When the lights dimmed and the music started blazing through the speakers last night, I quickly panned the crowd to take it all in. To my right, an overweight man spilled beer on his polo shirt because he was shaking his legs too much. To his left, a lesbian couple took photos of each other with the stage and its performer - near ant size - serving as a backdrop. Below them, a mother reluctantly grabbed her six-year-old son's hand en route to the bathroom. Near the disgruntled mom? Gay men kissed in a corner while a man with cornrows on the opposite end dry humped his girlfriend.
Welcome to the first night of Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Actually, welcome to Gaga's world - one in which all walks of life are welcome and free to express and expose themselves. It was nice to live there Tuesday night.
The evening started off with a bang as native New Yorkers Semi Precious Weapons (more on them later) opened the show to rousing results. The rockers new album is called You Love You, which, fittingly, could've been the title for the evening. Following SPW, Gaga put on an epic two-hour performance backed by gender-bending talented dancers and an amazingly overblown set. The story, an Oz by way of New York theme, was totally ridiculous but totally Gaga and therefore totally fine by me. Not once did the theatrics or costume changes overshadow the party or her talent. Lady G is clearly this generation's Madonna, but so much more. Madge had to work hard to refine her vocals and learn instruments, while Gaga's already got the goods to back up the bombasticness and she's only 1 ½ albums in. For me, she doesn't get enough credit for her pipes or piano playing. A pin could've dropped during "Speechless" and you would've heard it.
As she performed hits like "Just Dance," "Poker Face," and "Alejandro" flawlessly, Gaga commanded the crowd to love her (easy task) by paying homage to her city and thanking all of her "little monsters" repeatedly. Any artist at any venue in any city can tell the crowd to follow their dreams and to not take any shit from anybody, but it always feels like a cheap pop. Not here. She spoke of playing shady bars in NYC, and how she always imagined herself on the MSG stage while watching icons like Madonna and Kiss play there. Gaga's words were all heartfelt and meaningful, and complimented the passion and energy she brought to the entire Monster Ball production from start to finish.
The sentiment of loving each other and honoring NYC started off early as mentioned when openers Semi Precious Weapons took - check that - owned the stage. Performing in high heels and more makeup than most men could get away with, frontman Justin Tranter also commanded the crowd to love him, love themselves, and love NYC.
In between performing rocking, hip-thrusting songs like "Magnetic Baby" and "Statues of Ourselves," Tranter showed love to longtime friend Gaga time and again, even encouraging the crowd to do a "Gaga" chant. But SPW, like Lady Gaga, aren't a gimmick. Their songs prove that beyond the glamor is raw, natural talent. Oh, and it all grew out of the best city in the world.
Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons is a star. Photo courtesy of The Precious Empire