The whole visual and aural presentation embodied a New York or London club vibe. Gaga has apparently made her name as a performer, and I could see why. Her bleached blond orgy of hair, bouffant skirt (which pared down to a pair of granny undies halfway through the set), and her jewel-topped glow-scepter (or “disco stick”) completed the image of the dancehall’s upstart dauphine. Working on essentially a quarter-stage with a video backdrop, she presided over four backup dancers who formed a heated phalanx that interpreted the music in high-energy fashion. The music itself was probably the best of the night, New Kids included. It owed much to the live arrangement and Lady Gaga’s over-the-top showmanship, for sure, but the quality of the material stands on its own, a hair higher than what the New Kids dished out.
After the concert, I sought out Gaga’s album, the presumptuously-named, The Fame. Listening to it, I realized that live performance was the conduit between Gaga’s talent and the audience’s emotions. The songs were the same, but the album sounded incredibly muted compared to the show. What it missed was the noise, the pumping, grinding, arm-swinging, crazy-loud music that forced Gaga to sing over it. You don’t hear that effort on the album; the music is as polite as a lace window valance, and I felt that a certain Gaga-ness was lost.
Sandwiched between the high-octane Gaga and the juggernaut of the New Kids was the awkward-as-a-kiwi-bird performance of Natasha Bedingfield. She ambled out on stage and gamely delivered a smattering of limp “hits,” but it left me wondering what went wrong. On paper, this was smart. Bring in some newer fans with her radio-friendly and on-message music (John McCain should pay attention), as well as her innocuous personality (McCain strikes out again!). But the purpose of an opening act is to pump up the audience in preparation for the headliner (read: Gaga), and Bedingfield and her crew played more like a wedding band trying to pump up a toast from the best man. (Speech! Speech!)
I can’t blame her entirely, because the girl does try so hard, singing with three lungs’ worth of oxygen. But her songs are relatively weak and generic, especially those off her latest album. She did sing my favorite of her songs, “These Words,” but it was a lethargic, almost bossa nova perversion of the studio track, such that I felt embarrassed for telling my seatmates that this was Bedingfield’s best song. They’ll never trust my taste in music again.
She was the flip side of Gaga. The iridescent studio production that provides Bedingfield her easy sound could not be reproduced on stage, so she was left with only the mediocre song products that her major label has foisted on her. “Where’s Donnie?” I cried out to the void, hoping that the clown prince of the New Kids would appear and kick someone’s ass, if only to keep my eyelids from drooping.