(Video: Lilach Lichtenberg)
If Lady Gaga lives for “Applause,” as she sings, then she got one hell of an injection of life-force from the crowd in Tel Aviv Saturday night – and the pop star certainly reciprocated.
An adrenaline shot, laced with Gaga’s brand of insanity and sex appeal, was exactly what the Israel’s “non-stop city” needed for its first major concert by an international act after a summer in which rockets from Gaza forced it to cancel performances by acts like Neil Young, the Backstreet Boys and Lana del Rey.
The crowd of over 25,000 seemed desperate to lap up some of the indefatigable pop star’s vitality and Gaga obliged, giving more and more to the audience for nearly two hours until she broke down crying, with black mascara-stained tears streaming down her face at the end of her encore song, “Gypsy.”
“artRAVE: The Artpop Ball,” as Gaga’s current tour is called, had all the neon colors, glitter, glowsticks and pure manic energy of any other rave, but with her 20 songs, seven outfit changes and a dozen dancers it was more than a ball – it was an extravaganza, a spectacle that even the most reluctant parent escorting hysterically shrieking tweens could not take his or her eyes off of.
Lady Gaga descended to the stage in a gold-and-silver rhinestone bodysuit with gigantic golden wings a la a Victoria’s Secret angel. However, as the artistically- inclined pop star is wont to do, she turned the sexy association on its head by attaching a large, reflective ball to her stomach, like the Jeff Koons “gazing ball” she births in the statue the acclaimed sculptor made of her.
“Ani ohevet otchem,” I love you, she told the crowd, seeming to read off her hand, and played and sang the song “Artpop” from behind a piano that looked like it was built into a giant crystal. Later she played a crystal keytar and a glittering silver guitar.
Throughout the show, it was hard to decide what was more electrifying – Lady Gaga powerfully belting out her hits, or the intensely wacky costumes she and her dancers were sporting. The pop star “summoned the goddess of love” for her song “Venus” while dressed like a spangled mermaid in strategically-placed seashells, and bantered with the crowd, saying, “I had my clamshell done.”
One outfit change was done on stage in front of everyone. Gaga turned her back to the crowd, but we all got a glimpse of her skin-colored g-string under black fishnets. Then, once she was dressed in what could only be described as a raver’s outfit on crack with a multi-colored pigtail wig, the top half of her plastic neon dress was completely seethrough and her nipples covered by bright x-shaped pasties.
And if the near-nudity wasn’t shocking enough, dancers in pig masks later “vomited” on that very costume, leading her to rip off her wig and wig cap and show off what seemed to be her natural hair, something rarely seen by the public. (Her hair is long, black and curly, if you were wondering.) What seemed to have most inspired the aesthetic of Lady Gaga’s show was the 1997 cult scifi film The Fifth Element in which clothing is not quite shaped like the clothing we here on earth recognize.
The Fifth Element connection was never clearer than when Gaga sang “artRAVE” and “Paparazzi” in a polka-dot octopus suit, looking like the tentacled Diva Plavalaguna from the Luc Besson flick. When she sang “Do What You Want With My Body,” one had to wonder what exactly could be done with all of those octopus legs, while being impressed that Gaga’s frenetic dance moves were not slowed down at all by them.
Still, Gaga was most impressive when she wasn’t hiding behind all the bells and whistles of her futuristic imagery and electronic beats and just let her strong voice shine.
Lady Gaga brought out crooner Tony Bennett, who was slated to sing in Tel Aviv Sunday night, to perform “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” the first single from their upcoming album, Cheek to Cheek, which is set to be released next week.
“Tony surprised me,” Gaga told the crowd. “I was so happy when I found out he was in Israel and he said, ‘hey, do you want to sing a song from our new album?’” The surprise was met with mixed responses from the crowd, as the teens only seemed to know Bennett as that guy who has a new album with Lady Gaga. A middle aged man could be heard asking, “Who is he?” Still, Lady Gaga’s pipes could not be denied, and sporting a long pink dress and a giant, black, curly Cher-in-the-80s wig, she proved she could sing jazz with the best.
She showed similar strength in singing ballads like “You and I,” in which she changed its professions of love for Nebraska to ones for Tel Aviv and Tony Bennett, and a broken- down version of her self-love anthem “Born This Way.”
When she emerged in a black pleather version of Milla Jovovich’s skimpy Fifth Element costume and green wig soon after, it seemed like she was going to go back into hyper mode, but she sang “Edge of Glory” as a power ballad, before moving into a series of upbeat dance hits like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Judas” and more.
It took six years for Lady Gaga to return to Israel after her first concert in Tel Aviv, as she mentioned during the show.
While it’s hard to imagine how she could have energy for another concert, let alone another tour, after her frenzied performance on Saturday, she left the crowd hoping she’ll come back much, much sooner next time.