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February 12, 2013 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

Born This Way: Doin’ Lady Gaga in Montreal

So. Lady Gaga touched down in Montreal last night.

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I like her music. I like that she seems genuinely bizarre and finds beauty in the grotesque. I don’t dig some of her outfits, but I’d rather she wore a meat dress than just showed off her T&A 24/7 like every other female pop star. I also figured that the fans would be my tribe: people who are bored by Barbies, basically.

When I heard she was coming for her Born That Way Ball 2013, I posted on Facebook, Who’s in? and my friend Dorin waved his virtual hand. I haven’t seen him since high school, and he was willing to drive from Ottawa through what turned out to be freezing rain.

Once we met up, Dorin was brilliant at cutting through the crowd, and I just followed in his taller, broad-shouldered wake. Of course, I couldn’t see anything, even though luckily, a lot of Gaga fans seem to be short. At one point, Dorin hunched down to see what I could see. Here’s a pic:

 

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He was the one who pointed out the girl who’d rolled her hair around beer cans (nice. Like rollers, only previously alcoholic).

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Dorin took this pic–see the improved perspective?

I admired the guys in sequins and skirts and the female Gaga lookalikes. The real Gaga was over an hour late opening the show, but it gave us a chance to catch up.

I hadn’t realized how hot I’d be on the floor. First I shed my down parka, then my gold acetate jacket. Good-bye, funkiness. Preventing heat exhaustion is more important.

When the curtains finally opened, I was astonished by an enormous castle that filled the stage. A door opened, and dancers stepped out. We weren’t next to the main stage, but we were maybe 12 feet away from a ring that cut through the floor section, so when the dancers pranced close to us, I was astonished to see one of them leading a black horse. The bass was throbbing through my chest, so I was a bit concerned about the horse’s reaction to all the screaming and music and mayhem, but I know horses have been through war, so a two-minute circuit walk at a Lady Gaga concert is probably easier than being steered through slashing swords. [Through Google, I now see that this seems to be a mechanical horse. Ohhhhh. But you never know what to expect from Lady Gaga.]

I didn’t know the first few songs, but a woman behind me droned along to every word. Then Lady Gaga launched into “Bad Romance,” which made us all scream, sing, film, and make clawed fingers in the air. While she sashayed toward my corner, she tossed out “Nice tits, b–.” Of course, I was too short to see anything, but I assume that someone was moved to flash her. Later in the song, she yelled at the rest of the audience, “Stand up! I’m f—ing singing ‘Bad Romance’!” And they did.

She had a rich, gorgeous voice. Dorin said that during her last concert in Ottawa, the sound cut out for 45 minutes, so she just sang a capella and said, “So you can see I don’t f—ing lip synch.” No tech troubles like that tonight, but she dropped it down for a quick version of “Wilkommen,” “Born This Way” and “Edge of Glory,” and I was impressed.

Mostly, the feeling I got was that she wanted to give us a great show, that she wanted to connect with us, and that she hadn’t forgotten what it was like to be in the trenches.

“Five years ago, I was a waitress in New York.” That was cool. I didn’t realize how recently she’d become a superstar.

“Thank you for spending your hard-earned money.” So true. I know people who make a lot less money but give a lot more attitude, like You’re my peon instead of Thank you.

Then I was curious how she’d sprung up to stardom. “Do you remember the first time you heard this song on the radio?” she asked, during the opening of “Just Dance.” “Me too. Because it brought me to you.” So yes, I realize that was her breakout song. But she also dropped a clue later: “I’ve been wearing this leather since I was 16. I’ve been writing songs since I was 11. I was singing since I came out of my mother’s birth canal.” Lady Gaga put in her 10,000 hours of practice, and it really worked out for her. I did feel a moment of “Hey, I’ve put in my time in medicine and writing, but chances are, I’ll never be rich and famous like this,” but it passed. I don’t need to be rich and famous like that. I have enough money. I save lives. I write stories. I found true love and had fantastic kids make their way out of my birth canal (not singing, though). I’m lucky.

Back to the Gagster. She also said that she used to tell herself to keep working, to keep practicing the piano and keep writing her songs, that she would make it someday. So yep, Lady Gaga used to give herself pep talks.

I think she really cares about her fans, and that part of the reason she tours is so that we can see and listen to her with our own eyes instead of whatever the media says. At one point, she called a random audience member and invited him to share a whisky with her after the show. She said that because he answered, she donated $5000 to a local GLBT shelter, and that we could know that our money had done some good in our city. And yeah, I do feel a bit better knowing that my $150 went to something more lasting.

