SXSW Live Shot: Lady Gaga
Rotisserie chicken, spew, and ‘Applause’ equal ‘Artpop’
By Abby Johnston, 1:33PM, Fri. Mar. 14, 2014
I will hazard a guess that Lady Gaga’s legion of “Little Monsters” have never heard of Jeff Koons, referenced in her single “Applause” and the artist behind her latest album's cover image. At her show Thursday night, this year’s Music keynote saved SXSW a Google search by bringing the song’s sponsor, last year’s Artpop, to the Stubb’s backyard.
She rode a mechanical bull saddled with a keyboard. Pulled a Madonna and briefly adopted a British accent. Let a friend spit an unknown brown liquid all over her, then performed covered in it for the rest of her hour onstage. Lady Gaga was anything but accessible.
And yet, from the moment she rolled onstage to the strains of “Burqa (Aura)” – strapped horizontally on a pole like a rotisserie chicken – Gaga commanded the packed venue with a set drawn almost entirely from Artpop. The lack of Top 40 fodder didn’t deter her fans, who had already proved their loyalty by gaining access to the show through a series of “challenges” set up through show promoter Doritos.
As such, they sang along faithfully to newbies including “Gypsy” and “Manicure,” never once complaining about the absence of “Born This Way” and “Poker Face.” Embracing the BBQ-joint aesthetic, Gaga updated even the most familiar part of her set, “Bad Romance,” by inviting Austin’s Ruby Jane up for honky-tonk riff on the song.
Wavering between piano ballads and bass-pumped jams, Gaga ultimately epitomized herself with Art Pop closer “Applause.” She writhed and rallied with friends from Semi-Precious Weapons and Lady Starlight, lost in a sea of bizarre dance moves and flashing lights. It was a moment of unadulterated joy, and one that was endearing from the filthy, bandeau-topped singer.
“Suddenly the Koons is [she].”
This review originally referred to the man name-checked in "Applause" as Dean Koontz. It has since been corrected to Jeff Koons.