NEW YORK — Amid her signature head-swimming whirl of masks, barely there leather and feather outfits, complicated headgear, and lurching dance moves, [artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist] proved one very simple point at Wednesday night's kickoff of her sold-out four-night Monster Ball stand at historic Radio City Music Hall: You can go home again.
For nearly two hours, Gaga put on an eye-popping clinic of perverse dance theatrics in a grand hall that was miles away, literally and figuratively, from the grimy clubs where she got her start playing to a handful of people just a few years ago.
Even with conservatively dressed VIPs in the house like Donald Trump, a quick scan of the glitter-blasted crowd provided definitive proof that you'd entered Gagaland. From the couple rocking Batman wings to lovingly re-created replicas of Gaga's red lace headdress and bow-tied hairpiece, the lobby of Radio City was jammed with a galaxy of girls tottering giraffe-like on impossibly high heels, couples wearing matching silver-spangled tops and hot pants, and enough feather boas to make ostriches fear for their lives.
In Gaga's first show since canceling and postponing a string of gigs due to exhaustion last week, she was seemingly back at full tilt, opening the spectacle wrapped in a suit made of Christmas tree lights and moving mechanically behind a screen covered in a "Tron"-like green grid. Gyrating on the fog-shrouded stage to the strains of "Dance in the Dark," she was surrounded by a group of backup dancers sheathed in white body stockings with throbbing neon green chin guards that gave their faces an otherworldly glow.
She reappeared soon after, inside a glowing green box, and levitated 20 feet into the air on a white column while wearing a mirrored catsuit and playing the thumping strains of "Just Dance" on a shimmering keytar. You could definitely believe the cabaret-singer-turned-international-pop-diva when she said she didn't care about money, as nearly every song was accompanied by another outrageous outfit and space-age set piece.
The intro to "Love Game" found the stage exploding into a sea of psychedelic fractal images while her dancers writhed, Gollum-like, to a video of a raven-haired Gaga purging green liquid onto the white dress of a more demure Gaga. When the singer finally emerged, she had changed into a black metallic dress with a gauzy white skirt accented by a glowing scepter and towering black turban. Looking very Material Girl in a silver leotard and blonde Marilyn Monroe wig, she welcomed the crowd to her Monster Ball and ordered, "Now dance, mother----ers!"
Her third costume change in the first half hour found Gaga slipping into a raven black horsehair dress while her gothtastic backup crew did a vigorous "Thriller"-esque workout to the cannibalism fetish song "Monster," complete with bloody jowls. Claiming she would perish without her fans' love, Gaga splayed out on the stage coyly and screamed, "Do you want me to die?" as the crowd roared in response.
"Teeth" thumped like a Bobby Brown classic as Gaga sashayed back to her deconstructed, post-apocalyptic baby grand piano, which, of course, belched purple smoke. She then reminisced about growing up in Manhattan, thanked her fans sincerely and gave a shout-out to her dad — who was in the house — during "Speechless." Gaga performed the touching, cell-phone-waving ballad from behind billowing black feather shoulder pads and a black mask, stopping mid-song to pay tribute to the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.
"There's a lot of people in the world right now who need our help," said Gaga, who is donating all proceeds from her Radio City finale on Sunday (January 24) — as well as merchandise sales from that night and online merchandise sales that day — to the quake victims. "Sing this so God can hear us. ... Sing this for the people of Haiti!"
"I bled to death on domestic television right here to show you how much I love you," she said during her beer-hall version of "Poker Face," recalling that it was at Radio City where she feigned suicide at last year's MTV Video Music Awards. Then, to really show her love, she pointed a machine gun at the crowd and pulled the trigger, emitting a stream of explosive sparks before sitting back down to end the song by shouting, "I love my hometown!"
For the club anthem "Boys Boys Boys," Gaga left little to the imagination, donning a barely-there red leather bikini, matching sparkly captain's hat, red raccoon-eye makeup and black boots for a raucous shout out to her very vocal gay fanboys.
Moving stiffly against a starry background, the frenetic singer saved her most outrageous getup for "Paparazzi," during which two male dancers led her stiffly around by a black pole that was attached to her hair by two giant silver rings. She freed herself at song's end and was carried off the stage to shouts of "Gaga! Gaga!"
The show ended with Gaga trapped inside her signature spinning set of planetary rings, wearing white pants and a mirrored bra and top with towering heart-shaped shoulder pads, rotating slowly to the Caribbean synth rhythms of "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)." For the finale, "Bad Romance" started out a cappella before going supernova into a throbbing, ecstatic disco inferno propelled by white-clad dancers doing a vogue-y zombie dance in a sea of fog.
It was a dreamlike triumph for the self-proclaimed former freak, who wound up the night center stage appearing on the verge of tears, grimacing and flashing the universal symbol of the Gaga Nation, the monster claw, as her beloved beasties roared right back and held up their gnarled fists in solidarity.