Concert Review: Lady Gaga at the Air Canada Centre
By Ben Fisher
On Friday night, in front of 15,000 adoring, storm-braving fans, Lady Gaga performed the first of two shows at the Air Canada Centre. It was an over-the-top, mesmerizing production, just like her previous Toronto shows.
The music business can be a fickle one, with its “what have you done for me lately” mantra, and Gaga set an awfully high standard with her Monster Ball tour in 2010 and 2011. It’s to her credit, then, that the production value of her shows has remained top-notch, and this show carried the same energy and offered the same spectacle as her last Toronto show.
But maybe was the problem.
Even with a life-sized castle, a remarkably real-looking horse, a giant raw meat rack and, yes, a replicated onstage birthing, there was a ho-hum, we’ve-seen-this-before feeling to the proceedings. You knew that the set design and costumes would be outré — and they certainly were (there was the skin-coloured suit as Gaga emerged from a giant replica womb, and a Star Wars-looking get-up, complete with lasers).
But unlike Monster Ball, there didn’t appear to be a continuous theme or a purpose to the Born This Way Ball, as it’s called. And the song choices, primarily popular favourites such as “Born This Way,” highlighted the need for Gaga to find renewed relevance — especially with her new album, ARTPOP, on the way.
She is, quite simply, too young, too fresh, too innovative and too talented to stagnate at this stage of her career.
Now, that’s not to say this was a bad show by any means. Gaga’s vocal and musical talents were on full display, particularly with the show-stopping power of “Marry the Night” and “Yoü and I.”
And the singer’s greatest asset continues to be the passion of her colourful, vibrant and devoted fans, and her relationship with them. After trudging through the city’s worst snowstorm in years, the fans were more than willing to give themselves to the frenzy. They infused the show with energy, which made it a true party more than the pyrotechnics, the costume changes or even the Lady herself did.
And what the crowd gave to their beloved icon, she returned in full (well, except for appearing 30 minutes late, along with a perplexing decision to serve up a mere recording of “Paparazzi” while she was offstage). Her Virgin Mobile-sponsored phone call bit (another Monster Ball retread) put her in touch with a beaming fan who was then invited for a post-show drink. During “Marry the Night,” Gaga was joined onstage with an emotionally overwhelmed fan who displayed some impressive dance moves of his own.
While all of it was entertaining, none of it was particularly new ground. At one point, Gaga proudly declared, “I don’t care what people say, because I’ve been doing this for too long.”
The trouble is, at 26 years of age, I’m not sure she has been doing it for long enough to rest on her laurels.