by Jahna Peloquin
photos by Kiah Brasch (unless noted otherwise)
Lady Gaga is many things. She's a performance artist posing as a pop star. She's the protagonist in the theater of Gaga. And her costumes are equal parts social commentary, wearable sculpture, and high fashion.
So when Lady Gaga brought her "Monster Ball" to the Xcel Energy Center this past Monday and Tuesday, it was clear we weren't in for a typical pop stadium concert. Segmented into four "acts," it was equal parts drama, dance, music, and fashion. Throughout the show, Gaga went through 14 costumes changes (much of which is created by Gaga's own Haus of Gaga), and each costume comes with it its own story.
"Act 1" began in a city scene with Gaga singing "Dance in the Dark" from The Fame Monster, her broad-shouldered frame concealed behind a screen the entirety of the performance as mind-blowingly fine-art/editorial video of Gaga screened. The commentary was clear: the artist Gaga is the wizard in her own Oz, pulling the strings behind the pop star Gaga.
The Lady emerged for unreleased track "Glitter & Grease" in her yellow-dipped platinum curls, wearing a purple leather jacket with studded shoulders - an exaggerated version of the trademark jacket worn by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson by Haus of Gaga. The look was accessorized by purple studded sunglasses, black fishnets, black knuckle-length Chanel leather gloves, and custom black patent knee-high boots by Pink Cobra - said to be her favorites.
For "Just Dance," Gaga ditched the jacket (all the better to dance in) to reveal a semi-transparent latex leopard-print bodysuit by fetish-wear designer Atsuko Kudo (a favorite designer of Gaga's). It was a look shockingly "Material Girl"-era Madonna - clearly, Gaga doesn't feel the need to obscure her references. Unfortunately for the fashion-starved Gaga fans, she kept the same look for "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich," "Vanity," and "The Fame."
But before "The Fame" was over, she gave us a taste of the kind of weird, beautiful-ugly look we love her for, emerging from beneath the stage in a red cape/gown, tied with a giant bow, with curtain rods for shoulder pads (by Haus of Gaga), playing her stand-up bass/keytar contraption.
For "Act 2," the stage shifts into a subway scene, with Gaga performing "LoveGame" in a subway car in what appears to be a translucent nun's habit: a semi-transparent PVC dress with angled hips. The dress is by Rachael Barrett, who also created her infamous "lobster hat" outfit and one of her looks from the "Telephone" video. She accessorized with an exaggerated nun habit-esque hat and collar by Haus of Gaga, her taped X's over her nude bra and what appeared to be boys' tight-whities underneath, white go-go ankle boots, and a grotesque "monster" hand.
Then, she ditched the nun habit and took up - yes - her infamous "disco stick" to finish off the song, going into "Boys Boys Boys" with her dancer boys in package-revealing tightie-whitie outfits.
For "Money Honey," Gaga makes a quick change into one of her most dramatic looks of the evening, a floor-length black patent trench coat with a pointy mask/headpiece custom-created for the tour by Armani Privé and another keytar variation.
For "Telephone," Gaga whips off the coat to reveal her most Madonna look of the night: a black latex studded bra top and panties by Atsuko Kudo (worn with increasingly-torn fishnets) and her trusty Pink Cobra boots.
She keeps the look as she goes into a three-song piano set: "Speechless," the never-before-played "Living on the Radio," and the recently debuted "You And I," as her piano quietly went into flames.
For Act 2 closing song "So Happy I Could Die," Gaga changed into a white gown with a moving headpiece, which Gaga described as "The Living Dress" in a Tweet, a Haus of Gaga creation inspired by avant-garde designer Hussein Chalayan, worn with Armani Privé shoes.
Among the many video interludes that played in between acts was "Puke/Vomit/Exorcist," a two-minute, blood-drenched mini-video featuring Lady Gaga wearing a pleated white dress by Marko Mitanovski, being puked on by performance artist Millie Brown, and eating what is said to be a real (and very bloody) bovine heart.
"Act 3" took place in a forest scene, kicking off with "Monster" and Gaga in an absurd "Hair Monster" suit by Charlie Le Mindu, looking like an extra from Where the Wild Things Are.
Then the hair suit came off to reveal the humorous "Sacred Heart Chimera" outfit by Alex Noble, a body suit with a Swarovski diamond sacred heart on the chest, hairy crotch and breasts, and feathered shoulders with long hair cape and a gold hood.
For "Teeth" and "Alejandro," Gaga donned a black latex bodysuit by Zaldy - and plenty of fake blood.
Show closer "Poker Face" revealed Gaga in a black glittery catsuit with chain detail from SOMARTA's A/W 2007 collection, called "Protean" (which refers to an ever-changing form).
The encore of the show was hardly a surprise - it featured Gaga's two biggest hits, "Paparazzi" and "Bad Romance." Act 4 of the show had Gaga still lost in the forest, on her way to find "The Monster Ball" until she ran across the giant "Fame Monster." She battled the monster in a glittering seafoam-green "Origami Dress" by Haus of Gaga, covered in trapezoid-like shapes to the sounds of "Paparazzi."
Of course, Gaga had to whip out her beloved body-piece that shoots sparks out of the crotch and breasts.
The "Bad Romance" finale of the show, fittingly, was one of Gaga's most spectacular outfits: a geometric mirror dress with matching headpiece and go-go boots by Armani Privé.
The armor and the mirrorball helmets Gaga’s dancers wore were created by Alun Davies.
Dare we say, it was a spectacle unparalleled in the Twin Cities - a haute couture freak show, its epic proportions matching the often absurd, sometimes unsettling, always intriguing costumes on parade.