Lady Gaga has turned into an international superstar with millions of “little Monsters” all around the globe in six short years. But her seven-show run at Roseland Ballroom was strictly for her core fans.
The poster for Lady Gaga's seven sold-out Roseland Ballroom concerts is a black-and-white photograph of her before the world knew who she was. Beneath, it says, "I am Lady Gaga, a singer/songwriter. You're going to know me one day. August 21, 2008. New York City."
The image has been all over New York City for the past month, and it was on the walls at Roseland, too, emphasizing Gaga's rapid ascent to pop superstardom in the six years since it was taken. Her career has been defined by this type of publicly predicting and guaranteeing her success, whether it was that moment—telling the photographer he'd know her one day—or the title of her debut album, The Fame.
Gaga's boldness to continually defy prescribed ideas of sexiness, be weird onstage and spread a message of equality comes through strongest in her live performance.
For Gaga, that photograph was the beginning, but for Roseland Ballroom, it's the end. Tonight is her seventh and last show at the iconic New York venue before it closes down. In a space covered in roses and New York signage (an F train and a 176 Stanton Street neon, among them), Gaga introduced her "artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball" tour. It represents another chapter in her career, one where exploring visual art's union with pop culture and staying connected with a devoted group of fans (who she calls "little Monsters") takes precedent over mainstream acceptance or markers of success.
Gaga began the show with a passionate piano version of "Born This Way," afterward reminding the audience that it was her 28th birthday. Jeff Koons, the artist behind the ARTPOP album cover, was there on the VIP deck, not far from the ladder she climbed up during "Bad Romance." A few nights later, she sang at the top of it to Marina Abramovic, another one of her artistic collaborators on the album, afterward tweeting an image of herself inches from the edge of the balcony. She called it, "#ARTPOP moments happening in real life."
[Gaga] has left "fitting in" behind to concentrate on cultivating the young, open-minded, art-conscious audience that has always been at the center.
Gaga's boldness to continually defy prescribed ideas of sexiness, be weird onstage (she had vomit artist Millie Brown puke on her at SXSW weeks before during a live-streamed Doritos showcase), and spread a message of equality comes through strongest in her live performance. This is the artist who has previously presented herself in every shape or style of clothing imaginable, with every skin tone and hair color, and with as many feminine personas as masculine ones. Live, she tells her audience that they can be whoever they want to be, using her own extremities and wildness to lead the way for unafraid, honest self-expression.
At one part of the show, she holds a keytar, and at another, her male dancer is on top of her. Her most stunning moments are when she plays the piano versions of her songs, usually introduced by personal anecdotes, as she did for "You and I," "Dope," and "Poker Face." Her true musicianship comes through, as does her desire to use the live show to connect with her most adoring fans—those who imitate her sequin and wig get-ups and throw her handmade blankets and drawings from the crowd.
The artRave show is Gaga decisively choosing a path that's less about getting her message across to everyone in favor of serving her core fanbase. As an artist who once had a tour with Kanye West in the works (the cancelled Fame Kills), who was featured on a song with Wale, and whose debut single "Just Dance" featured the now unheard of Colby O'Donis, she has fully left "fitting in" behind to concentrate on cultivating the young, open-minded, art-conscious audience that has always been at the center.
Gaga quickly went from an unknown artist to a mainstream phenomenon, and now, she's a more focused act. Her show at Roseland exemplifies this. Even at just an hour long, she went from song to song and costume to costume with confidence in the art she's made and pride in being from New York City. Later that night, she went to her old apartment at 176 Stanton wearing small wings and posed by her stoop. She tweeted, "Nostalgia is magical. Even better celebrating at the bar I turned 21 in. #samefriends"
Lady Gaga seems less interested in being a pop artist in favor of staying true to the girl who posed in the Meatpacking District telling people to remember her name. Her downtown collaborator Lady Starlight opened for her each night at Roseland, keeping those #samefriends close. It may be the end for Roseland, but Lady Gaga knows she still has many more beginnings left in her.