Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mini gig review: Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa's muse, Andy Warhol, once said: "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them."

These words don't get flashed up on the screen during her gig at the O2 but they may as well have been. Because Stefani Joanne Germanotta has decided to give the audience, who are principally here for the Pussycat Dolls, a short history lesson in 20th Century art.

Between her songs, the video screens feature loving pastiches of Warhol's improvised encounters between Factory regulars like Nico and Edie Sedgwick (thankfully, they don't last a full 16 hours). The songs themselves are illustrated with images by Mondrian, while the stage backdrop is inspired by Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

To be honest, this is largely lost on the crowd, who are happy just to chant "Red Wine" in anticipation of GaGa's current chart topper, Just Dance.

Luckily, as much thought has gone into the front of stage production as the video installations. And the one thing GaGa hasn't picked up from Warhol is an air of studied ennui. The shiny starlet preens, twirls and poses, changing costumes three times in 25 minutes, and singing with a surprising powerful voice.

She only gets time for a handful of songs, and wisely chooses the standout moments from her 6/10 album - including the trashy Beautiful Dirty Rich, stalker ballad Paparazzi and future smash Poker Face.

In truth, the songs are the weak point, all show and no subtlety. GaGa has often been compared to Madonna and, in a way, that's true. The hedonistic music plays second fiddle to the carefully crafted image (and GaGa's dancing is as endearingly scrappy as Madge's pre-megastardom keep fit choreography).

But Warhol would be proud. He loved Hollywood, he loved plastic, he loved commerce. Lady GaGa just needs to keep in mind one of his final pieces of advice - keep defying people's expectations, because "if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning".

PS: I stuck around to see what a Pussycat Dolls concert would be like. BAD MOVE!

I've never experienced a more soulless, pointless piece of artifice. The low-point was a "solo section" where each Pussycat got to sing a song of their choice. I turned round to see what the O2's audience made of it, and got a vision of 20,000 people queueing in the rain to apply for an overdraft. While being aurally assaulted by a cat killing a badger.

Oh, and if you're charging £45 for a ticket, it is an absolute disgrace to perform to a backing tape. Shame on you, PCD.

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