Show Review: Lady GaGa, Kid Cudi, and Semi Precious Weapons at The Bill Graham Civic, 12/14/09

by Dakin Hardwick on December 15, 2009

Thanks to LuciaSo for letting me borrow the photo

Thanks to LuciaSo for letting me borrow the photo

So, this Lady GaGa thing is kind of crazy isn’t it? I mean, this record came out Summer 2008, but it wasn’t until a year later when it seemed that she was everywhere. In a world where there really isn’t any such thing as “mainstream” anymore, there is a possibility that she might be the last big pop star. This was supposed to be a tour where she was playing second fiddle to Kanye West, but for one reason or another (I’d like to think that it’s God’s will) Kanye opted not to travel, giving Lady GaGa the chance at a victory lap.

The show began about 15 minutes earlier than advertised with a performance by Semi Precious Weapons, a New York-based glam rock band. Lead singer Justin Tranter wore a very small dress with very tall heels. He channeled the very alive soul of David Johansen circa 1971. His stage presence was equal parts bratty and debonair. The band played a fun blend of garage, glam and punk that was mighty infectious, and got a good portion of the crowd that was waiting for a disco show pogoing maniacally. The music was very good, but the muddy sound mix made it difficult to make out the lyrics, so I wasn’t entirely sure as to what each song was, but they were fine to watch. Halfway through the set, we were even treated to a costume change. On stage. Complete costume change. Please use your imagination properly.

Afterwards there was a brief set change, which consisted of clearing off Semi Precious Weapons’ instruments. This took about ten minutes. (God bless a quick set change!)  Then, Kid Cudi came out to a nearly bare stage. He had a laptop artist stashed in the corner and spent the majority of the set pacing back and forth. I felt that he didn’t connect very well with the crowd. Also, the songs themselves were quite strong, but I think that the general melancholy of his work wasn’t very appropriate for this show. After the the ecstatic energy of the 1st opener, this was underwhelming. The only song to really get the crowd moving was his single, “Day ‘N’ Nite,” which was given a bit of drum ‘n’ bass treatment, making it the only truly danceable moment.

Lady GaGa opened the show with the song, “Dance In The Dark,” a track off the newly released EP, The Fame Monster. She played to an empty stage, behind a screen that created the illusion of a television set with poor signal. She moved around as if she was frantically trying to break free. Surprisingly, this song was one of the few lipsync’d numbers of the night.

The screen was pulled down and Ms. GaGa reappeared with a keytar.  She proceeded to pluck out the absolute genius riff to her first single, “Just Dance.”  She was flanked by a team of dancers covered in head-to-toe flesh-colored lycra. It was a stunning visual spectacle and also was a brilliant performance musically. It was a brilliant choice to warm up the show with these two pieces because lyrically I can think of no pairing of songs that can better pay tribute to the experience of enjoying music. When the guide to the greatest songs about music finally gets published if “Just Dance” is ignored, then the book is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

As the show progressed, the dance numbers got bigger and creepier. There were many costume changes and as the night went on the clothes fell off. She had stunning and strange visuals, including an amazing moment where a woman vomited blue-green paint all over the good Lady. As a persona, I found that she seems to still be trying to find her proper footing. One moment, she comes off as an old-fashioned club kid, searching for the boldest fashion concepts to insure that you are being seen.  While other times she reminds me of a humorous avant-gardist, a la Yoko Ono (who may be her biggest influence). Sometimes she’s channeling Peaches with her minimalist electro beats and blunt flirtations with her dancers. And other times, she plays the role of PG popstar; keeping up with the tightly scripted choreography and spouting out a series of super positive statements informing everyone to follow their dreams. In the hands of many people, all of these different personalities could seem very forced, but with GaGa it all seemed very natural. It may be strange to say this about such an over the top spectacle, but it all seemed to be a very pure spectacle. I guess when you dream big, you can actually be big without being Bono.

At the precise half way point of the show, a grand piano came out the back of the stage, and GaGa sat down to play a tender ballad called “Speechless.” This showed off both her skill as a singer and attempted help throw off her critics. During this portion of the show, she also told a pair of stories relating to her rise to fame. The first one, rather humorously talked about pulling up in her car next to someone listening to her music in the car next to her, who was enjoying the music so much that she couldn’t get the driver’s attention to inform said person that she wass sitting in the car next door. However, the person in the car on the other side of the distracted fan opted to salute her with a creepy monster hand, which she has determined is the calling card of her fan base, who she adorably referrs to as “Her Monsters.”  The other story was about meeting someone that was mildly familiar with her work, who said that she was the woman that made “dance music.”  This women’s comment, of course deeply offended the vast majority of the audience. This brought her to the tender ballad, where her voice was wide ranging and her piano skills were awesome. The song ended with her band being made visible for the first time in the show, if only briefly. She then played an acoustic version of “Pokerface,” that was almost unrecognizable. She also managed to play the most suggestive piano since Tori Amos’ heyday.

The second half of the set focused much more heavily on the older hits. She closed the main set with a brilliant, high energy triple header of “Poker Face,” “Paper Gangsta,” and “Paparrazi,” which was stretched out to nearly 7 minutes, pulling out the old concept of the 12″ mix and making sure the song didn’t end until you were ready for it to.

The encore may have featured the only actual misstep of the show. The first song was the super bubbly “Eh, Eh (There’s Nothing Else I Can Say),” and instead of focusing on the brightness of the song, she gave it the darkest treatment of the night, wearing a jacket with giant shoulder pads while sitting on a chair with the darkest blue lighting of the night. It felt like she had an idea and needed to play the song, so she just threw them together. This was practically forgotten when she played her final number of the night, the infectious “Bad Romance.” It was a stunning cap for a stunning night.

Setlist:

Dance in the Dark
Just Dance
Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
LoveGame
Boys, Boys, Boys
Alejandro
Monster
So Happy I Could Die
Teeth
Speechless
Poker Face (Acoustic)
Fashion
The Fame
Money Honey
Paper Gangsta
Poker Face
Paparazzi
Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)
Bad Romance

Dance in the Dark
Just Dance
Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
LoveGame
Boys, Boys, Boys
Alejandro
Monster
So Happy I Could Die
Teeth
Speechless
Poker Face (Acoustic)
Fashion
The Fame
Money Honey
Paper Gangsta
Poker Face
Paparazzi
Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)
Bad Romance

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Caroline Hernandez December 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I’m so jealous…I’m glad you had a good time, though. =P

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