At the end of the show, she shook hands with fans and sang “Marry the Night.” I guess one of the girls at the front was sobbing so hard that Lady Gaga whispered, “Is she okay?” and ended up pulling her and her friends up on stage, and then they all disappeared down a trap door at the end of the show. So you know, real people got to join in the after party. Again, I respect that she’s not just into VIP’s and armadillo shoes, that she knows who’s really paying her bills.

Not that she didn’t have enough attitude, too: “How many of you have to work in the morning?…Well, so do I. I earn my bread, too. So I don’t give a f—.”

Later, she said, “Are you having fun?” Cheers. “Well, if you’re not having fun…” She bent over and pulled her bodysuit up inside what doctors call the gluteal cleft. “I don’t give a f—” I had to laugh at that.

The dancers really amped up the show. One of the women kinda bared her teeth and hissed at one point, and I thought that the edgier and weirder you are, the more Gaga will be Gaga for you. One of the black male dancers queened around (“Mm mmm!”) and Lady Gaga said, “Looks like someone was born this gay.” It belatedly occurred to me that a lot of gay dancers must pose as straight for their entire career, but again, Lady Gaga embraces them for who they are. I also appreciated that there were two black male dancers. Even in 2013, if you look, too often it seems like, “Oh, we already have a black man, so we can’t have two.” I’d like even more diversity, though.

The castle set was amazing. Not only was it built three stories tall, but the sides opened and closed to reveal inner chambers. Three guitarists posed in the windows at various times. The top floor had a black and white striped dressing room with a rotating clothes rack. Dancers cavorted. Lady G played a portable keyboard built to look like a guitar (she had two, one pink and one black with black claw-like keys).

The costumes were impressive. I’m not sure how she managed such lightning-quick changes, but I liked the range from classy vintage outfits to more alien, helmet-like outfits, and I liked the dancers’ outfits with the criss-crosses, and how they contorted around and on each other during “Bad Romance.”

The only minuses? I wasn’t crazy about the holographic head that says “Kill the Bitch.” (It seemed like the story of the show was Lady Gaga escaping from the prison/castle and the head was leading the team hunting her down.) I realize that the head allowed time for costume and set changes, but it looked bizarrely not-quite-human, and at one point, it was spouting some philosophy that probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The downtime for all the talking got a bit long, which dribbles away the energy of the show, and the wait time for her encore was interminable. “She likes to make you wait,” observed a girl next to me. “I need a shower,” said her friend, and another one said, “Come on, Gaga, I’ve got school tomorrow.” And these are her core fans, the ones who’ve paid big bucks for the floor section. Since I was overdressed, carrying my down parka, and had just finished a monstrous number of shifts and come down with the flu, I actually thought I might pass out. So I was not amused by the blackout, followed by the lights blinking in the castle for what seemed like 15 minutes before she came back.

But overall, I always go out for adventures and for stories, and I got plenty of those last night. Kudos, Gaga.

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9 Comments

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  1. Courtney Constable / Feb 12 2013 10:16 pm

    IT WAS ME!!! It was me that she screamed at during Bad Romance!! I had dressed as Yuyi the Mermaid from You and I, and I had made myself gills and a scale-like bra out of liquid latex! When she shouted at me, we originally thought that she said “Nice gills, bitch!” I am a long time dedicated little monster, it was my 7th time seeing her in concert, and I’m actually writing my MA thesis on her, so this was basically the best thing that ever happened to me. My immediate reaction was to crumple into a little ball of latex and begin absolutely bawling, and continue to shake and hyperventilate through the next three songs. I’m only finding out now, talking to various other people that went to the concert, that she actually screamed “Nice tits, bitch!” and not “Nice gills”! I find this absolutely hilarious, and fairly accurate on her part, because my mermaid scale bra was actually rather impressive (if I do say so myself!). It makes sense….the mermaid boobs made me look as though I was topless (I actually got in trouble with security in both Montreal and Toronto for that costume…), but missing nipples- just like Yuyi the Mermaid in You and I.

    I’m so glad a friend linked me to your post- consensus seemed to be that Lady Gaga was, in fact, checking our my mermaid boobs and not my gills. But no, I didn’t flash her….I didn’t have to in that costume!

