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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

August 17, 2010 at 7:23 AM

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Concert preview: Lady Gaga at the Tacoma Dome 08/21/10

Posted by Andrew Matson

gaga monsters.jpg
Lady Gaga fans; photo from Lady Gaga's twitter

The last time Lady Gaga was in Seattle, she performed at the Showbox — a theater that would be hilariously small for her now.

She'll have a bigger home this time.

The 24-year-old, belligerently glamorous dance-pop diva (Stefani Germanotta) brings her blockbuster tour to the Tacoma Dome Saturday.

In the two years since her last Northwest appearance, Gaga has achieved international stardom and become a music/fashion media mainstay. Her architectural hairstyles and outfits have become events. Her anger-tinged, arena-sized electro-pop songs have become modern karaoke classics, especially these anthems to a gritty kind of personal acceptance — "Just Dance" (yes, I am this drunk at the club right now), "Poker Face" (yes, I am having sex with a man but wish it were a woman) and "Bad Romance" (yes, I like things that are bad for my health).

She brought a gleefully ambiguous sexual presentation and geometric/gothic fashion sense to the global cultural forefront, and significantly informed the turn-of-the-aughts' psychosexual/aesthetic zeitgeist.

A major fashion figure even though she's not especially attractive, an insanely popular singer without the best voice, a fame-obsessed artist who called her last two releases "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster," Lady Gaga is who she is by force of will. When she says stuff like, "I am a lie. And every night I kill to make it true," there's some awesome bootstrappiness there, not just provocative obscurism.

Her rise coincided with the fall of Auto-Tune software in mainstream pop, and there's a case to be made that her breasty alto voice altered the pop music landscape, that Gaga made it unfashionable for singers to digitally add a robotic whine to their voices. She was bold when everyone else was slinky, flaunted a certain admirably failed Broadway-ishness, was more fun to sing along with.

But weekly/daily print/Internet headlines lately inform more and more about Gaga's appearance-related antics (clothes-less crowd surfing, crotch-held sparklers) than conceptual performances or actual music. And because the spectacle that is Lady Gaga moves so fast, her 2010 artistic victories seem somehow further behind her than they might for another pop star (the "Telephone" video with Beyoncé in March, and the Gaga-themed "Glee" episode in May). Both events celebrated songs that came out on albums one or two years previously. Her current fame is dominant but vaguely tenuous, entwined with shock value, perched at maximum bloat.

The trick now will be for her to keep cresting, perhaps with persona/aesthetic reinventions à la Madonna, the pop star she most closely resembles, and likely with another installment of music that advances her personal narrative past the superheroic, glam-dance place it currently is.

Perhaps a return to basics is in order. Unlike most pop stars, Gaga can hold down an intimate concert with just her voice and a piano, can communicate the same dogged, energizing vibe that sells her records and normally pumps out of gym/nightclub speakers.

But the next chapter is not yet upon us. We're still in the extended portion of Gaga's year-long tour, still lining up to see songs that already saturated our cultural climate.

"The Monster Ball Starring Lady Gaga" starts at 8 p.m. and costs between $50 to $175.

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