At the 2010 Grammy Awards, a scene-stealing Lady Gaga sang a duet with Elton John and took home a pair of major awards.
One year later, she was the talk of the show, as she was delivered to the event inside a giant eggshell, while later departing with three wins. It was audacious and applaudable – a performer so arrived and embryonic at once.
In 2012, the notorious fashion bomb incredibly skipped the red carpet. Holding a sceptre and clad all over in fishnet stockings, she was nevertheless reticent and avoidable, sticking to her seat. No need to get up, as her name was not called for any of the three categories in which she was nominated.
Tomorrow, for the 55th annual gala, Gaga (on tour and with no nominations) has no reason to attend.
Her flaring arc and slight demise doesn’t represent anything damning: The 26-year-old mega-star born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is simply at the end of her first fame cycle. And it’s not as if she isn’t busy. Gaga is the centre attraction for her Born This Way Ball, a gaudy, high-energy spectacle of costumes, choreography, four-by-four dance music and inter-planetary conception that filled the Air Canada Centre on Friday. Two more Canadian stops (a second ACC show on Saturday and a concert at Montreal’s Bell Centre on Monday) are to come.
One assumes that was Gaga who rode atop a puppet steed at the sci-fi pop-opera’s beginning. Whoever sat atop the horse that emerged from a giant stone castle to be led around a catwalk wore a complicated headdress that obscured the rider’s face.
The next entrance for the “alien fugitive” was just as outrageous, with the singer emerging from inflatable womb, making her way uneasily through a pair of spread legs for Born This Way, a declaration of originality lessened by its blatant similarity to Madonna’s Express Yourself.
The light dress Gaga wore had oversized shoulder spikes, which, coupled with her severe, tied-tight hair, gave her an overall pinched and stiff appearance. (Andrea Martin’s SCTV character Edith Prickly came to mind.)
What followed was an extravaganza of club-beat hits, affirmations and elaborate choreography, with Gaga’s head-set microphone sometimes turned on and sometimes not. Background vocals were taped; the star’s own voice was clearly live for her “get your paws up in the air” exhortations to her “little monsters” in the crowd. We were also treated to the performer's heavy breathing between songs.
Over and over Gaga interjected her prepared banter with shout-outs to Toronto and Canada – a cheap, tedious trick for applause and endearment. She disappeared often between songs, for changes of costumes and hair-situations.
She sat on a non-operational motor bike for Heavy Metal Lover, and then asked “are you brave enough to be yourself” before the disco pop of Bad Kids. For Alejandro, a meat sofa was employed. (Abba might have a beef with Gaga here; the chorus sounds like something by the seventies-era Swedish quartet.)
An encore set stirringly began with a balcony-set Gaga offering a giant, gutsy Kim Carnes-styled ballad On the Edge of Glory, followed by Marry the Night, a euphoric electro-rock closer she performed while wearing a hooded robe and with a fans plucked from the “monster pit” up on stage with her.
Her last words before she disappeared for the final time were “don’t forget me,” which is what she as much as skywrites with her every move and image-making impulse. It’s the same wish that will likely appear engraved upon her gravestone.
Lady Gaga will soon go away to work on her upcoming third album, an epic titled Artpop. The hope is for re-invention – all part of the fame game she plays so well.