Fresh from a one-month hiatus, Lady Gaga brought glitter, sweat, a horse and a G.O.A.T to Vancouver, kicking off the North American leg of her long-awaited Born This Way Ball in spectacular fashion. The (mechanical) horse brought Gaga onstage at the top of the set in majestic fashion; the goat, however, was not your barnyard variety beast, but instead an acronym for “Government-Owned Alien Territory,” a medieval, gothic overlord created out of the twisted mind of la Lady herself.
When the tour dates were originally announced, Gaga described the Born This Way Ball as “an Electro-Metal Pop-Opera; the tale of the Beginning, the genesis of the Kingdom of Fame. How we were birthed and how we will die celebrating.” This turns out to be an apt description. The set was daunting and impressive, a multi-level, morphing ancient castle. Her costume changes were, as expected, frequent and fabulous. In fact, the evening as a whole was dark and twisted enough to remind attendees that although Gaga is a Top 40 radio dominatrix, she’s also a cerebral shit disturber, with an imagination that seems heavily inspired by everyone from director Tim Burton to Gerald Scarfe’s unsettling graphics in Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Gaga absolutely pwned her temporary palace last night, and the combined electricity from Mother Monster and her audience of Little Monsters created a delicious two-and-a-half-hour extrava-Ga-Ga-ganza, both musically and visually. Friday night’s show – the first of two consecutive Vancouver sold-out dates – began with the singer slowly and dramatically roaming the stage’s circular catwalk on horseback while singing “Highway Unicorn.” The audience responded with ear-piercing adulation, and kept up the love – to Gaga’s delight – for the duration of the evening. Moving straight into “Government Hooker,” the Barbarella-clothed artiste made it clear that the night ahead was likely to contain as much theater as music, and Gaga served up both sides masterfully well.
The show contained some old familiar friends; the egg she appeared out of on the Grammys re-hatched for “Bad Romance,” and her infamous meat dress was in prime form for “Poker Face.” The most fantastical fashion moment, however, came during “Heavy Metal Lover,” when Gaga arrived onstage not on a motorcycle, but AS a motorcycle – a deliciously-expanded version of the Born This Way album cover that a female backup dancer took for a spin around the stage.
For the first 50 minutes of the show, the tone was sassy, fun and slick, all clinging close to the aforementioned G.O.A.T. theme. Even during Gaga’s speaking parts, she stayed true to her character for nearly the first third of the show. Although she repeatedly reinforced fantastic themes promoting independent thought and inclusion, it was a welcome change of pace – more than an hour in – when she started speaking more free-form, creating what proved to be the evening’s most memorable moments. Whether singing “Happy Birthday” to an ecstatic fan, or calling the cell number of a shocked and delighted audience member, her compassionate, fan-driven heart shone clearly through the sheen.
In fact, those uber-authentic moments coincided with the night’s musical highlights. One of those first arcs came in the form of the honky-tonk-esque “Yoü and I,” as Gaga flattened the audience with her fantastically strong pipes. She then spoke in detail about the cruelty of bullying, asking the crowd to make differences in their world by being kind to isolated individuals. From there, she poignantly launched into a second, more slowed-down version of “Born This Way,” especially emphasizing the lyrics “no matter gay, straight or bi / lesbian, transgendered life” to the audience’s cheers. At the end of that number, Gaga said, “No matter how many rhinestones on my jeans, no matter how many fancy wigs I have, just remember that I don’t give a fuck about anything but you and the music.”
More than two hours into an exhausting show, Gaga pulled out a nearly a cappella version of “Edge of Glory” as the night’s first encore, her strong, raspy voice reverberating through the mesmerized crowd. To cap off the night, the singer brought five Little Monsters onstage to join her for the last number, “Marry the Night.” Before singing, she offered one last Gaga-ian proverb to the enraptured audience: “Just remember: I heard ‘no’ way more time than I heard ‘yes.'” Not tonight, she didn’t.
“Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)”
“Born This Way”
“Black Jesus † Amen Fashion”
“Fashion Of His Love”
“Heavy Metal Lover”
“Yoü and I”
“Born This Way” (slow piano interlude)
“Edge of Glory”
“Marry The Night”