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In concert: Lady Gaga at Verizon Center

lady gagaLady Gaga wants you to love yourself. (Tracy Woodward/TWP)

(View a full photo gallery from Tuesday night's show.)

By Chris Richards

The most commanding moment in Lady Gaga’s riveting Tuesday night concert at Verizon Center had nothing to do with the arsenal of angular, asymmetrical frocks that aggrandized the superstar’s teeny-tiny frame.

It came during the crescendo of “Telephone” when she ordered her fans -- she affectionately calls them "little monsters" -- to tuck their camera phones back into their Levi’s and get in the moment.

It was a retina-searing spectacle -- a two-hour pop bacchanal that utilized buckets of fake blood, spark-spewing bustiers, head-banging harpists, a flaming piano and plenty of esteem-building speechifying. Lady Gaga didn’t bring her “Monster Ball” tour to Washington to be reduced to a snapshot.

She aspired to be that encouraging little voice stuck in your head, and carpetbombed her set with numerous micro-sermons about empowerment and acceptance. (As if singing the songs that have been stuck in our head for the past three years wasn’t already enough.)

“Don’t leave loving me more,” she urged the capacity crowd, hundreds of whom came dressed as their idol. “Leave loving yourself more.”

Having already altered the definition of pop stardom, the 24-year-old is apparently taking a crack at the definition of feel-good music, too. Her genius lies in buttressing those euphoric, big-tent pop songs with a hyper-eccentric, outsiderish sense of style. At a Lady Gaga concert, the misfits and the masses somehow become synonymous.

Gallery: Readers send in their pictures from last night's concert.

lady gaga

“I want to be a Washington D.C. star,” Gaga declared before “The Fame,” and without mentioning the words “cupcake” or “Salahi,” she sauntered across the stage, evoking an entire constellation of pop stars that came before her. As her ambition grows, her Madonna-debt shrinks, but onstage at Verizon, she also managed to summon Grace Jones’s aggression, Annie Lennox’s steeliness and Prince’s superhuman ability to dance for two hours in stiletto heels.

Amid the touchy-feely blither-blather (“I want you to let go of all of your insecurities... You’re a superstar!”), there were touchier-feelier moments in a more literal sense. At times, Gaga grabbed anything within arm’s reach: her crotch, her back-up dancers’ crotches, a light-spangled sorcerer’s staff, a giant keytar shaped like a mutant honeycomb.

She played the latter during a lumbering version of “Money Honey,” proving that her better songs warranted even better outfits. (For this lurching tune, her black plastic get-up appeared to have had metastasized out of an old Missy Elliott video.) For the pulsating “Love Game,” she posed as a nun in a latex habit and sang of having her tush “squeezed by sexy cupid.” For “So Happy I Could Die,” she donned a winged fairy’s dress made of cellophane. Each garment looked wildly imaginative and rather uncomfortable.

But she wore next to nothing during “Speechless” -- and proved anything but. Seated behind a grand piano that belched flames from its soundboard, Gaga frequently digressed to lash out at the U.S. military’s don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy and discrimination against the gay community writ large. “I’m not going to prance around in underwear and a bra and not stand for something,” she quipped. And for fans who didn’t agree with her politics, she offered a consolation: “At least I sing live at this show.”

So sing she did, into a homestretch-turned-hit-parade that included ubiquitous singles “Alejandro,” “Poker Face,” “Paparazzi” and “Bad Romance.” Each felt bigger than the tune that preceded it — and between songs, her breathing sounded like an obscene phone call.

Hffffffffff-hffffffff.

Hffffffffff-hffffffff.

It was Lady Gaga huffing and puffing into her headset microphone, sucking oxygen and reminding her flock that the icon behind these marvelous muumuus and smears of fake blood wasn’t some abstract spectacle, but an actual living, panting human being. Cooler than Darth Vader, and with better capes.

lady gaga

lady gaga

By Chris Richards  |  September 8, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Lady Gaga  
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Comments

What a beast!

Posted by: killdanigga | September 8, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Still looks like Madonna on steroids to me.

