Exempt from Classification – 114mins – 2011
Produced by: Steven Johnson, Nicole Ehrlich
Directed by: Laureiann Gibson
Starring: Lady GaGa
POP ELECTRO QUEEN
When artists become so stupendously famous that ticket demand to their tours far exceeds availability, they feel a certain responsibility to the consumers to quench that thirst with extra dates. This is the case with pop queen du jour Lady GaGa who was still taking her “Monster Ball Tour” around the globe after her sophomore album (the bloated Born This Way) had already been released.
Having seen the show first hand when it hit London’s o2 Arena back in February 2010 (you can read my review – to this day still one of the most viewed on my old site – HERE), I was still interested to check out this HBO DVD/Blu-ray release filmed at Madison Square Garden on February 21st and 22nd 2011; firstly to see how the show matured over time, but mostly to see if my mixed opinions of the vivid spectacle were still valid.
Well, they are. Without repeating myself too much: the music is still gloriously fantastic, the costumes still stylistically bonkers and the sets still vibrantly impressive, but GaGa’s attempts to be genuine and heartfelt about her love for her “Little Monsters” and her strong feelings about individuality in an intolerant society feel contrived to the point of cringeworthy as she chops midsentence from speaking to the sold out crowd in a emotionally-tinged speaking voice to SHOUTING ABOUT GAY UNICORNS AND GETTING ALL YOU BEAUTIFUL MOTHERFUCKERS TO PUT YOUR PAWS UP!!!!
Speaking of contrived, the black and white introductory video showing a fully made-up GaGa enter a small downtown newsagent to buy coffee and gum en-route to MSG while making muttered asides about how she can’t believe she’s about to play her hometown venue seems horribly staged, insincere and frankly rather pointless, while at least the mid-gig backstage cutaways which intersect the energetic onstage activities add to the atmosphere by showing quick-sharp costume changes in the blink of an eye.
There’s no denying that the woman isn’t immensely talented both as a writer and performer, but I’m still not sold on the convoluted-yet-feeble “breaking down on the way to the Monster Ball” concept with GaGa acting as a flamboyant roadside assistance to her stranded backing dancers along “Glitter Way”. It’s not like the music needs padding, but padding you get both scripted and ad-libbed, and at times all you want to do is hear the choons rather than GaGa’s every thought made vocal.
Obviously the bulging set-list is more tilted towards The Fame and The Fame Monster, but “Yoü & I” and “Born This Way” have been added to bring things up to date for the demanding audience. But whether you’re a fan of the worldwide smash hits (“Just Dance”, “Poker Face”, “Bad Romance”, “Telephone” etc.), the album tracks (“Dance In The Dark”, “Speechless”, “Money Honey” etc.) or even unreleased rarities (“Glitter and Grease”), The Monster Ball Tour has something for you.
In a CR@B Shell: Despite my qualms about certain aspects of genuineness, it’s still a gloriously extravagant – if sometimes madcap – concert experience, even second time around, and every camp, exotic, superfluous detail is brought vividly to the fore with a very decent hi-def transfer. Little Monsters everywhere will lap it up!