    • Courtney Constable / Feb 12 2013 10:33 pm

      Also, I believe she yelled at me near the beginning of Black Jesus (Amen Fashion), shortly before Bad Romance 🙂

      • melissayuaninnes / Feb 13 2013 7:20 am

        Sounds like you knew what songs were playing better than I did, even if you were semi-crumpled into a little latex ball. 🙂

    • melissayuaninnes / Feb 13 2013 7:19 am

      Your costume sounds PHENOMENAL. Could you show me a pic? I’d love to see it. Did you have to get super close to security to show them that you weren’t topless? Hee hee.
      It definitely sounded like tits to me. But gills would have been mega cool too.
      What’s the thesis of your Master’s?
      Thanks to your friend for linking!

      • Courtney Constable / Feb 13 2013 1:19 pm

        I can absolutely send you a picture! I have tons of pictures of my costume, and I even managed to get a still picture of Gaga pointing at me. It’s blurry, because I obviously clicked the shutter right as I started to lose my mind, but it’s still so neat! A friend of mine also tracked down a video of Amen Fashion during which you can hear her clearly stop and say “nice tits, bitch!” and not “nice gills” haha. It’s at 2:10 at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgdrgSzdMyM. Where would you like me to send you a picture? If there’s a way to do it on here, I’m not sure I know it- I’m new to WordPress.

        The security issue was actually a very interesting one… I attended the BTW Ball in both Toronto and Montreal, and in both places, I was subjected to some extremely sexist dress code ‘policies’. The man in Montreal was particularly aggressive and rude, approaching the topic with me by saying “I get that it’s a Lady Gaga concert, but come on, let’s not push the limits TOO far, shall we?”. He demanded that I put a shirt on if I wished to remain in the venue. When my friend and I asked him what the actual house policy is and whether there’s a place that we can see what it says (we’re MA students in Women’s and Gender Studies….we weren’t going to take this lying down!), he became flustered and told us that there is no written policy, I just have to do what security tells me, and that he needed me to cover my bare back and at least some of my chest (ex. put on an open jacket, which I eventually did solely because I didn’t want to miss the show). I said to him that this didn’t seem fair, since there were male fans walking around completely topless and in less on the bottom half than me, which I had no problem with, and it was also an odd thing to ask me since my nipples were covered and my breasts were very much contained under four layers of sticky liquid latex, tape and bandaids, while the boys hired to give out Fame samples were dressed in absolutely nothing on top and only nut-hugging rubber leggings on the bottom, which, again, I had no problem with. He became angry and told me that if my sticky bra were to fall off and I were to be completely topless, it would be inappropriate because I’m female, and my bare breasts would therefore present a “public health and safety hazard”. He essentially implied that my female body is offensive and dangerous and should not be seen, while the completely naked male body is perfectly publicly acceptable. If that’s not sexism at it’s finest…! He then went on to say “Besides, there are CHILDREN in this audience, making what you’re wearing EXTREMELY inappropriate”. I told him that I thought this was fairly flawed logic, since 1. their parents brought them to a LADY GAGA concert and they were therefore about to be subjected to much worse than my covered breasts and bare back, and 2. children are not the ones that sexualize the naked body (female or otherwise). Children simply accept nudity- it’s their immature and poorly socialized parents that teach them to associate sex and inappropriateness with exposed bodies, and contrary to society’s understanding that teaching a more accepting view of the naked body is dangerous and causes promiscuity, this is actually where things like insecurity, body shaming, and accidental pregnancies due to an unfamiliarity with the workings of the body come from. At this point, he switched on his walkie-talkie and called for backup to stand by, as though we were going to start a riot. I put on my coat, but only to walk the 2 feet back to my seat, where I threw it off and didn’t touch it again! If he’d been able to show me a clear policy (which still would have been based on sexist logic, but whatever), I’d have happily obliged, but he handled himself very poorly and also refused to speak to me in English, my only language, despite the fact that he spoke it and understood it very clearly. He then got angry when my friend, who is bilingual, tried to continue the conversation in French. The situation in Toronto was similar, but they were much less rude and didn’t try to lord their “power” as security guards over my head- in fact, the guy in Toronto apologized and told me he thought that I looked really nice but was just doing his job. Luckily, in both places, they caught me after I’d already run all over the building and participated in all of the available photo booths and activities!