Posted by: postfan1 | September 8, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Lady Gaga as Zen Mistress.

America - what a bizarre notion.

Posted by: hartman_john | September 8, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

The avant-garde are never understood in their time.

Posted by: atroncale1 | September 8, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I went with a girlfriend to this concert. I liked Lady Gaga while out at clubs and figured it would be an interesting show. I was blown away. Incredible show... I had no idea she was an actual musician with real opinions. More than just things like I don't like this party or this person, she made statements against actual political issues. Definitely more than any sort of Brittney Spears and definitely encroaching on Madonna.

While I may still not consider myself a "Little Monster". I will be listening to her music differently now.

Posted by: rderr27 | September 8, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I had the pleasure to see Lady Ga Ga perform last night at the Verizon Center. I must say that it is refreshing in this day and age of gleeful gay bashing, religious villification of gays and lesbians, the cruel and unfair Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, the blantantly descriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, lack of equal rights for all USA citizens and the general disrepect the heterosexual population has willingly espoused towards their gay and lesbian siblings Lady GaGa is a civil rights champion I am glad to have on my side.

Certainly we can't count on President Obama, Congress or the Supreme Court to speak as frankly about equal rights or better, to act in our interest to grant us the same equal rights that the heterosexual population takes for granted as their supposedly god given birthright, that is their fantasy.

To many Lady Ga Ga may be just a pop star, but she far outshines all the elected and appointed creeps and blowhards who think they've been given a directive from their god to ruin this country of ours by making it a hetersexuals only club.

Posted by: tedlpearson | September 8, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Oh, all politicking aside, Lady Ga Ga's performance was top notch! She's a powerhouse of talent and she's just getting started.

Posted by: tedlpearson | September 8, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

She's a complete rip-off. Everything she does, thinks and wears was done by Madonna 25 years ago. And done so much better.

Posted by: FulhamDC | September 8, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Sinatra and Bennett never needed all that. They had a voicee. Wonder if she can also cook and clean.

Posted by: boyn4884 | September 8, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I saw the show last night...The singing was great, the dancing and staging left much to be desired and I find it odd that the reviewer didn't mention that despite claims of a "sell-out" the place was half empty.

She is a great talent, but basically she has stolen her entire identity from Madonna. She is a clone - right down to the fake British accent and black leather undies. Her show was entertaining, but lacked the high-level concepts her videos often portray. She has a lot of work to do, but if she continues to model herself after Madonna and write good songs, she'll do well for herself.

Posted by: allmydkny | September 8, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Great spectacle, authentic production. BUT...what is with sound engineers who crank the bass drums and guitar so much that it's nothing more than physical buzz? It drowns out almost everything else. I don't want to hear it so loud it's unmusical. I want to hear the singing, and the backup vocals, and the piano, and a lot less of the bass drum and bass guitar. Common guys...fix it. We aren't headbangers.

Posted by: hrthrb | September 8, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I was the lucky fan that she sang Happy Birthday to me!! I got to meet her after the show and she is awesome!! thank u Gaga for making my Birthday the best!!!

Posted by: rudyy_82 | September 8, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

She's hot. I'm serious. Anybody that goes out in front in a bikini and has courage to tell her fans to take a stand against corporate interests, has got my vote. There is no greater virtue than courage.

Posted by: lip111 | September 8, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Are we sure she's not a he?

Posted by: lingering_lead | September 8, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

My take, music post early 80's with the likes of the Police and last few Stones albums which were going more commercial is just that. I have not heard yet, eventually i will probably come rounf to hearing it, but as most, isn't the same commercial, raunchy, superficial, no substance music? Is there decent music composition and lyrics, or noise and synthesizers? Her Madonna, in addition, routine is trite.

And i understand she may appeal to certain, smaller crowds who feel marginalized by majorrity oppinion and value-system.

Posted by: solid3 | September 8, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I meant the Police and Stones albums of the early 80's were fine, but thereafter recording artists went awash.

