Whether you love her or loathe her, you have to give the lady credit — she knows how to put on one heck of a show.

Lady Gaga took a sold-out show at the Xcel Energy Center on a magical journey to the Monster Ball Monday night. Along the way, there were breakdowns, monsters, fake blood — of course — and continual lessons of acceptance and celebrating diversity.

Lady Gaga (pronounced with sharp “G’s” and a throaty “ahh”) set the evening by stating the definition of a Monster Ball — “a place where the freaks are on the outside and I lock the doors.”

And really, after a few hours of being around Gaga fans — you might have initially thought otherwise. With hair-wrapped cans and papier-mâché head gear more common than concert T’s and blue jeans, dressing casually definitely put you in the minority at this show. I’d even go as far as saying I felt out of place without torn-up fishnets or a crown made of lace.

So yes, in this instance, it appeared that the alleged “freak show” would in fact be those failing to go Gaga — a refreshing notion, no doubt. Concert goers with the most creative costumes were even treated like celebrities, with Gaga fans lining up to take photos with their inspired looks.

By the time the concert began, Gaga fans — or little monsters, as they’re lovingly referred to by the lady herself — were waiving their freak flag proudly, creating a bond over their avant-garde looks and celebrating their Lady leader.

And I’ll be honest, I was totally right there with them. With so much anticipation and I’d imagine hours of preparation, these fans were ready for a show. Thankfully, Miss Gaga completely delivered. She had it all — massive screens displaying intermediate mini-movies, costumes that looked like they belonged on a runway and dancers that hit it hard, sweating it out on stage.

She truly redefined the term, “performance,” stretching it to a new realm, where concert meets plot and banter meets flamethrowers.

She gave several shout-outs to her Minnesota gays and praised the crowd for their daring looks and “paw-hoisting” dance moves. And like several musicians, she pushed her message to the masses. But instead of ending the war or hope for Haiti, Lady Gaga urged compassion and acceptance — a life lesson for anyone who in any other circumstance, may have felt like an outcast.

“Let go of all your insecurities,” she said at one point and, “Don’t leave loving me more, leave loving yourself more,” at another.

While some may balk at the idea of pushing a pro-inner beauty agenda, I found it quite invigorating. Not only because Gaga is using her fame powers for good, but because she also puts some serious cash behind it. (Massive donations are given every night on behalf of the concert proceeds to a charity of Gaga’s choice — which is also later matched by the Queen Bee.)

And yes, beyond the self-help and giant metaphorical hugs, Gaga gave a stirring performance that somehow melded “Poker Face,” “Telephone” and “Paparazzi” into a musical opera of sorts, which exchanged a yellow brick road for a glitter path and munchkins for hot, sweaty dancers in jock straps.

But I must say, my favorite moments were with the subdued, gentler Gaga — one who tinkered on the ivories and gave us a mellow rendition of the over-the-top performer. And yes, she is a performer — one who can seemingly do it all, from beautifully playing the piano to strumming a cello-like apparatus while donning an over-sized choir robe.

And as a big thrill for the St. Paul crowd, Gaga went into a new realm, taking a step into what she calls her “present.”

“I’m not really here now,” she said. “I live in the future.”

With that, she went into a few new songs, including a never-before-heard gem — one she said she’d probably get yelled at for later. “Living on the Radio” offered a different side of Gaga, a more relatable one at that. With its sweet melodies, the song really showed how diverse of an artist she is — even if she had her leg hoisted on the piano in her typical playing position just moments before.

It was this side of her — a softer Gaga — that impressed me the most. Her flowing locks — with a Homer Simpson yellow hue — brought delicateness to her that was only amplified by her more natural make-up and in-between-screams, more soft-spoken banter.

She’s a true original — doesn’t play by any rules but her own and encourages others to live as fearlessly as she does, even if she admits sometimes she, too, gets scared. Sure, she claimed her pop music will never be low brow (um, “pa-pa-pa-Poker Face,” anyone?) and sure, she has her outlandish moments, but she does all of this so unapologetically that you have to, at the very least, respect her.

It’s funny to me that at one point, Gaga compared herself to Tinkerbell, saying that if you don’t clap for her, she may die. Well, Miss Tinkerbell, I’d gladly powder up in your fairy dust and be whisked away to Never, Neverland any day of the week.

Sara Boyd is a Web Producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.


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