Lady Gaga kicks off Lollapalooza: On the scene

lady-gaga-3Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen/WireImageThe Simpsons once made fun of Lollapalooza as “Woodstock, only with advertisements everywhere and tons of security guards.” That’s truer now than ever. The annual Chicago music festival, which started yesterday and runs through tomorrow evening, has ballooned in size to incorporate eight different (heavily-sponsored) stages, almost all of which are hosting simultaneous performances. Daunting though that may be for the casual music fan, the scope of the fest allows for an amazing variety of music, with dozens of bands playing each day.

On Friday, this rock festival was taken over by a pop singer. That’s right: Lady Gaga. Gaga’s exuberant concert in front of 80,000 fans was a condensed presentation of her Monster Ball, which continues its seemingly endless world tour. If her recent stint at New York City’s Madison Square Garden was marked by her affection for her hometown fans and a desire to put on a polished, professional show, Gaga’s Lollapalooza set hinted more at self-satisfaction at how far she’s come since she last played this crowd.

In fact, Little Monsters got something of a Gaga history lesson last night. She brought out her former collaborator Lady Starlight from her days as a burlesque performer in lower Manhattan. Together they ignited aerosol hairspray cans, an attention-grabbing antic they once used a lot, since they never had a special-effects budget. Her Gaganess also made an impromptu appearance earlier during the day at the concert of her sometime opening act Semi Precious Weapons—singing backup vocals, even, to support a band relegated to a side-stage, as she once was.

Gaga also spoke a lot more in between—and often during—songs, getting very emotional before a rendition of “Speechless,” in which she thanked her dad for being her inspiration and related a story  about how he kicked off her music career by helping her carry her piano up a long staircase at their New York apartment when she was a kid. Like previous “Monster Ball” concerts, she dedicated “Speechless” to “all the drunken a–holes in my life,” but this time she also revealed that her latest triumph, the inspired piano anthem “You and I,” is about “the most important person in my life.” It’s possible that she was referring to on-again/off-again boyfriend Luc Carl, who she was just spotted kissing in a Houston swimming pool.

Yes, her set still featured the loopy Wizard-of-Oz-meets-Rocky-Horror plot of the Monster Ball, giant anglerfish and all, but something about this particular performance felt more personal. Gaga’s made a big point out of how she “[doesn’t] want to appear human onstage” for her fans, and at times she comes across, intentionally, as a bit robotic. Last night felt looser, more relaxed, with fewer costume changes than usual, as if she’s saying, “Three years ago I played a side-stage. Now I’m on the main stage, and it feels pretty frickin’ great.” (Considering this was a profanity-laden Gaga concert, feel free to sub in a more potent adverb.) When she repeatedly asked the audience “Do you think I’m sexy?” she didn’t offer up a demure “I don’t believe you!” like she has before. This time, she already knew the answer.

Still, if she was looser in performance last night, it didn’t mean she was sloppy. Like she’s already shown in her acoustic piano renditions of “Paparazzi,” “Poker Face,” and “Telephone,” Gaga ‘s continually capable of finding new melodic variations on previous material. She did that again last night with her sprawling concert version of “Teeth,” in which a minor guitar solo fills in the gap between each incantation of “Show me your teeth!” What’s so captivating about Gaga is that she knows that her pauses, her moments of silence, are every bit as important as her high-notes.  Performing has become about so much more than just singing for Lady Gaga. When she stood motionless in silhouette behind a screen for her opener, “Dance in the Dark,” she captivated the crowd with her physical presence alone. The gimmick here? She showed up.

Gaga has the voice. In fact, she’s so good she doesn’t have to show it off every single moment to prove it.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (76 total) Add your comment
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  • darclyte

    Be sure to head over to the Kidzapalooza stage and check out the “Moms that rock” punk-rockish type kid’s music band The Candy Band. Perry LOVES them and they were featured on the CBS Early Show a few years back. They Rock!

  • ashley

    Wow, i wish i had been there. She has such an amazing voice and is so great live! I’m stuck watching Monster Ball bits on youtube for my live gaga fix….

