Manchester, MEN Arena,
11th Sept 2012.
Andy Santiago, our occasional black metal correspondent, has a secret (ok, not so secret now) love of female fronted pop. So when he was offered a chance to go see Lady Ga Ga last week there was only one answer he could give. Below is how his night with Ms G G unfolded.
And so, in a bizzare twist of fate, whilst enjoying a pint after the Jim Jefferies show with some old mates in York, I found myself been offered a spare place on the guest list for Lady Gaga at Manchester MEN the following night.
Being an ardent fan of Black Metal you would have expected me to have been mortified at the very suggestion but I’m also a massive fan of quality female-fronted Pop (Goldfrapp been a prime example), so to turn down the chance to see arguably the worlds biggest ‘Pop Star’ would have been foolish, especially as I really like her first album!
As we took our seats, the evenings support band ‘The Darkness‘ began their set on aproximately 3 square foot of stage. Clearly, the headliner had a massive production and the support had limited space as a result. Anyway, they cracked on and frontman Justin Hawkins howled and screeched his way through their ‘Cock Rock’ anthems celebrating the joys of cocaine and genital warts and even throwing in a reckless handstand on the drum riser as he did so. They went down pretty well with a crowd who I thought would be indifferent to say the least. Good on ’em and may their current resurgence continue.
There was a tangible feeling of nervous expectation running through the sold-out arena and after the half-arsed mexican waves faded and the house lights went out, ‘Mother Monster’ was imminent.
The stage set was revealed to be a huge castle that opened like a book with ramps going out into the crowd and a select few gathered inside the circular area the ramps formed.
I have to say it was the strangest stage entrance I’ve ever seen. A masked Gaga astride some horse-type creature paraded around the ramps, surrounded by her obscenely good looking and healthy dancers. Anyway after a lot of posturing she ripped into the anthemic ‘Born This Way’ and then came the first revelation of the night. “Fuckin’ Hell, she CAN actually sing live!”
Hit after hit followed and the production was slick, faultless and delivered as complete perfection. It seemed even the dry ice enveloping the stage was stricty choreographed.
It was all going so well and I was honestly having a great time, plenty to keep the eyes entertained and musically enjoyable. Then, perched atop a large motorcycle that was cunningly fitted with a piano, it all started to go wrong.
I hate my pop stars to get all ‘preachy’ and that’s exactly what she did. She pulled a hyper-ventilating young lad out of the crowd and sat him down next to her while she did a song. I don’t have issue with that at all but when she tries to tell 16 or so thousand people that her life is exactly the same as ours, well, im sorry but I’ve got to cry ‘Bullshit’ here.
Maybe I’m a bitter, jaded kind of bloke but I don’t buy into that at all.
Gaga’s interactions with the crowd aside, it was a cracking gig. The amount of things going on was sometimes hard to take in and when a sofa that appeared to be constructed entirely of meat products was produced and she was stuffed into an over-sized mincing machine it was hard not to be impressed.
Still the hits continued to come, sadly my personal favourite ‘Poker Face’ (surely one of the greatest pop songs of all time?) fell a little flat but a stunning rendition of ‘Paparazzi’ where Gaga’s head appeared floating above the stage in hologram form more made up for it.
All too soon she was blasting through ‘Edge of Glory’ and then ‘Mother Monster’ or ‘Steph from NYC’ was gone, leaving a vast majority of the adoring crowd emotional and slightly tearful. I was left fancing a pint and feeling quite bemused by it all.
The post-gig analysis as we returned to the right side of the Pennines was mixed. Personally, I thought she came across as a talented artist with a grand vision who appears to have a deep love for her ‘Little Monsters’ but puts that love out in a syrupy, almost insultingly patronising way.
To sum up, she was excellent but I really stuggled with some of her almost scripted sincerity but that’s probably just me been a miserable old get.
All words by Andy Santiago. More Louder Than War articles by Andy can be found here.