Last Night: Lady Gaga At Toyota Center - Again

Ed. Note: Since Ms. Gaga is playing two nights in Houston but reviewer tickets were only available for the first one, Rocks Off figured we'd double up on Sunday reviews.

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Photos by Marco Torres/ Click here for a slideshow
Lady Gaga
Toyota Center
July 25, 2010

Aftermath fell in love with Lady Gaga last December, when she appeared on Barbara Walters' annual Most Fascinating People special. Before the show, we viewed the artist as just a singer with a funky sense of fashion and a couple of catchy if mindless radio hits under her belt. After the interview, in which she said "The truth is that every bit of me is devoted to love and art," we came to understand this: It's easy to dismiss Lady Gaga as derivative, but to do so undermines her stated mission. It's not about the music. It's about the message.

(Note: the interview is absolutely worth watching here, if only for the part where Walters asks her about the "bluffin' with my muffin" line.)

Never was that more clear than Sunday night, when Gaga's second world tour took her on an imaginary journey from the slums of New York, complete with a burnt-out taxicab, to the Monster's Ball, "a place where you can be anything and anyone you want to be." When Gaga paused between songs to utter that line, we suddenly understood the inspiration behind the concert.

Lady Gaga is Dorothy, a simple girl with a dream surrounded by a motley crew of friends and supporters, struggling to make it to the Wonderful Land of Oz. The metaphor was made blatantly obvious during "So Happy I Could Die," when she emerged from backstage in an animatronic dress reminiscent of Glenda the Good Witch.

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The thing about Gaga that resonates so much with Aftermath is that she is 100% willing to allow herself to be emotionally vulnerable, and she wants to convince everyone else that that's okay too.

From talking about her parents and their mutual struggle to understand each other (she calls her father, who paid her rent and living expenses for a year so she could quit college and pursue music, her favorite drunk asshole) to reminiscing about "watching some stupid fucking bitch on stage and wishing that I was there instead," beneath the Alexander McQueen and platinum hair Lady Gaga is always completely naked on stage.

"I didn't used to be brave," she said. "But you have made me brave. Tonight I want you to free yourself. I want you to let go of all your insecurities. I want you to forget everybody who made you feel bad for being who you are."

One friend recently referred to Gaga as Madonna 2.0. Another friend charitably put it this way: "She doesn't hide her influences." It's worth nothing that Lady Gaga is only 24 years old. Madonna was well into her second decade of fame nearly 30 before she reached her "Express Yourself" phase.

And unlike Madonna, Gaga can actually sing and play. She may be contrived, but she has also managed to take the artists that inspired her and meld them into a conglomeration that has inspired its own menagerie of imitators and lookalikes. And it works. When Lady Gaga tells you to put your monster paws up, you put your monster paws up.

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