MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Lady Gaga is in a middle of an elaborate worldwide arena tour called The Monster Ball. Her rebellious personality, outrageous fashion sense and her knack for a catchy chorus has earned her a huge fan base.

Our music critic, Will Hermes, checked out the tour in New York City, and he brought along his 16-year-old niece.

WILL HERMES: Generally speaking, I prefer not to see live music in sports arenas. But I made an exception for Lady Gaga, a New York City kid who, over the past few years, has cultivated a persona and a sense of spectacle that nothing smaller than an arena could really contain. And since my 16-year-old niece, Phoebe, is a fan, I invited her along. She was psyched. And while we were in the car waiting for a parking spot, I asked her what she liked about Lady Gaga.

PHOEBE: Well, I really like her style. I think it's cool that she's, like, brave enough to go out there and, like, be, like, crazy and, like, not care how all these other people are judging her. I will never be brave enough to do that, but it's cool.

HERMES: Now, I thought that was pretty interesting because Lady Gaga's artistic mission, it seems to me, aside from making mega-hits, is like a 21st century PG-13 version of that old Marlo Thomas TV special "Free to Be You and Me."

And once the concert got under way, Lady Gaga addressed the crowd like a combination den mother and tent revival preacher.

(Soundbite of cheering)

LADY GAGA (Recording Artist): It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or how much money you got in your pocket because tonight and every night after - you can be whoever it is that you want to be, my little monsters.

(Soundbite of cheering)

HERMES: So who are Lady Gaga's little monsters? Well, from the looks of it, we were teenaged and nearing retirement; male, female and transgender; black, white and beige; gay, straight and, no doubt, bisexual. Folks wore sneakers or stiletto-heeled platforms, polo shirts or leather bondage harnesses.

And the outfits onstage were pretty impressive too. My favorite was when Gaga popped out of the doors of a fake subway car wrapped in a translucent shower curtain, with a hat that looked like Sally Field's headdress from "The Flying Nun."

(Soundbite of song, "Alejandro")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) Don't call my name, don't call my name, Alejandro. I'm not your babe. I'm not your babe, Fernando. Don't wanna kiss...

HERMES: Phoebe and I agreed the staging was the most wonderfully over the top of any concert we've seen. The Rolls-Royce with the electric keyboard under the hood, the illuminated monkey bars with crucifixes and, of course, the iconic spark-spitting bra and panty set. It was all about young woman as superhero, moving through a world where she is a mover and shaker, not merely decoration.

(Soundbite of song, "Poker Face")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) She's got to love nobody.

LADY GAGA: (Singing) Can't read my, can't read my, no, he can't read my poker face.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) She's got to love nobody.

LADY GAGA: (Singing) Can't read my...

HERMES: Of course, as a dad and a feminist-minded dude, I thought the sexuality on display complicated that idea. Does an emancipated woman need to dress like a psychedelic prostitute to be fully realized? Does an accomplished musician need to play the piano with her butt cheek? These were relevant questions, but the spectacle was so dazzling, it was hard for either of us to wrap our heads around them. And then, before we knew it, the show was over.

So what do you think?

PHOEBE: It was amazing.

HERMES: The next day, I thought about this more, and I texted my niece with a long-winded question. Before the show, she said she thought Lady Gaga was brave, and that Phoebe had thought herself less so. So I asked Phoebe if she felt a bit braver having experienced the show. And after 10 minutes, with impressive adolescent precision, she thumb-typed one word: Yeah. And I texted her back: Me, too.

(Soundbite of song, "Just Dance")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) Oh, RedOne.

NORRIS: Music critic Will Hermes talking about Lady Gaga's The Monster Ball Tour. And you can catch our own spoof of Lady Gaga's song "Telephone" on YouTube if you haven't already.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.