    • corey

      i was there you semi is her fav band and i was in frunt ans she jump right at us and i got to tuch her it was sssooooo fun no lie got pics

      • Daniel

        Seriously. Spelling lesson? I love Gaga, but I don’t know what you’re saying.

  • noway

    Gaga’s outfit last night lacked creativity..fishnets, pearl necklaces and boob show?i was hoping for something more exciting and much more quality. Also, she needs some new songs yesterday!

    • JC

      She looked like a mess, and she made with with the semi precious weapons frontman…..some role model huh

      • Ashleigh

        “…..some role model huh”

        Wow. You’re an idiot if you think of Lady Gaga as anything more than an entertainer. A “role model”? – did you miss the whole “Does Britney Spears have responsibility as a role model?” debate from 10 years ago? Your argument lost – if entertainers serve as some kid’s role models and exert a serious influence, then that points to serious problems at home.

      • Tarc

        Dear G_d, how stupid is a person that thinks musicians (any entertainer, in fact) should be role models? Try parents and teachers, and community leaders next time.

      • JC

        “Her credentials are the same as any American’s – she pays taxes and is entitled to express her opinion in public. As for her message of “love yourself”, that’s pretty radical in the face of a political and cultural environment that tells weirdos and queers to hate themselves.
        I don’t look to Lady Gaga for political advice or affirmation, but I appreciate how she’s used her fame. I’d rather my kid take her for a role model than some empty-headed thing like Justin Bieber or Ke$ha or – god forbid – Britney Spears.”
        I was referring to that from the post about Lady GaGa and Arizona

      • 4rocket

        I’m no Gaga, but her sole responsibility to the public as an entertainer is to entertain them, nothing more. Same goes for every celebrity out there. It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their child morals and values, and if you fail at that, then don’t blame it on a celebrity.

      • 4rocket

        * I’m no Gaga fan.

      • Rolling my eyes…

        Actually I like Gaga’s music but I’d rather my kid like Justin Bieber than some mini-thug who only wants to deflower her and dump her! I’m certainly not going to send her Gaga’s way for any sense of morality–but that’s my point it’s the parent’s job to be a role model definitely not an entertainer as so few of them have any kind of moral compass!

      • Dominic

        I’m less concerned about Gaga as a role model and more concerned that she’s classed an ‘entertainer’. She’s been around for about ten minutes. Yes, she’s a pop star but – ‘entertainer’ – is the bar that low now?

  • Briana

    I have a friend down there this weekend. His facebook status was : Gaga owned. So jealous!

    • Elf

      Cool story Hansel.

      • sarah

        hahaha, Elf FTW

  • Barry

    Any good bands perform or was it just garbage like “lady” Caca?

    • Ed

      “‘lady’ Caca”? I haven’t heard a “clever” insult like that since 5th grade.

      • KiKi

        Isn’t that the typical age of her fans?

      • Anna

        No, you’re thinking Miley, the Jonas Brothers, and Justin Bieber. If you were thinking at all and not just trying to be a condescending jerk.

      • Barry

        Glad I was able to help you relive your childhood.

      • troy dante

        “Lady Caca?” You effing idiot. Her fan-base covers all ages! I have loved rock and pop since I was a kid (born 1950) and I admire LG for her talent and wonderful sense of humor. Barry, go live your own childhood by picking at your anus with your finger and sniffing it. You have no concept of music AT HOLE (or something that sounds like that … haha, get it? subsititute the “T” with a couple of “S”s)

      • mary q contrary

        Don’t worry, Ed, it’s not even an original insult. Barry stole it from Michael K.

      • Daniel

        @Kiki: Yes you’re right. I am a gaga fan. And I’m 33. Thx for being judgemental about me. We’ve never met.

    • Adam

      Yes. The Strokes headlined the other main stage at the same time as Gaga. If I went (which I saved and saved for but still couldn’t go) I would have seen The Strokes. Favorite Band.

  • jason

    I was there last night and the performance lacked. too much dead time in between each songs and her rants were just awful. shut up and dance?

