The ArtRAVE seeks to tweak, not twerk...
"No fucking lip synching," snarls Lady Gaga, bashing away at a diabolical organ like it’s a Barbarella torture device.
She’s pissed off at a damning review of her Perth Arena show, which suggested that she was faking it. By any other account, Gaga’s a phenomenal singer, and to underline this point, she shows off with some serious vocal acrobatics through a rendition of ‘Dope’, and keeps the volume up, up, up all night.
To be a pop star these days means training like a racehorse. You must be sleek, athletic, unstoppable. Gaga also has at least five lustrous manes thrown in, but beyond all that, she’s a singer-songwriter with an immense voice. Beneath the ultra-campness of her repertoire there’s a diversity that implies she could try her hand at any genre. Who knows, maybe in a parallel universe, Stefani Germanotta would have been a blues belter or a sweet-cheeked hit in musical theatre.
The universe she inhabits for the ArtRAVE tour is out-of-this-world kitsch. Dancing on the day-glo set to pop opera ‘Venus’, she’s Zsa Zsa Gabor in Queen of Outer Space meets Warhol, with gambolling space imp dancers. The outrageous costumes (designed by Haus of Gaga) are a nod to the look-at-me NYC club scene that bore her.
Gaga was once a Dadaist collage of Madonna, and a mocking one at that, but she’s had a taste of her own medicine recently. Since Miley Cyrus has made a lunge for her crown with her newfangled giant furry bears, cartoon hair-do and infantalised stage sets, Gaga’s love of absurdity may increasingly have to play a back seat to her talent as a vocalist. There are no surprises in the set – the big hits from latest album Artpop ('Applause' and the weirdly un-Gaga 'Do What U Want’) are among obvious oldies such as ‘Telephone’, ‘Just Dance’, ‘Judas’, ‘Poker Face’ – but she’s at pains to show off her vocal chops.
The live band is equally aggressive, playing mad-professor versions of their instruments with a righteous delivery. They remain dressed in white, but Gaga makes many a costume change, from fake fur and fake dreadlocked ’90s rave chick, to psychedelic sea creature. At one point her costume change station rises through the stage and she is stripped off by two assistants as a way of revealing the art form that is her stage show. It is "art", she is at pains to tell us, and she doesn't care if some people find that pretentious.
Gaga encores, dressed rather like Glenda the good witch, playing ‘Gypsy’ on a piano made out of giant crystals. She predicts we'll all leave drunk and go to Pie Face, but she herself – in a second wind that seems simply inconceivable given all the clicks she's clocked – winds up at Cherry Bar and dances on the bar itself.