The Lady Gaga show at American Airlines Center offers a narrative, as these sorts of productions often do: We are somewhere in space. There is a procession. An evil authority figure rides a horse made of humans in costume. Sexy men wield flags saying, "G.O.A.T." which we will later learn stands for Government Occupied Alien Territory. We will also learn that Dallas, Texas is under the jurisdiction of this occupying government. But that will not last. Tonight, we break free.
What, specifically, we break free from is the sort of meddlesome detail that does not burden a Lady Gaga show. She offers generic triumph and fist-pumping rage against the machine of your choosing. Whether you're the victim of bullies at school or stuck in a dead-end job or forced to live in a society that doesn't think your love is the same as other people's love, Lady Gaga offers you a gathering place. All this is set to songs that could be the (mostly pretty excellent) soundtrack for a Broadway musical about the development of pop music over the last 30 years.
A disembodied face (Gaga's, basically, but with Madonna's teeth and enormous eyes) appears in a prism made of LED lights. She announces that the prisoner has escaped. The face announces the plan of action. It is, precisely, "Kill the bitch."
Gaga emerges from the front door of the castle, enormous inflatable nether region first. Her enormous inflatable legs, in fishnet stocks, are splayed and her enormous, inflatable womb is full to bursting. The array looks exactly like a plucked turkey. This is not the last time that a woman=meat metaphor will be employed.
Dancers in nude spandex tumble from somewhere near her ankles. There is a zipper where her vagina would be. She herself is sticking out the other end, ribcage up, so as to ensure that you get who is giving birth here. She recedes within her own stomach and comes out through the zipper.
That takes us through 2.5 songs: "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)," "Government Hooker" and the intro of "Born This Way." The spectacle continues, unabated, through the rest of the set. The narrative gets a little muddled, but here's my version of the CliffNotes:
-Gaga dances around with her new progeny.
-The disembodied face emerges to tell us the womb has multiplied and that the burst was not small but infinitely big, and this is the beginning of a new race within humanity.
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-Gaga gives her Sermon on the Mount. She clears up her role thusly: "I am not an alien. I am not a woman. I am not a man. I am not a human. I am not a creature of your Government, United States! When they ask, 'Who is Gaga?' I want you to tell them, 'I am you.'" It is unclear whether we are supposed to tell them that we are Gaga or that Gaga is them. Perhaps, given that she has already given birth to herself, we are supposed to imagine her as basically omnipotent.
-Gaga explains why she's here: To extract as much "love, inspiration and fashion" from us as possible before sucking the life out of every monster in Dallas, Texas. Then, she will invade the Earth with our presumably lifeless husks as our Texas pop star. "Some of you will have to decide," she says. "Will you stand by me forever?"
-Judas betrays her.
-She is taken to the top of the castle/stage set and is about to be strung up on what appears to be some sort of demonic flagpole, but she and her dancers/disciples usurp the aliens/Romans.
-Gaga sets up a comfortable living room in the second floor of the castle. The walls are adorned with a painting of her as Marilyn Monroe and she's holding another one where she's dressed as Bruce Springsteen. A Gaga-esque mannequin sits on the toilet.
-Gaga delivers her message of inspiration: Five years ago, she was waiting tables in New York. Then she figured out that she could take her clothes off and that she could sing, and now she can afford all the fancy wigs she wants. "Don't come here to worship me," she says. "Come here to worship you."
-A woman emerges from the depths of the castle, her body comprising the frame and fork of a three-wheeled motorcycle. It is Gaga. My interpretation is that it is also the evil authority figure from the very beginning (which was also Gaga). One of her dancers rides her around the stage. Several definitions of that verb apply.
-Gaga asks three of her dancers -- Montana, Ian and Black Jesus -- if they give a fuck. They emphatically do not. She asks Dallas, Texas, if we give a fuck. We also do not.
-Somewhat confusingly, based on the not-part-of-your-government thing from earlier, she jogs around with an American flag and says, "I may be an asshole, but I fucking love my country."
-She gets behind a battered shield/piano and hauls some monsters onstage out of the crowd. There is some product tie-in with Virgin Mobile and some charity giveaway action.
-There is a wedding, and Gaga attends hanging from a meat hook with a few plastic gutted pigs. The groom realizes the bride is also a man and exactly zero of the 12,000 people in attendance are surprised by this development.
-Gaga and two of her female dancers are run through meat grinders.
-The disembodied Madonna head sings "Paparazzi." Maybe this song was about Big Brother all along? But the face also seems very mournful. Perhaps it has learned to feel.
-Tragically, at that exact moment Gaga shows up with a light scepter and blasts the Madonna face until its eyes start to bleed. "I'm sorry, but she had to go," she says.
-Gaga ends the main set with a triumphant "Suck my dick, Dallas!"
So that's the gist of it. The actual songs are so amazingly secondary to this whole flash and bang that at some points Gaga herself breaks out of the middle of a verse to address someone in the crowd, leaving only the dozens of backing-track Gagas to continue over the PA. I can never quite tell if the guitarists are actually connected to any amplifiers anywhere; probably it doesn't matter.
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Not that Gaga can't sing. She makes a point to showcase this on several slower songs, and her voice is nothing short of mighty. It's just not the main reason anyone came. All around the arena, there are people dancing rapturously, crying, holding their loved ones. Invade again anytime, Lady.
Lady Gaga at American Airlines Arena, 1/29/13: Setlist
Highway Unicorn (Road to Love) Government Hooker Born This Way Black Jesus † Amen Fashion Bloody Mary Bad Romance Judas Fashion of His Love / Just Dance LoveGame Telephone Hair Electric Chapel Heavy Metal Lover Bad Kids The Queen Yoü and I Born This Way Americano Poker Face Alejandro Paparazzi Scheiße Encore The Edge of Glory Marry the Night