Lady Gaga at Toyota Center, 7/16/2014

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Photos by Barry Brecheisen-WireImage/Courtesy of Live Nation
Note: media photography was not approved for Houston. These photos are from Gaga's artRave at Chicago's United Center.
Lady Gaga, Lady Nightshade, Crayon Pop
Toyota Center
July 16, 2014

For a good handful of years there, there was no question who reigned as pop music's auteur supreme. Arriving as if from some stranger, sillier and downright gayer dimension than our own, a chameleonic diva calling herself Lady Gaga took the charts by storm by bidding the planet to "Just Dance," and dance we did.

She hatched from an egg at the Grammys. She wore a dress made of meat. And her music went into heavy rotation at discos and shopping malls the world over. A new pop icon -- the talented, mutant spawn of Michael Jackson and Madonna -- seemed to be emerging, and it was exciting breath of fresh, Rihanna-free air.

That was then. A couple of middling albums and a few world mega-tours later, and Gaga seems to have been bumped down the pop pecking order a notch or three, teetering on the brink of becoming old hat. While no one doubts her talent for singles and spectacle, could yet another big arena tour from Mama Monster really still compete with Miley's bizarre Bangerz staging, or Beyonce's mechanized perfection? Worse yet, might she actually be committing the unforgivable sin of trying too hard? Reviews (and predictions) have been mixed.

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A sellout crowd filled Toyota Center on Wednesday night to find out the truth for themselves. After gamely received opening sets by K-Pop troupe Crayon Pop and synth-and-sequencer custodian Lady Starlight, the mainstream's proudest weirdo ascended at last from a cloud of smoke to reassure fans that she hasn't lost a step.

If her opening suite of tunes from the hard-to-love ARTPOP album didn't quite get folks singing and dancing along right off the bat, Gaga certainly gave her audience a lot of cool stuff to look at. Clad in expectedly odd, fuzzy wings, the songstress Clydesdale-walked confidently across the multiple catwalks of her Fortress of Solitude stage set, backed by a five-piece band and at least a dozen dancers. As camera phones lit up the arena from the floor to the rafters, there was little question that Lady Gaga's formidable aura of star power remains largely undiminished.

It took the welcome eruption of her debut smash "Just Dance" to really put the Toyota Center in her pocket, however. After following it up with a triple stack of early hits "Poker Face," "Telephone" and "Paparazzi," Gaga could have finished the night off with a slate of acoustic Creed covers and still left Houston a hero to her legion of enthusiastic, cosplaying fans.

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As she worked through the second-half mixture of new and old tunes, the pop star worked hard to make those fans a part of the show. All night, her stage banter was packed full of positive affirmations encouraging audience members to be themselves at all times and embrace one another as kindred souls. Eschewing the untouchable-icon act that has served her forebears (and some contemporaries) so well, Lady Gaga seemed to long to be just one face in the fun, freakish crowd, bringing outrageously dressed fans up onstage to boogie beside her and even reading a touching letter from a couple of locals thanking her for her inspiring individuality.

As gifts of clothing and plushies rained down on Gaga at every opportunity, one couldn't escape the idea that the songstress is striving to build a laser-studded, traveling community of confetti-inclined oddballs -- something like an arch-pop version of a Grateful Dead tour. She doesn't appear to be trying to conquer the world so much as create a friendlier, freakier alternative world for her fans to inhabit, if only for one night at a time.

Story continues on the next page.


Location Info

Map

Toyota Center

1510 Polk, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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6 comments
XYYz
XYYz

typo in first line of post

Manda Miller
Manda Miller

It was the BEST Lady Gaga concert I've been to! And yes, even as a HUGE Madonna fan, I am a Monster! And I think it was Lady Starlight not Lady Nightshade.

FabricatedNaratives
FabricatedNaratives

And what do you know? Another tired, hackneyed Madonna comparison. Lady Gaga is not Madonna, she has not attempted to become Madonna, she is nothing like Madonna; stop attempting to compare two hugely successful artists who have nothing in common other than a tendency to push the envelope. No one has become a living-art piece like Gaga has through her costumes and her performances; Gaga is an original. She will continue to be successful, even if Madonna fans like these keep attempting to frame her career as being in a downward slide. One massively successful album that's been accused of underperforming will not kill the career of the most successful artist alive.

FabricatedNaratives
FabricatedNaratives

What the hell? Reviews haven't been mixed. They've been overwhelmingly positive. It's incredible watching people scramble to proclaim that her reign as number one is over even though ARTPOP went number one, sold exactly the same amount as every major popstar in the game and had a smash hit. These people really are desperate to see the best fail, even if they have to invent a failure to write about.

CoryGarcia
CoryGarcia moderator

Would you say she... ;;puts on sunglasses;; lived for the applause?


YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

h_e_x
h_e_x

@FabricatedNaratives Ever heard of Grace Jones? Take a look at her career and then decide whether or not Gaga is original.

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