Last Night: Lady Gaga at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

Categories: Last Night
T. Palmer
Lady Gaga
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
December 13, 2009

Better than: Flipping through an issue of Vogue.

"This is our first date, San Francisco," purred Lady Gaga, "and I feel like I can suck your dick and still feel like a lady."

It actually wasn't the first date in town for the pop star, as she later pointed out that she's played "every gay club in town," to rapturous cheers from the decidedly gay and gay-friendly capacity crowd. But she's progressed from small, dark rooms to auditoriums and arenas in the course of an incredibly successful year which saw the singer/songwriter/pianist earn no less than five number one hits: "Just Dance," "Poker Face," "LoveGame," "Paparazzi," and "Bad Romance," all of which enjoyed heavier and more amped-up arrangements in the show.


"Do you like my show, San Francisco?" she asked in the middle of an acoustic presentation of "Poker Face" on piano, which she later followed with the dance version. "If you don't, I don't care -- because you can fucking leave!" She punctuated the point with a large prop machine gun, firing sparks in the direction of the crowd.


It was obviously only mock anger, as Gaga spent several moments expressing love and thanks throughout the set and seemed genuinely appreciative of her meteoric rise. The gun play followed the show's most unnatural moment, basically a product placement for tour sponsor Virgin Mobile wherein she called a "random" fan from the stage. Besides being awkward, it was also a missed opportunity to perform her new tune "Telephone." The recorded version of the song features Beyonce, a trade for Gaga's appearance on the remix to B's "Video Phone."

It's surprising how much Gaga's show had in common with Beyonce's tour that rolled through the Bay Area this summer. Both featured multiple and revealing couture costumes (with puzzling, avant garde visual interstitials during wardrobe changes), a demanding pace of choreography, and -- of course -- hair-raising wigs and pieces. But in all of Beyonce's unbeweaveable looks, she has never conceived of something as impressive as Gaga's multi-braided and impossibly long locks, which she displayed while her dancers held on to the ends and were pulled along a carriage. Of course, with her copious crotch grabbing and a few almost conical bra shapes, Madonna's look was also evoked in the proceedings.

T. Palmer
Gaga's sartorial splendor, which included looks ranging from gladiator to raven, definitely influences her fans, who she calls her monsters. While the still-cold temperatures kept a lot of people in hoodies, others followed her lead of wearing temperature-inappropriate latex, fishnets, sky-high heels, wings, and fantastically glittery eye makeup. One girl in the crowd had meticulously glued rhinestones around her eyes, while many others sported masks. People in their twenties and thirties dominated the audience, but some very excited little faces were spotted alongside their very cool parents. Those who weren't outfitted found much to ponder at multiple merchandise booths, which hawked T-shirts bearing such slogans as "I (Heart) Lady Gay Gay" and "I Can't Pay My Rent But I'm Fucking Gorgeous."

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I've been watching Gaga's career development with particular interest ever since conducting a lovely interview with her last year. More recently, I chronicled her most outrageous moments . . . so far.

Random detail: Many fans rocked Gaga's trademark hair bow, but while most of them were wigs, we noticed one girl who cleverly used her own mane. 

By the way: There is a second, sold-out performance tonight and tickets are commanding close to $500 on StubHub.

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