iTunes Festival 2013

Live review: Lady Gaga - The Monster-in-Chief takes a conceptual step too far

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Less inventive than her costumes, Gaga looks diminished and diluted at The Roundhouse, London

The Gaga experience, rather like a dress made from meat, was never going to stay fresh forever. Last night at the Camden Roundhouse, before an audience of 5,000, the self-appointed Monster-in-Chief, headlining the first night of the iTunes Festival, laid down another bonkers pop manifesto: “When we're in this space together we make the most beautiful thing in the world - we make love”. And yet behind the fireworks, the fanfare and the Fame, we saw 2013 Gaga as a figure diminished.

Ms Germanotta, theatrics in tow, was of course at her provocative best. Arriving in a truly nightmarish Hannibal Lecter-esque mask, she was channelling her new brand of creepy minimalism. Wigs, typically, featured heavily (one choice costume-change saw her morph disturbingly into what appeared to be Shakira circa 'Whenever, Wherever').

Click here or on "View Images" for the many guises of Lady Gaga in pictures

And yet the six new tracks with which she delivered ARTPOP, her third album, to the world, did little to shake the persona so embedded in pop culture. The thumping techno overlaid with swelling vocals remains a formula to which she clings, and upon which her chart bankability relies. Her ability as a singer is formidable, but musically, she is less inventive than her wardrobe would suggest.

'#Swinefest', as the gig was bizarrely dubbed, perhaps wasn't one of her more dulcet promotional slogans, and yet a Twitter-primed crowd, composed of her Little and not-so-Little Monsters, was rammed into the Roundhouse, accessorised with pig noses and squealing for more.

Lady Gaga leaves after her iTunes performance at London's Roundhouse last night. Lady Gaga leaves after her iTunes performance at London's Roundhouse last night. With her every conceptual step (for those keeping score, we're now, with ARTPOP, on an exercise in reverse-Warholism in which art penetrates pop culture), the music, purportedly, shifts gear too. And there is no doubt that the thumping Euro-disco of The Fame Monster moved into the broader and more avant-garde avenues of synth- and electro-rock in the sprawling Born this Way, nor that she is returning (via a little 'complextro') to her pop roots with the new album. And yet, in spite of a mammoth collaborative effort, the result sounds just like everything else in the charts.

In popland today, outrageousness has lost all meaning. Trangression, experimentation, 'art' (for want of a better word) - these are ends in themselves. Gaga has sparked a movement which cheapens and commodifies the very boundary-pushing she stands for; she has diluted herself as both an artist and a brand.

Not to downplay the crazy, which was, in true Germanotta fashion, all kinds of off-the-wall. But with a platter of mediocre records - which fall, regrettably, in the month of Mileygate - she is, despite all the Applause, just another attraction at the zoo. 

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