Lady Gaga at Xcel Energy Center, 2/6/13

Categories: Last Night
Picture Group
Lady Gaga's hair was even greener than this Wednesday night
Lady Gaga
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Even before she was famous, Lady Gaga's career was a pop commentary on being famous. Now that The Fame is more a given than just an album title, the effect of the stardom she created has taken its toll, though not necessarily to the detriment of her art. There was no 800-lb gorilla in the room during her performance at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, but there was a ten-ton castle. Even for the few middle schoolers in the crowd, it was no stretch that this gnarly fortress -- not built for My Little Pony or a Taylor Swift "Love Story" -- represented the walls Gaga has built up around herself.

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Photos by Picture Group
Having witnessed Gaga smearing blood all over herself two years ago prior to the release of Born This Way, it was not surprising that there would be a masochistic element to her stagecraft. But as the night progressed, one of the key visual elements of much of her set pieces turned out that she spent extended periods of time in the structure's inner sanctum -- some for costume changes, sure -- and also others onstage with some sort of barrier between herself and the fans. Be it a turret of her Castle Gagaskull, a railing, a glass enclosure, a majestic meat grinder (yep!), a glowing cocoon, or a series of grotesque, alien masks covering her emotion-laden countenance, she had to fight through each of these layers to be the plain-spoken performer again: "This is not a fucking show, this is me."

As the night developed, the stage thematics pulled from the goth castle, which opened up to reveal Gaga's live band tucked into its compartments, and her muscular dancers poured out of its gates on command. Compared to the Madonna show at the venue in November, everything moved in lock-step and there was no need for any tiring video montages. From the floating head, to the dark horse (made out of her dancers) she rode in on, to the motorcycle she became, everything was live-action.  


Photos by Picture Group
"I wish I gave a shit that you have work tomorrow," she shouted midway through the set. "I want you to have a nice Lady Gaga hangover in the morning." And judging by the response from the Monsters enclosed in her wraparound catwalk by the stage and those filling the rest of the Xcel, there were plenty who wanted to leave it all out there.

Unfortunately, the first highlight of the night -- Gaga emerging from the castle with giant inflatable legs, a pregnant belly the size of a Dodge Ram, and a zipper where her lady parts would  -- comes sans photography. This, of course, was for "Born This Way," and proved to be the first of two performances of the song, and of dozens of invocations. While Gaga never seemed to be vocally out of her depth, some of the dance-oriented pieces with heavy backing vocals overwhelmed her singing.

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