Music: Lady Gaga Concert at DAR Constitution Was All Flashy Fashion

By David Malitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009

She's not much of a singer. She's not much of a dancer. Her best songs remind you of better songs by previous chart-toppers. So just how has Lady Gaga become the breakout pop star of 2009? By the force of sheer fabulousness, that's how.

Her hour-long performance at a sold-out Constitution Hall on Tuesday night was all spectacle. She emerged from what looked like makeshift volcanic rock, wearing a very tight, almost vulgarly short minidress that was like a space-age painting made of disco balls. Each of the evening's 10 songs was given over-the-top, award-show treatment. There were costumes. There was choreography. There was a motorbike. There was everything except pants.

As far as trademark looks go, it's certainly a memorable one. When Madonna crawled around the stage in a wedding dress at the MTV Video Music Awards a quarter-century ago, that was suggestive. When Britney Spears draped herself in a python, that too was suggestive. Lady Gaga goes beyond the point of suggestion. This was a cheeky show. Lady Gaga let it all hang out. A skintight, flesh-colored leotard kept things legal but left very little to the imagination.

All this talk about clothes, but what about the music? Yeah, what about it? It was there. Her dance-pop songs are mostly innocuous fun, heavily indebted to Madonna and her many followers. They sounded exactly as they do on her lone album, "The Fame," mostly because the majority of the music was piped in. There was the token four-piece backing band, but it wasn't even visible during show opener "Paparazzi" and wasn't missed.

Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) knows her way around a catchy vocal melody, as anyone who has had "Poker Face" stuck in his head for days on end can tell you. And while she's no Whitney, she can at least belt with authority, but more important, attitude. "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich" was a feisty, discofied delight that had the adoring crowd dancing in the aisles.

Gaga may borrow sounds and be all about the glitz but her persona is clearly defined and as over-the-top as possible. "People tell me I'm slutty. Or not a lady. But I'm a free [expletive]!" she said to a chorus of cheers. She cursed a blue streak, flipped her middle finger a half-dozen times and gyrated with her three male backing dancers. Again, the crowd lapped it up.

It made a moment toward the end of the show especially bizarre. Before a solo piano, cabaret take on the inescapable "Poker Face" she asked the crowd to pray for her ailing father. After an hour of debauchery, it seemed like a setup. But it was a true plea for support, and a bit disconcerting, briefly ruining the bizarre display of outlandish escapism.

Of course, she quickly followed that very personal moment by standing on the piano bench, bending over to play, her derriere in the air on full display, like a diva pi?ata.

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