Louisville goes gaga for Gaga

I could write a column about the quality of Lady Gaga’s musical performance, but who really cares? Thousands of “little monsters” flocked to the Yum! Center in Louisville on Saturday night for the Gaga experience that encompasses crazy fashion, jarring sets, shocking statements and, oh yeah, really, really popular songs. And the fans went gaga for it.

Lady Gaga defined herself early on in the show as a champion of the disenfranchised, unpopular, teased and unusual. She also specifically vocalized her support of the LGBT community, calling out to the many drag queens in the audience in particular. She reminded all of the audience members to embrace the way they are, frequently stating her latest anthem, “You were born this way.”

“Tonight all the freaks are out,” she shouted, “and I’ve locked the f——-  doors!” She explained that her performance was about freedom for her fans to be themselves.

“Tonight I want you to forget your insecurities,” Lady Gaga said,  then admitted that she too has insecurities, but that her fans make her “brave.”

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Lady Gaga is well on her way to becoming as much of a popular icon as her idol, the late Michael Jackson, was for the previous generation. Known for her bizarre fashion, eccentric taste and ambiguous sexuality, Lady Gaga is as unique and perplexing as her name. She’s a rock star, baby, but she wasn’t born this way.

If Lady Gaga was born this way, she was one bizarre baby; and those three-foot shoulder pads probably did a number on the birthing canal. Of course, the message of the latest hit song, “Born This Way” refers to embracing your sexual orientation, but there was something ironic about a woman who looks nothing like her original self calling on others to embrace the way they were born.

It took a lot of work to become Lady Gaga.  At several times during the show, Lady Gaga referred to a previous trip to Kentucky as a struggling musician. She said she had 80 people at her first show in Louisville, and now she had 20,000.

“There is nothing better than when you win despite adversity,” Lady Gaga said.  “There is nothing better than when No. 1 looks like this (insert prominently raised middle finger.)”

Somewhere along the way from 80 to 20,000 Louisville fans, Lady Gaga picked up an iconic image. Little is left of the ultra-talented, rich (she went to the same school as Paris Hilton) Italian girl from New York. Not even her name. Now, the bright yellow hair, heavy eye make-up, massive shoulder pads, glitter and decorative bra and underwear-that-never-completely-cover-everything combo has come to define Gaga—without them, she would probably be unrecognizable on the street to even her most highly-devoted fans. She thrives on the attention she gets for her outlandishness, and said  during the show that she hoped her audience members never stopped giving her funny looks, because , “when you stop looking at me like that, it means I’m boring.” Now Lady Gaga clearly feels she has to maintain the image that helped catapult her to fame—and keep shocking a public that has come to expect the unexpected.

On Saturday night, at least, she delivered just that. The stage was decorated at different times with a larger-than-life car, spiky trees, a flaming piano, a staircase made to look like it was constructed of syringes and LED signs lit up with words like “liquor,” “death,” “whiplash,” “injured,” and “children.” A massive video screen displayed Lady Gaga on a stark white background eating what looked just like a scarlet human heart dripping in blood. Even audience members dressed in a deck of cards or few Band-Aids and a miniskirt spent most of the show surprisingly stationary, staring at their idol. Lady Gaga shocks even her fans.

The silent stares could have partially stemmed from confusion. And I’m not just talking about the confusion about how she managed to simultaneously play the piano with one spiked boot heel and a stringed instrument with the other. She also said some confusing things. For instance, at one point, a fan threw a Tinkerbell doll onto the stage. Lady Gaga promptly wretched it’s head off with her heel.

“It’s not that I don’t like fairies,” she explained. “I just don’t like skinny blond ones.”

Not an hour later in the show, however, Lady Gaga sprawled herself out on the floor  and said, “I’m like Tinkerbell. You know how Tinkerbell will die if you won’t clap for her?” spurring the Yum! Center to erupt into the applause she desired. To further confuse the “skinny blond” issue, Lady Gaga sported hair a color of blond definitely not found in nature, showed a video of what appeared to be a bulimic girl intertwined with Lady Gaga and repeatedly making herself throw up blue liquid and talked about how the last time in Louisville she was “twice the weight I am now.”

She encouraged freedom to embrace yourself, but said that “I would be lying to you if I said that sometimes I didn’t wake up and feel like s—-.”

Lady Gaga’s message was clear: it’s OK to come off as strange or stand out. There is freedom in being yourself. But maybe the reason her eyes sometimes seemed to have a twinge of sadness behind the vivid makeup is because Lady Gaga’s message of  freedom applies to everyone but herself: regardless of how she might want to change in the future, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is now and forever Lady Gaga—and all that accompanies the spectacle her life has become.