        ANYWAYS! As I mentioned, I’m doing a Masters of Women’s and Gender Studies, and I’m writing my thesis on the ways in which Lady Gaga mobilizes social networking capabilities (and has even created her own, devoted solely to her fan community) in order to build a dynamic, two-way relationship with her fans, and how she uses this relationship to perpetuate and communicate activist messages. Specifically, I’m looking at the You and I music video and five corresponding Haus of U fashion videos (hence my costume choice and insane excitement when she noticed it!), and the ways in which these present a mainstream musical audience with extremely transgressive images pertaining to hegemonic concepts of gender and sexuality identities. I analyze several fan reception texts (in the form of YouTube videos) and look at how those fans, who have been exposed to Gaga’s original videos online (the Haus of U videos were, in fact, a solely online phenomenon) chose to recommunicate the images back to her using the same new media platforms. I look at things like how they not only recreate her own transgressions, but also interpret the images in new ways to add additional layers of transgression and directly contribute to her activist cause and raise awareness about how constraining and limited our binary social conceptions of gender and sexuality are. This entire process, in the end, allows Gaga to become both a producer of original images AND a consumer of fans images (and she’s even responded back to some, i.e. Maria Aragon and Helen Green), while at the same time allowing fans to transform themselves from being simply passive consumers of her materials into active producers of transgressive activist images!

        I’m currently waiting for my last set of revisions before I formally submit my finished thesis to my committee and begin preparing to defend! I will graduate in June, and I’m desperately trying to find a way to inform Gaga about my research, get a copy of my thesis (and other papers I’ve written about her work) to her, and thank her for being my inspiration and central reason for my academic success!

        Let me know where you’d like me to send you a picture of my costume! Alternatively, I posted most of my pictures from that night on my Tumblr account, which is here: http://courtney-danielle-noisy-thoughts.tumblr.com/

        Thanks for being interested in my special four seconds with Gaga 🙂 haha

      • melissayuaninnes / Feb 13 2013 7:54 pm

        Way to fight the power! It’s always pathetic when the people with a tiny bit of authority who try to abuse it, like traffic cops. Your story reminds me of Jamie Peck from thegloss.com going topless in Central Park: http://www.thegloss.com/2011/06/28/beauty/sunday-in-the-park-with-boobs/
        On the upside, I had a friend who wore green body paint instead of a top to our first year Arts & Science semi-formal, and when the security guard led her away, it was actually to unlock a private room so she could reapply the paint. So there are some good ones. 🙂
        I LOVE your costume, and your friend looks pretty rad, too. Please send pics to olobooks [at] gmail [dot] .com
        You know way more about Lady Gaga than me, but it seemed like on https://littlemonsters.com, if you get upvoted enough, she might see it. Not sure if you can get a lot of votes for a thesis, but I’d vote for you.
        Where were you sitting? Sounds super close, and the video was great, too…wow.
        Are you in MTL? Maybe we could get together sometime!
        Either way, congrats on your Gaga seconds!

      • Courtney Constable / Feb 14 2013 4:36 pm

        I’ve emailed you some pictures 🙂 I definitely have a LittleMonsters.com account that I post to all the time, and I’ve definitely gotten a fair amount of attention for my costumes and concert pictures, and for my thesis as well (although I don’t plan to share it publicly until it’s finished and defended- plagiarism is just too easy online otherwise!), though I haven’t managed to get Gaga to notice me there yet. I’ve had a little bit of success on Twitter too- her dancer, Mark Kanemura, favourited one of my concert pictures and her fashion director, Nicola Formichetti, followed me. Small steps towards the main goal! haha. We were sitting in the 100 levels section 112 I believe, in like the third row up from the floor. It was perfect for picture taking, I didn’t even need my camera’s zoom lens. We could see Gaga’s dad going in and out of the monster pit to watch the show, and I even accidentally snapped a picture of Gaga taking her pants off for a costume change because I didn’t realize she was hiding behind a pillar where the rest of the audience couldn’t see her, and I thought she was still performing because we could still see her from where we were sitting! Woops..

        I would have loved to meet up sometime, but I actually live in Ottawa! We were just visiting for the concert because there was (shockingly!) no Ottawa date on the tour this time. I’m pretty easy to keep track of online though… I gave you my Tumblr link, and my Twitter is @_court_ney_ 🙂 Thanks for featuring me in a round about way in your post!! Three days later and I’m still so hyped!

      • melissayuaninnes / Feb 14 2013 10:03 pm

        I loved the pics. Good job matching the latex to your skin colour. Maybe that was a better strategy, to be a few rows up from the floor. I like that you saw her dad and her changing. Definitely moving up the Gaga food chain there, and now I know about Mark F–I was asking for diversity without realizing there was a hot Hawaiian guy in there. I’m following you on Twitter now. I’m from Ottawa myself, so who knows, one day? Thanks for the Gaga education!

      • Courtney Constable / Feb 15 2013 1:35 am

        And thank YOU for being all interested in my research and my 15 seconds of fame! ahah 🙂

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