Confusing, indulgent, with moments of mind-blowing brilliance: our verdict on ARTPOP live
Lady Gaga's comeback ARTPOP show at The Roundhouse last night, entitled SwineFest, established she was a different breed from all other pop artists working today – for better and for worse. In an eight-song set entirely comprised of new material, she changed her wigs on stage, brought Too $hort and Twista onstage for new track "Jewels and Drugs" and ripped the head off a mermaid. It was confusing and unpredictable, and wasn't going to change the mind of anyone that found Born This Way all a bit much, but the songs had promise and the standout "Sex Dreams" was one of the moments of brilliance that meant you forgave the slightly indulgent monologues to Little Monsters that peppered the evening. Here are the ten standout moments.
WTF of the night:
"My heart, my skin and my pussy felt like trash", disclosed Gaga of a dark time in her life, before pigs in radiation suits bungeed from the ceiling. Sure! A genuinely jaw-dropping (and head-ducking) moment in the relative intimacy of The Roundhouse, and I've never seen anything like it.
Hairstyle of the night:
As seen with her skullcap in the "Applause" video and quick-changing turn at the VMAs, a key theme of ARTPOP is exposing the machinery of performance. "Here I am, the human underneath the hair" she declares here, ditching her tawny brown mass to show her naturally wavy dark brown hair.
Song of the Night:
Amidst the new material, the 80s pop-leaning "Sex Dream" sounded like it could be the breakout radio hit from ARTPOP, as Gaga body-wormed to the iridescent synth chorus as the strobe letters in the background flashed the lyrics – "Nasty" felt particuly on point, given the early Janet Jackson vibe.
Surprise of the Night:
For the trap track "Jewels and Drugs" Gaga brought in the heavyweights. After a verse from T.I. on the screens, Too $hort and Twista bounded on stage to deliver their verses as Gaga head-tossed in plaid and platforms. Although it's not Gaga's first dalliance with rap, who'd have thought we'd be blessed with a trap banger on ARTPOP? I have to say though, it was one of those moments (there were a few) where I wished I'd heard the studio version first.
Diss of the Night:
For some reason, someone chucked a mask of Gaga's father onstage on stage, to the singer's amusement. It was a bit odd. Someone then followed by throwing a pig mask (in keeping with the evening's SwineFest theme), and then a mermaid – which Gaga proceeded to rip the head off with relish (I didn't get a Vine of it, sorry). After her mermaid-related Twitter dispute with Azealia Banks the other day, she seized the moment to put the matter to bed.
Time to go to the bar moment of the Night:
The midtempo title track "Artpop" was a nice enough slice of swooshy synthpop, but in an evening where Gaga's monolgues between songs took up more time than the tracks themselves it didn't feel like the time for a deep cut. Not even in a glittery shell bikini.
"Hmm" of the Night:
The opening song "Aura" was staged with a dramatic, limb-flinging dance routine, where Gaga was hoisted above the stage in caged metal galoshes. But her face-covering mask, coupled with the song's lyrics which liken a showgirl's sequins to the coverage of a burqa, felt like walking on thin ice.
Hook of the Night:
In the days leading up the show, Gaga released a series of sound-distorted teaser videos filmed without backing track. The clip for "MANiCURE", like the others, were thankfully a red herring. Performed as the second song of the set, it revealed itself as a fantastic bit of electropop, with an earworm autotuned hook of that could well be up there with "eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh stop telephoning may-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay".
"Aww" of the Night:
After spending months in a wheelchair earlier this year, Gaga wasn't afriad of letting us all know that she was having a good time, even if it did all get a little weepy. She dedicated "I Wanna Be With You" to her fans, a minimal ballad (which to be fair will probably have a donk on it in the studio version) that she played while wearing a baggy white T-shirt as she endearing ad-libbed "thanks for taking me back."
Razzle-Dazzle of the Night:
Gaga bowled back onto the stage for the encore of "Applause" in a top hat, pipe (!) and the video's green tiled Margiela couture jacket, in a relatively bangs-and-whistles-free ending to the evening – not that we lacked one final quick-change. Gaga ended the song alone, which brought to mind something she'd said earlier in the evening – "in order to become closer to you, I knew that I had to show you what was underneath all the theatre". Gaga's realness just happens to have more razzle-dazzle than that of most of us.