  • Michael

    I saw The Strokes instead of Lady Gaga and they were awesome. so were the black keys. you should talk about the actual artists at least once in your article…

    • The Dude

      I’m pretty sure the author didn’t because, as mentioned, there were numerous acts going on at once…I wouldn’t complain about what gets covered and what doesn’t, because it’s impossible for anyone at any festival to see everything.

      • Tarc

        And hey, when someone the calibre of Gaga is on, who’d bother with *stuff* like The Strokes. Ugh.

    • dipshat

      I can’t beleive anyone would chose Lady Gaga over the strokes!

      • Tarc

        And I can’t believe that anyone wouldn’t choose silence over The Strokes, let alone see them over the hottest act on the planet…

  • Celtic26

    Lollapalooza is a joke these days. Lady Gaga makes just as much sense as Metallica did headlining once upon a time. Jane’s Addiction was over after Casey departed. Lollapolloza was over when Perry departed. This is all just an extremely pale shadow of of Lolla was once. The name endures as nothing more than a marketing scheme. My precious Pixies couldn’t even get me downtown to support this terrible weekend of expensive 1o dollar bottled water, 40 t-shirts, and massive corporate logos put in motion by a once incredible idea.

    • Tarc

      Only a buck? That’s cheap. And get used to the ads – you’ll never eascape them ever. If that’s your criteria for going to an event, order a bugger screen TV now…

      • mary q contrary

        She meant $10 bottled water, you tool. And everything they said is right.

      • Tarc

        Tool? Right back at you and your broomstick. And clearly your just as braindamaged: people that whine about prices and sponsorship at the same time are idiots. If you don’t want to pay the price, then don’t go – no one is holding a gun to your head. When the seats are empty, then the acts will play alternate venues. With all the music sharing, the bands are only making money on concerts and merchandise. Idiots.

  • T

    celtic, you are a fool. ALL festivals are corporate backed! even woodstock was a moneymaking venture. get real! you telling me that all the bands at this festival suck? and water at lolla is $2 (or free if you bring your own container!) and shirts were 10 bucks. get your facts straight, dork. music is still music, no matter who meets your cool-criteria. it’s subjective, child.

  • Dylan

    LOL, there’s a lot of annoying, pretentious too-cool-for-school types commenting on Lolla.

  • Concert Fan

    Good grief! People have way too much time to RANT. Go back to sleep.

  • Gary

    She looks like M.I.A. in that pic.

    • Harry


      • Fiona

        M.I.A. wore those shades and performed that gig better 3 years ago.
        Yawn… gimme real music over this.
        Sure i love her to death, but Gaga’s quite insincere

      • Warren

        OMG – why this dog rippin on M.I.A.?
        Looks so forced

      • wre64

        im a lucky girl ,,i found my real l-o-v-e on

        ~~~ H_o_t_B_l_a_c_k_w_h_i_t_e * C_o_m ~~~ ,now i enjoy an i-nterracial lifestyle!!! u may try !!!! ;)

    • Tina

      You make it out as though it’s the first time
      Ugh at this GAGA mimic cult

    • Gertrude

      OMG She flippin does look like M.I.A. lol, like a poor man’s version

  • jared4ever

    Great article! Love Gaga!

  • Wo-Hen Nankan

    I am saving myself for Lady GaGa. We will be married and live in my large mansion in Asia.
    I would post a picture of my house, but it is too large to be photographed.
    I am known as the Michael Jackson of Asia and I have sold more records there than Elvis, The Beatles and Slim Whitman COMBINED!

    • The Real Elvis

      Too late, Wo-Hen Nankan. I just got a new body from my DNA which was preserved when the UFO snatched me. I am BACK in the USA. Lady Gaga is MINE!

      • Wo-Hen Nankan

        LOL.Then we will duel with swords to see who will marry the lovely Lady GaGa Elvis.
        BTW: I saw you working in the flea market in Kennesaw Georgia.

  • Mr. AT

    I was there. She talked too much, so we went to listen to the Strokes instead. Much, much better show.

    • Ben

      She is so full of herself at this point that it is unbearable.

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