As it becomes increasingly tricky to grasp how the meaning behind Lady Gaga’s purportedly high concept, definitely hysterically funny media pantomime relates to her actual music, it’s nice to get a lucky chance to see her going back to basics.
Exclusive West End private members club Annabel’s might seem an odd place to do it, but Gaga, “the little glam engine that could” as she describes herself this evening, cut her teeth doing burlesquey spots in New York nightclubs.
And you can hardly accuse one who plays so much on celebrity and commerciality in her lyrics of selling out for doing a 150-capacity Christmas party sponsored by the Belvedere vodka brand in the company of the likes of Adele, Emma Watson and Jessie J. (Plus, half the profits of said vodka go to support the fight against HIV, a cause close to her heart.)
When the stars are finished their sit-down meal, Gaga materialises at a side door, tiny frame teetering on enormous gold glitter boots under a Sun King- style blonde curly wig, all sequins and taffeta. She pauses behind the door for a second, crossing herself before prowling out to the cosmic disco strains of ‘Artpop’.
The lush, low-key Goldfrappish glimmer is offset uncannily by Gaga’s marionette moves and deliberately hammy horror grimaces. The key line: “I try to sell myself, but I am really laughing/Because I just love the music not the bling”.
And she certainly has both sense of humour and serious musical chops. The four tracks played tonight are interspersed with camply catty banter that proves her master of this kind of club performance as well as all-singing all-dancing stadium extravaganzas. “Hello rich people, hello!” she coos. “It’s just a joke, I do that every time I come here. I will be passing around a hat, as I am extremely poor… I need some more fucking feathers for my hat.”
She earns some hefty tips with a stripped-down jazzy piano version of ‘Poker Face’ similar to that on 2009’s ‘The Cherrytree Sessions’ EP. Laid bare, it’s clear what an astounding voice she has, and what a playfully confident reinterpreter of her own work she is - it’s the sort of moment that makes it impossible to ever quite write her off as the Emperor’s new meat dress, that Newsnight interview notwithstanding.
She stays on the piano for ‘Dope’ from the new album, describing it as a bit of a downer”. A powerfully emotional ballad of beating addiction for love, it’s heavy, dark and frankly personal. “Judging by all the booze in here tonight, I’m guessing one or two of you will relate to this song,”Gaga notes wryly. “Don’t cry, it will fuck up your makeup.”
She closes with a solo stomp through R Kelly duet ‘Do What You Want’, cracking out an impressive rock growl. Then, stopping only for a little chat with Sting on the way out, she is gone, a proudly ridiculous self-creation who’ll keep us on our toes for a while yet.
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