By Manning Harris
It takes a lot to get me OTP (outside the perimeter, for newcomers) these days. And the Gwinnett Arena is much too far for this confirmed Intowner to schlep—ordinarily.
But there was nothing ordinary about Lady Gaga or her sold-out “Monster Ball” that held forth at the Arena Monday evening.
In the Southeast’s only appearance on her epic tour (if you don’t count Nashville), the world’s most talked about pop star—33 million Facebook fans—more than anyone else on the planet—showed us what all the fuss is about. She was astounding.
I’ve been blessed in my life to see some truly great performers: Beverly Sills, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, The Rolling Stones—to name a few—and all of these performers at their peaks.
With this one performance, the former Stefani Germanotta, reborn as the electrifying Gaga, has not only joined the pantheon of the greats, she has set a new standard as a total performance artist.
She sings, she plays the piano (classically trained since age four), she composes, she writes lyrics, she dances, and she does NOT, she booms to the crowd, lip sync! She does all these things very, very well; she has just turned 25 and has become a one-woman performing juggernaut, backed up by extraordinary musicians and sexy, charismatic dancers. She is far more than her outrageous costumes.
When she hit the stage at 9:40 pm, after a short opening act (Semi-Precious Weapons) and an interminable wait, it was as though (this will sound corny; can’t help it) a huge jolt of electricity and joy shot through the arena and no one was immune. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an audience response for anyone, and it was unrelenting for the almost two hours that followed.
I assume you know some of her songs: “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro,” “Telephone,” “Paparazzi,” “Poker Face,” and the new monster hit “Born This Way,” the title of her eagerly awaited CD. The songs have filled the airwaves for some time now.
I once read a magazine piece about Lady Gaga’s rejection by an old boyfriend (before she was Lady Gaga). He scoffed at her and told her she had no chance for success, fame, or fortune. She looked at him and said, “The time is coming, and quite soon, when you won’t be able to walk into a coffee shop and not hear my voice.”
That resolution, that fierce belief in herself, is a gift she tries to give her fans. At one point Monday night she shouted into the microphone, startling the crowd: “You might not sing in front of thousands. You might not win Grammy Awards. But you’ve got to know you’re a superstar just the same. Leave tonight loving yourself more than when you came in.” You may not be impressed, but her fans, the “Little Monsters,” love her for it. Mother Monster has spoken!
Earlier I said she’s already joined the pantheon of great performers: It’s impossible to describe her focus, her concentration, her playful, bawdy wit , her complete professionalism. Elton John, an admirer, recently said she’s at a stage in her career when she can do no wrong; she’s young, strong, full of energy and burning up with creativity.
All of this was very much in evidence at the Arena Monday night. It was a totally thrilling evening.