'Born This Way Ball'
Lady Gaga entertains Phoenix with extravagant show

Photo by Sharlene Celeskey
Lady Gaga performs "Bad Romance" at her Born This Way Ball in Phoenix's U.S. Airways Arena on Jan. 23.

As soon as I entered the waiting area of the US Airways Arena in Phoenix, AZ on the night of January 23, 2013, I felt the festive mood of the crowd. A girl in a bright pink dress had placed three rows of multi-colored balloons on the full skirt.  A quartet of teenagers dressed identically in silver hot pants, black satin tops and red tights were standing in chorus line formation while someone snapped their picture. I scanned the audience and saw a sea of silver lame, glitter, rhinestones and chunky fake jewels. A tall thin man with a very high peach colored pompadour still stood out in his silver lame bikini bottom, black thigh high boots and a full-length satin cape. Many female attendees wore very high shoes in all colors and styles and they would be hobbling painfully down the street after the concert.  Elaborately dressed women in satin, sparkles and sequins were waiting to get into the restroom to touch up their makeup.

As I walked into the concert the burst of color and the shine of the glitz hit me. Girls and woman of all sizes were clothed in leotards, tutus, short skirts, masks, large bows, headdresses and hats. Some dressed as princesses in rhinestone tiaras and metallic crowns. The almost full arena was peppered with colored wigs or brightly dyed hair of blood red, deep purple, electric blue, hot pink and stark white. Drags queens in elaborate costumes stood on the floor in front of the stage. An elderly woman wore a long shiny silver tunic with silver shoes.  A thin blonde woman wore fashionable sequined Union Jack themed outfit and accessories.  A young man had covered the upper part of his body in lit Christmas lights.

The crowd dressed their fantasy and had put a lot of thought into it.  Many made their outfits, or altered them or added unusual accessories to give them character. Lady Gaga named her tour “Born This Way Ball,” and the crowd had embraced who they were. If the concert was half as entertaining as the audience preshow it would be worth the $100 admission ticket.  I eagerly waited to see how Lady Gaga would entertain her audience at this masked ball.

Colors began swirling everywhere on the stage: pink, fuchsia, purple, lavender and blue. Lights were projected on the set of a huge elaborate castle on the stage.  Everyone came dressed for this queen’s ball at the castle. The colors and set took me back to my childhood, to a playroom where I sat with a castle dollhouse. All this castle needed was a queen.

As soon as “Highway Unicorn” began a large raven colored unicorn appeared on the stage. Two medieval looking guards walked in front while a group of subjects followed waving banners that spelled out GAGA.  The stage had an additional half circle stage projected out in front of it. The unicorn pranced all around the stage as he carried an elaborately costumed and veiled Lady Gaga.  At 5-feet-2--inches she looked much taller as she held herself regally on the unicorn horse.

Everyone was transported into Lady Gaga’s fantasy and hailed their sovereign with claps and shouts.  She had transmitted her storybook dream to me and I was so overwhelmed by her entrance I barely noticed the magnificent horse was not real but only a prop with dancers underneath.

After Lady Gaga got off her horse she climbed the castle stairs in her medieval/sci-fi styled Barbarella costume. A suspended neon lit gem shape floated over the stage like a hot air balloon. In the hollow center of it a caricature of a face was projected. The face relayed to the audience that Lady Gaga was on a mission as a space renegade. The talking image was similar to the wicked queen’s talking mirror from Snow White.

Lady Gaga then assumed the role of mother when she appeared on top of a very large prop, a woman giving birth, as the song, “Born This Way,” started. The air-filled prop came unzipped and the dancers, her children ran out. She said to the crowd, “Are you ready to have a good time?”

Suddenly white smoke floated softly across the stage against bright blue lights.  As “Bloody Mary ” began, Lady Gaga and two other white figures emerged in long white gowns that resembled dresses from another century. The trio glided slowly across and around the stage and must have been on a conveyor belt. These graceful ladies seemed to have jumped out of a Victorian fairy story.

The stage remained bathed in electric blue lights and a large white egg appeared. Then dancers came out in stark white patent leather jackets with intricate cutouts like snowflakes made in kindergarten.  Lady Gaga emerged from the egg as she sang, “Bad Romance.”  When she sang and danced in her white ram headdress mask and short dress, I thought of the sugar plum fairy dancing in the snow in the ballet “The Nutcracker.”

The set changed to an adolescence bedroom when Lady Gaga started singing, “Fashion of His Love. ”  One of the rooms of the castle opened up and revealed a rotating rack of glitter clothes and an elaborate vanity. She wore a long Barbie type ‘60s gown, a large pink hat and an oversized bow all in pre-teen pink.  After she danced around in her room and sang her megahit, “Just Dance,” she put on a matching portable pink keyboard, and this well-trained musician accompanied herself.

Lady Gaga showed she was the queen when she began “Love Game ” and came out wearing a black hat with a rhinestone crown like the Statue of Liberty’s.  As she danced, the stage and castle became saturated with the primary colors of a color wheel that reminded me of “Sesame Street.”  After the song she told the crowd, “I don’t care if you have to work tomorrow, so do I.”  The crowd agreed and applauded loudly.

“Electric Chapel” was one of the hardest rocking songs in the show. Lady Gaga strapped on her guitar and played it as she strutted around the stage in a leather and rhinestone rocker outfit straight out of the glam metal era.  Then she barely played the guitar as her two guitarists played and followed after her.

The heavy metal theme continued as she returned on a huge three wheeler motorcycle singing “Heavy Metal Lover.”  She rode around the stage lying draped over it in biker chic leather with studs and glitter. A black mask and headdress combo completed her look.

The tempo slowed down after her piano was wheeled out. She wore a short jacket with extra wide shoulders covered with long silver fringe that resembled angel wings. The large piano was elaborately carved with three dimensional multi-pointed stars. She dedicated her song, “Queen,” to her gay fans. When she played the piano she looked like their guardian angel with faux wings.

Later she walked around the stage and picked up objects from her fans. One was a gold glitter crown that she wore during her next number.  She then made a phone call on her cell to an unsuspecting fan and the shocked girl (Ashley) could hardly talk when she answered.  Lady Gaga told her she and her friend would be going backstage. 

After she finished her big hit, “Alejandro,” she let the audience know how much she appreciated them and it was very heartfelt. She talked in between songs and always tried to relate to or encourage the audience. She stressed never giving up on your dreams and how special everyone is. For the last number, “Scheisse,” she danced chorus line style with her dancers.

Lady Gaga came out in a short black skirt, bra top and gladiator boots for the encore and sang, “The Edge of Glory” and ended the song by telling the audience how much she loved them.  She then put on a brightly decorated boxer robe to sing her last song, “Marry the Night.”  She talked about Rocky having heart and not giving up.  As she walked around the circle she brought a little girl up on stage and hugged her. She got down on her level and told her to keep dreaming. As the song ended she said, “Don’t forget me . I know I will not forget you.”

After she left and the techno music started blasting, the ball was over. The audience was transmitted back to childhood and Lady Gaga’s fantasy. They looked happy, felt good about themselves and got a lot of entertain for their money.

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