“The Monster Ball will set you free,” Lady Gaga preached Friday, as she headlined the opening night of Lollapalooza. But of the 50,000 or so concertgoers watching her set in Chicago’s Grant Park, nobody was as liberated as the singer herself: She was as freaky as she wanted to be — and that’s really freaky.
“Chicago, I have a ginormous dick! Get your fucking cocks out!” the 24-year-old singer wearing a clear plastic dress and matching hat with more angles than a Frank Gehry building shouted as she feigned masturbating onstage.
But that wasn’t the most risqué or plain weird moment of her 18-song set. That went to the video footage of her eating a bloody heart, or perhaps the simulated gay sex acts onstage, or maybe when she humped the floor while covered in fake blood, or shot sparklers from her breasts and crotch, or the hypodermic needle stage props filled with fake blood, or Posh, a character who looks like the love child of Ru Paul and Bowie’s Aladdin Sane.
For two hours, Gaga acted out the show’s over-the-top script, leading her troupe on a journey of discovery to a Monster’s Ball. The performance opened with Gaga appearing on top of a New York-style fire escape wearing a purple suit with pointy shoulders. She quickly descended, stripped to a leopard-print leotard, then kicked open the hood of a prop car to reveal a piano. She played the opening notes of “Just Dance,” launching the show into high gear as an ocean of young fans lost their minds.
Gaga was non-stop: There were a mind-boggling number of costume changes — a long red burka with a fabric helmet, black leather jacket with gigantic sunglasses, etc. and she flaunted her athleticism, leading a group of dancers in some intense choreography, which occasionally included crotch grabs and tongue kisses. Fest founder Perry Farrell was right: Even a $150,000 stage production couldn’t outshine Gaga’s raw energy and musical talent.
On songs like “Fame” and “Boys Boys Boys,” Gaga flaunted her glam side with the a pair of guitarists playing distorted solos in the wings. She slowed things down for “Speechless” and “You and I,” a new song off her upcoming, still-in-the-works new album that Gaga said was “about true love.” She poured herself into the song with maximum emotion, a stripped-down piano ballad showcasing her vocals with none of the dance undertones found in most her music.
Hits like “Alejandro,” “Telephone,” and “Poker Face” (“We’re gonna Poker Face the fuck out of this place!”) highlighted Gaga’s steady and soaring voice, even as she danced, did aerobics, and ran from one side of the giant stage to the other.
Gaga played motivational speaker to the crowd: “Don’t let them tell you you’re not pretty enough or not good enough.”
She referenced her 2007 side-stage set at Lollapalooza, when she was a brown-haired junior Gaga in a sparkly bra and bikini bottom finding her voice in front of an uncomprehending crowd. “Don’t let them tell you that your Lollapalooza show was a train wreck… remember that you’re a superstar and that you were born that way.”
Then she brought out Lady Starlight, her collaborator during that disastrous show, and the two did a victory-dance to Metallica’s “Metal Militia.”
The whole extravagant affair closed with “Bad Romance,” the night’s most well-received track, which transformed nearly everyone into Gaga’s “Little Monsters.” The crowd raised their claws and mimicked the zombie-esque dance depicted in the song’s video.
“When they ask how Gaga was at Lollapalooza, you say we burned it to the fucking ground.”
Yep. And then some.