childbirth behind a giant, car-sized distended pregnant belly that looked like an uncooked whole chicken from afar. To top it off, the 26-year-old part-pop, part-fashion megastar yelled "Singapore, I am not a prisoner."

But despite the overblown, exaggerated sets and costumes was that Gaga has real singing chops: how many artistes can prance around performing gravity-defying dance moves while wearing rib-cracking PVC gowns but still belt out hit songs like "Born This Way" without lip-syncing?

She is also a helluva live performer -- at least five costume changes, as many hats, and gruelling dance routines for every song. The tickets, priced as high as $291 for the free-standing front row, was worth every cent if only for the surreal set, props and the out-of-this-world sartorial feast on display.

From a bizarre powder-pink origami gown and later, a spiky Statue of Liberty hat, to a very creepy Alien costume (all sparkling spines and tendrils) and a meat dress -- torn off later to become a meat leotard, it was a visual feast of the senses.

Lady Gaga in a meat leotard for the Born This Way Ball (Photo courtesy of Lin Wanqing)
Lady Gaga in a meat leotard for the Born This Way Ball (Photo courtesy of Lin Wanqing)

She raced through her mega dance hits — "Just Dance", "Alejandro", "Love Game", "Bad Romance" — all the while keeping the audience guessing what props and costumes she would use next.

And she didn't disappoint -- a machine gun bra (Madonna's bullet bra circa 2012), homo-erotic gyrating on a man-meat sofa, liberal use of the "F" word and simulating sex acts with a motorcycle were all examples of her excellent showmanship although they didn't seem to add or subtract from her performance.

Lady Gaga in another one of her stormtrooper esque helmets and tent dresses (Photo courtesy of Lin Wanqing)
Lady Gaga in another one of her stormtrooper esque helmets and tent dresses (Photo courtesy of Lin Wanqing)

Her outlandish costumes, most of which obscured her face and petite frame at times, actually seemed to overwhelm the performance.

"I am you. I am your dreams, I am your hopes, everything you love and hate about yourself, I am", she said at one stage, clasping her hands in prayer and crossing herself.

Gaga's signature blank, slightly stoned expression, heavy breathing, and erratic, disjointed looking dance moves can be unnerving but that is true Lady Gaga for you — bizarre, strange and talented.

There were light-hearted moments too, as when she picked up a little doll thrown on stage by a fan and, as master marionette, made it dance to "Born This Way", complete with arms and legs moving.

But undoubtedly the highlight of the night was when a stripped-down Gaga delivered a solo, heart-wrenching rendition of "Hair", accompanied by just her bike-mounted piano.

She spoke openly about how as an insecure teen student, she was bullied and pushed into a garbage can by bullies.

"I didn't want to tell my mum and dad, I didn't want them to know I was a real loser," she said as her fans in the audience — an eclectic mix of young and old, straight, gay, lesbian and transgender -- openly wept.

Her barely resolved angst was palpable as she threw herself into the song, fingers running across the keyboard, sometimes too choked with emotion to continue.

The message? Don't change the way you are, because you were born this way: "Don't want to change and I don't want to be ashamed/ I'm the spirit of my hair, it's all the glory that I bear".

Her encore rendition of Marry The Night was another standout and saw her Little Monsters up on their feet and cheering loudly while waving their paws to the beat.

Quite simply, they couldn't get enough.

Over 10,000 Little Monsters waving their paws to the beat (Yahoo! Photos/ Elizabeth Soh)
Over 10,000 Little Monsters waving their paws to the beat (Yahoo! Photos/ Elizabeth Soh)

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