Lady Gaga – Born This Way Ball, Twickenham Stadium
The iconic star returns to London for the latest leg of her Born This Way Ball with fantastic results.
On arrival at Twickenham station yesterday, it was clear that there was a Lady Gaga gig scheduled in the nearby area. Whether it be the Lady Gaga tracks playing in nearby shops, the make-shift novelty wig stands popping up on street corners on the road to the stadium, or just the sea of coloured wigs and bright clothing choices; it was undoubtable that Gaga fever had hit this usually sport-heavy area of South West London. You see, it’s clear from the onset of any Lady Gaga gig that this is a performer who has drummed up a unique band of dedicated supporters and fans who have carved their own unique identity; a sort of pop sub-culture if you will. That’s not to say that everyone making their way to the stadium was a fanatic, die-hard Gaga fan; it’s just that the quota of dedicated fan to casual enjoyer of Gaga was a lot higher than at gigs of other similar artists. This all made for a great atmosphere even before I set foot into the stadium itself; the Gaga tour had certainly made its mark on Twickenham.
It was clear from the beginning of the gig that this wasn’t a greatest hits gig. The show boasts of a setlist full to the brim of Born This Way album tracks, with only one Born This Way track, The Queen, being refused a live outing. This, however, is hardly surprising considering she labelled Born This Way ’the anthem of this generation’; it’s clear she holds the tracks in high regard. Yet, she has reason to. These lesser known tracks transfer well into a stadium setting, and the big, meaty choruses of tracks such as Highway Unicorn (Road to Love) and Bad Kids sound far more appealing performed live as part of this tour than they ever did on the original record. Yet, for some less-hardcore fans in attendance, it must’ve been a hard pill to swallow having to watch Government Hooker being performed in full whilst hits such as Love Game were cut short. However, this clearly was a show for the more dedicated fans, and the show was called the Born This Way Ball for a reason; it was an inevitability that these album tracks were going to take precedence over some of Lady Gaga’s previous material.
A far more surprising feature of this show was the lack of theatricality. Of course the show was stuffed full-to-the-brim of dramatic dialogue and costume changes, yet compared to previous Lady Gaga outings, the staging seemed rather low-key. It was by no means a dull and bland stage; there were motorbikes, meat dresses and one huge castle as a centrepiece to populate the stage nicely, yet compared to previous Lady Gaga shows there was less of an onstage impact. Yet, considering I attended the gig at the enormous Twickenham Stadium, I feel the staging was somewhat dwarfed by the sheer size of the venue. I’m sure in an arena setting the staging would be far more breathtaking. The quick costume changes were extremely impressive; fans at other large-scale stadium productions often complain about the long gaps between songs as artists would change from outfit to outfit. In contrast, the Twickenham stage was only left without Lady Gaga for up to two minutes at any one time; quite a feat considering the outfits she was changing in and out of. Let’s just say they don’t cry ‘easy access’.
Arguable highlights occurred when Lady Gaga stuck to what she does best; high-octane sing-a-long performances. Some of the biggest cheers of the night came off the back of Bad Romance, Poker Face, and rather surprisingly, Scheiße, an album track that brings ‘Dance-Pop’ to a whole new level. If Gaga was the one who brought Euro-Pop to the masses, she’s certainly the one who would redefine its very definition. Watching on from a distance, the spectacle of watching Lady Gaga in one of her notoriously outlandish outfits moving in complete synchronisation with her team of accomplished dancers is certainly something to behold; her unbelievably impressive stage presence is one of the key reasons for her sky-rocketing to icon status in such a short space of time.
Very rarely did the show lose its momentum, but I couldn’t help but feel in retrospect that Gaga spent just slightly too long sat at her piano, mid-gig. It has become a staple of Lady Gaga’s tour performances now that she takes some time to sit at her piano, ditch her on-stage character for a bit, and engage in some frank chat with the audience whilst performing some of her calmer song with just her piano. Yet, last night this section seemed slightly lengthy and I found myself slightly relieved as the opening bars of You and I began to ring around the stadium, and the pace was picked up once more. Although this was probably a highlight for the more hardcore fans in the audience, you could tell the messages of self-acceptance, equality and so forth were slightly lost on the members of the audience who weren’t die hard fans.
Yet, it is the die-hard fans that Gaga loves so much. As she pulled fans to the stage that big stars so often attempt to avoid, you can see that there is nothing contrived about the way in which Gaga acts around her many loving fans. There is a mutual love and respect, and Lady Gaga is one of the few stars who so often remembers that without her fans, she simply wouldn’t be performing to a packed stadium of 55,000 fans. Watching Lady Gaga jubilantly dance on stage during her Marry the Night encore with the fans she hand picked to join her on stage, and backstage afterwards, from her ‘Monster Pit’ (the area of the stadium at the very front that holds fans who have queued for insane amounts of time in order to be right at the front), you can taste the sense of mutual love between Lady Gaga and her adoring fans. You certainly can’t see her charging £80 a head for a thirty minute set, much like her now-rival Madonna did to much controversy in Paris. Whilst Madonna spends a good five minutes of her latest MDNA tour barking She’s Not Me after covering Born This Way , you can sense that Lady Gaga is above all this petty point-scoring rubbish. With Gaga, there is no sense of entitlement or ego, but of her audience as a priority. This leaves a rather refreshing taste in the mouth as the many revellers left the stadium on a euphoric high following the fantastic finale.
This show was undoubtedly a triumph, with only a few slight hiccups along the way. Lady Gaga has truly earned her title as the new leader of the pop pack, and despite the record she was touring being somewhat of a disappointment, in a live setting it comes into its own and reaches its full potential. Lady Gaga, is first and foremost a showman; an extravagant host of a wonderful show that forces concert-goers to leave all traces of hum-drum day to day life at the door. Of course at times the speeches and rhetoric get slightly too much and over the top, and it’s hard to stomach the merchandise prices upwards of £40, but Lady Gaga’s performance, at its heart, is a fantastic tour-de-force of everything that is fun, dramatic and over-the-top. As our packed train trundled back into central London from Twickenham, it was evident that everyone there was on a high having witnessed such a fun-filled two hours. This, if anything, is testament to Lady Gaga and her ability as a performer.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Associated Album: Born This Way
Run: April 27th, 2012 – March 16th, 2013 (Worldwide)
Duration: 2 Hours (Lady Gaga set)
Support Acts: Lady Starlight, The Darkness