U.S. pop star Lady Gaga enters the stage on a horse for the first song of the night, “Highway Unicorn,” at the opening night of her second world tour, the “Born This Way Ball,” Friday, at the Seoul Olympic Stadium, southeastern Seoul. Her next stop is Hong Kong, where she plays four nights at the AsiaWorld-Arena. She will wrap up the tour in Barcelona in October. / Courtesy of Live Nation/Hyundai Card
By Kwaak Je-yup
Thanks to the government’s controversial adult rating, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball” was expected to be substantially provocative. But nothing from the Friday evening seemed to justify the fuss.
The 45,000-strong audience on the opening night of her world tour at the Seoul Olympic Stadium was treated to a highly entertaining show, with impressive singing and dancing as well as ample imagination applied to her costumes and set designs. The presentation was surprisingly demure, however, for a singer most famous for her ability to shock.
It is unclear, therefore, whether she kept her promise to her Twitter followers that she would deliver “the tour of your life.”
“I was told your government decided my shows should be 18 and over,” she said to a roaring crowd during her first on-stage break bteween numbers, “so I’ll make sure it will be.”
But never mind the scenes of scantily-clad male dancers caressing each other and the singer grinding against a female dancer on a motorcycle. They did not feel sensual; the former, especially, seemed rather mechanical. The show was mostly tongue-in-cheek and playful rather than offensive or harmful.
This celebratory nature is what makes her so popular. Friday night was Lady Gaga at her best, fusing fashion and designs with great melodies and dance moves. Despite a few hiccups, it was a powerful lesson to the K-pop stars who dotted the arena.
Set in a giant three-storey medieval castle that borrowed elements from European and Arabian architecture, she entered on a horse under dimmed lighting. In a futuristic outfit and an alien-head like mask, she sang through the opener “Highway Unicorn” and disappeared shortly after on a moving walkway.
Shrouded in smoke, she was barely recognizable. Invisibility was the theme for most of the night, with Gaga wearing one mask too many. It was practically impossible to tell when she was singing live or lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks behind those veils, but more props to the sound engineers who made it indiscernible. Their only mistake happened during “Telephone” when the microphone went off for a few seconds. But it was still the crowd’s favorite of the evening.
She gave her all, braving the unusual spring chill and choosing to sing quite a bit — her voice cracked during “Just Dance” and “Electric Chapel.” Most of her notes were solid and confident throughout, a notable feat while going through all her athletic dance moves. She even fell twice on stage, but she stood back up in no time and returned to her rhythm.
The highlight of the night was her first slow jam “Hair,” which she introduced as her favorite track on the “Born This Way” album, her second release. Playing the guitar-shaped keyboard, she flubbed her line once and admitted it right away — “I’m getting too excited (that) I forgot my lines,” she said — but the moment made the experience personal.
Her costumes, even the infamous red meat dress, did not break new ground but never failed to excite the adoring crowd. She changed into new outfits after almost every track, the wait for which, albeit astonishingly brief, cluttered the show.
She tried to connect with the local audience, chanting “rah rah Korea” as a coda to “Bad Romance” and driving a motorcycle with the national flag before “Heavy Metal Lover,” drawing loud applause. It was not a profound connection by any means, but who cares? It’s a Lady Gaga concert.
The carefree levity that characterizes her persona and performance is an enormous force that can uplift even the largest of arenas. So when Gaga and her team decided to be serious at some moments, including an interlude about creating a “new race within the race of humanity,” they fell flat.
Even when she exited the stage by going down the human meat grinder after “Alejandro,” she was not advocating suicide, as some Christians of this country seem to misinterpret. She was just poking fun.
And that was why it was one of the evening’s most effective.
Born This Way
Fashion of His Love
Heavy Metal Lover
You & I
The Edge of Glory
Marry The Night