Lady Gaga – The Hydro, Glasgow, Sun 19 Oct
Decadent and dynamic show fails to transcend generic format of stadium pop
Despite her impassioned pleas for tolerance and sexual freedom – and her fascination with performance art – Lady Gaga struggles to rise above the generic format of the stadium pop gig. Surrounded by dancers, and racing about an elaborate set on this, her artRave tour, she has a close rapport with her core audience, which disguises the mundanity of the musical arrangements and how the spectacle pulls her away from her true vocal talents.
A series of costume changes, from tentacled squid to Botticelli's Venus, accompany the fast and furious numbers: yet it is when she pauses and showcases her skills that Gaga shines. A piano and voice version of 'Born This Way' sung to a member of the audience is powerfully moving, and the only moment when a song connects with her rhetoric of mutual love between star and 'hardcore, authentic' audience. Even the supple pop of her hits are buried beneath frantic slapped bass and cod-metal guitars, lending a sluggishness to 'Just Dance' and 'Judas'.
Towards the end, Gaga explains her approach as a collage – and, musically, this makes not for a sparkling pop confection but a confused disconnect between numbers, ranging from Michael Jackson steals to 1980s' rock sentimentality. The lack of identity is not the fluid personae of David Bowie, but a messy conglomeration that reveals its influences clumsily.
While her decadence claims to revel in freedom, Gaga is still looking for an identity. Switching between a raw rock dynamism to an arrogant seductive voice suggests a remarkable potential: but the trappings of arena rock rapidly crush it. There is a sincerity in Gaga's intentions, and a remarkable lack of irony. That she has to shoehorn her message in between gaudy set-pieces is a sign of how far she is from achieving her ambitions.
However, the stompalongs are redeemed by Gaga's rapport with her band and audience, and each number is filled with energy and passion. The spectacle carries the action, the flashing lights and costume changes combine with the dancer's dynamism, if not technique, to pull off a post-modern version of Bette Midler's 1980s' mix of rock and cabaret.
The Hydro, Glasgow, Sun 19 Oct.