Posted by: solid3 | September 8, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I appologize after growing up on: the Stones, Who, Almond Brothers, Lynard Skynard, Clapton or Deric and the Dominoes, Zappa, Yes, Santana, ... and various jazz and jazz fusion artists, even Blondie, the Cars and some punk rock bands, and later Madonna, it is hard to sell off Gaga, etc.. I'll still try listen with open mind. It really is not All that bad.

Posted by: solid3 | September 8, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Isn't this Gwen Stefani downsized? Needs nosejob and implants.

Posted by: phvr38 | September 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

It looks like Lady Ga-Ga and especially her most devoted fans are carrying a lot of baggage. Seriously, what adult goes out in public with little on but yellow police tape?

If her message is that men mating with men and women mating with women is natural and normal, how does dressing up like oddballs and acting in weird ways convince anyone who isn't already a true believer?


Posted by: InTheMiddle | September 8, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

phvr38 and lingering_lead:

Let me guess -- you're both male? How shocking.

Posted by: crcody08 | September 8, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in the '80's too, and don't buy the Madonna comparison. I love Gaga -- her voice, her message, and her music. Yes, she wears costumes. So do lots of performers (Liberace, Cher, et al.). Madonna and Gaga show a lot of skin -- so do others. To me, Gaga is channeling Prince. I was not allowed to go to his concert when I was in high school. I finally got to have that experience last night! The show was amazing. I took my daughter and we both loved it. But what is with the opening band?? They were horrid!

Posted by: drl97 | September 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I saw the Gaga show last night and we had a lot of fun! Shame on Chris Richards for reducing her sincere, compassionate and earnest sentiments to 'touchy feely blither blather'. We teared up several times listening to her terribly sweet, exhilarating, inspiring, authentic expressions.

She is a real doll. She is gracious, grateful, appreciative, loving and a super talent!

I don't get the Madonna comparison.

There are lots of blonde female pop stars.

They of course share similarities. However- she is in no way a copy of any who have preceded her - or those who are now her peers.

It is only natural for people to share some commonalities who are in the same field.

We are all influenced by our predecessors and our colleagues.

However she is a stand out star. She is truly unique and a true blue artist.

In terms of the show- she was excellent!

The show did lag at times but had nothing to do with her talent. It had to do with costume changes - with song placement and some numbers that were lacking musically and visually. Overall though it was sensational, gorgeously kooky and she is adorable!

Posted by: viviglam | September 8, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Looks like a flabbier Madonna, or an uglier and not-as-buff Brittany Spears.

Posted by: gce1356 | September 8, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

And what's up with the phony British accent? She's from New Jersey!

Posted by: gce1356 | September 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Real shock and awe.... wars have lost that quality ever since Genghis Khan and trying to upstage it with high pyrotechnics is useless... the only shock left in wars is sticker shock and shell shock... leave shock and awe to Lady Gaga...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | September 8, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

To gce1356:

How is she flabby? She is tiny! I saw her in person and she is a little thing. She has a fantastic figure!

To phvr38: Of course you are one of those males who objectify women. Because she doesn't fit your "stereotype" of "female beauty" you feel she needs a nosejob and implants.

Men like you are the reason why women cut themselves up in order to 'mold' themselves to your particular brand of aesthetics.

Yuck and shame on the lot of you who find the need to insult and hate someone who stands for goodness and free expression.

There is much symbolism and meaning in her artistry.

She is a really sweet girl underneath all that wonderful glamour.

Posted by: viviglam | September 8, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The BEST Show I've ever been to!!! I'm a 53 yr old mother of a 24 yr old young woman- went together to see Lady Gaga. I've seen Barbra Streisand, Trans-Siberian Orch., Black Eye Peas, Led Zeplin, Hall & Oats.... Gaga is the best, not only the music, but the sets, costumes and most of all the message see sends- to love yourself. My 54th Bd is 2/24/2010. She's coming back to DC and I'd love to see her again. Totally Awsome!!!!!! She brings all her little monsters together in a BIG way!!!!!

Posted by: georgeannaloudermilk | September 9, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

At some point, you lemmings will realize what a waste of time you've committed to this no-talent. How embarrassing that you risk getting photographed going to this concert. This would explain the disguises, I guess.

Posted by: password11 | September 9, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

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