SUNRISE, Florida — "Oh, I missed you," Lady Gaga gushed to her audience. "How much did you miss me?"
It might seem a strange question to ask, considering the "G.U.Y." singer's been actively promoting her latest album, ARTPOP, since July of last year. But, this seemed to be the underlying narrative of artRave: The ARTPOP Ball Tour, which kicked off Sunday night in Florida. Everything that happened in this era thus far had been building to this.
Appropriately, the artRave followed Lady Starlight's opening set with title-track "ARTPOP," which saw Gaga hinting at the possibility of such a reunion: "We could, we could belong together." Along with six elaborate costume changes and what's got to be half the world's supply of confetti, what came next was, in many ways, an exercise in reestablishing the kind of strong, fan-to-artist connection that Gaga had achieved with the Born This Way Ball, before that tour was prematurely cancelled in early 2013.
Among the different personas she tried on during the show were a fashion-darling It girl ("G.U.Y.," "Donatella," "Fashion!"), a flighty, high-pitched goddess ("Venus," "MANiCURE," "Cake Like Lady Gaga."), and a familiar, sales-friendly ghost of the past ("Just Dance," "Poker Face," and "Telephone"). There was even a version of herself who wore a plastic, inflatable, octopus-tentacle headdress with matching train ("PARTYNAUSEOUS," "Paparazzi," "Do What U Want," "Born This Way"), which isn't really as easy to sum up as the others, so thanks for bearing with me.
All of these radical makeovers ("trying on a few different outfits and a few different wigs to find myself again") appeared to wear on the New York native, as she next appeared as a black latex-wearing, green-haired troublemaker on the edge for "Jewels N' Drugs," "Aura," "Sexxx Dreams," "Mary Jane Holland," and "Alejandro."
Suddenly declaring that she's "not afraid to get filthy," Lady Gaga began stripping topless onstage to the "Ratchet" instrumental, and she was soon joined by a team of stylists to assist her into a neon-dreadlocked raver look that resembled some of the artRave merch outside the arena. It wasn't a choreographed thing, though, but a backstage quick-change performed onstage.
Maybe #ijusthavealotoffeelings, but this intimate, vulnerable act of laying herself bare for all to see was the moment when she succeeded in rekindling that sought-after bond with the audience. I guess sometimes the simplest move is right after all.
Thumping through "Bad Romance," "Applause," and "Swine," Lady Gaga closed the artRave with an encore performance of "Gypsy." The lyrics bookended perfectly with the "We could belong together" promise that opened the concert: "Thought that I would be alone forever/ But I won't be tonight."
That's the kind of feeling you're more likely to hear a fan express about an artist, but I guess that's what makes Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters' relationship what it is.