Lady Gaga, NIA, Birmingham, review: The Monster Queen's artRAVE was fun, but the manifesto a bit cloying

Devoted Little Monsters came to worship at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena last night. But Lady Gaga's performance was as much inspirational speaker as pop sensation

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The Independent Culture

The surprisingly sparse crowd is an enthusiastic bunch, needing only to see a picture of Lady Gaga onscreen to erupt into a chamber of screams.  As the curtain lifts, revealing a Narnia-esque stage backdrop, Gaga emerges from below like an arachnid ice-queen,  sporting brown spider-like furry wings, as multiple dancers stretch up and down the huge stage to the strains of a charged “Artpop”.

The next two hours are a whirlwind of changes with Gaga & co. tearing through costumes as frequently as they do song tempos - the former taking in outfits ranging from cyber-goth-tinged 90’s NYC club kid style to a Dalmatian-spotted Octopus suit. Gaga stirs and prods the crowd into life, she screams and gargles “Birmingham!” with menace, her voice cracking, urging us constantly to “jump!” To which the crowd seem to respond with a universal “how high?” She then hits us with the golden trilogy of “Just Dance”, “Telephone” and “Poker Face” - which sound dynamic and precise yet also fiery and propulsive. Although nothing matches the explosiveness of “You and I”.

Gaga is keen to promote individuality, subversion and rebellion via the artRAVE experience. We know this because she frequently tells us so; often breaking songs down into crowd-aimed motivational speeches. It can occasionally border on the side of cloying and be a tad generic and repetitive. But there’s a beauty to the earnestness that manifests when Gaga reads out a letter tossed onstage from a fan who writes of his troubles with coming out as a young gay man – and he and his partner are soon sat at the piano with Gaga, beaming.

While artRAVE is loud, colourful and frequently emblematic of feel-good, throwaway party times, it seems at the heart of this gargantuan, intangible production that Gaga is trying to forge a deeper connection. For the devoted and infatuated it seems to be effective, for the rest of us it seems merely like a meticulously crafted pop show.

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