Saturday, 28 February 2015

All we hear is Lady GaGa

As I have said before on this blog (I think) pop concerts in Greece usually do not work. They don't sell many tickets. (Unless it's a super huge name like Madonna). Heavy metal concerts and old school type rock in general are the ones who draw crowds. So, we were probably not expecting to see Lady GaGa in Greece. So, how come she finally came? Well, it probably has to do with the fact that the promoter who brought her, although not a new name in the business, it was his first time organizing a gig featuring an international artist. So, you could probably say that he had no "sense of danger", no sense of the risk he was taking bringing Lady GaGa to Greece. We could say that his risk in the end paid off, but he made just one mistake: His choice of venue, Athens Olympic Stadium was too big for Lady GaGa. Had he chosen the nearby Olympic Arena, everybody would be talking today of a huge success, because it would have been sold out. Plus, most of the other European dates on Lady GaGa's ArtPop Ball tour were held in arenas, not stadia. That should have been a hint. Anyway, choice of venue aside we should be feeling nothing but thankful to a promoter who dared to bring to us an artist we would normally not see in Greece and all we can ask him for the future is to "please, bring us Bruce Springsteen" (because nobody else will).
In the days leading to the concert we were expecting to face a media circus like the one back in 2008 before the Madonna concert. Because Lady GaGa is "in fashion" we were expecting all the "lifestyle types" and TV "personas to show up and keep talking about this event. And the day before, her arrival at the airport, her naked photos she was posting from her hotel room and her fans waiting to catch a glimpse outside her hotel gave more fuel for the lifestyle and gossip shows on Greek TV. And of course we should not forget the religious lady outside the hotel who kept shouting "Lady GaGa you are satan!". But apart from the media circus, there was also the outcry coming from all "serious music" fans targeted towards those who dared to admit that yes, they were going to see Lady GaGa.
With all these in mind, we approached the Olympic Stadium on a Friday September evening. The first thing we noticed were the usual promotional events one comes to expect on a concert of this type. Like for example the installation, by a Greek mobile phone company, where one would walk through while dancing to Lady GaGa songs and would finally be given a pendant emitting a green glow, to wear during the concert.
The next thing we noticed were the faces. Mostly young (but not always) and mostly different. Different to the faces one is used to seeing in concerts in Greece. Lots of jewellery, many accessories and hair in all kinds of colours. We can only guess that for many of these people this was their first concert.
The final thing we noticed, just before entering the pitch was a drone, for the first time in a concert in Greece. It seems it got scared when we took a picture of it and quickly flew away from us!
So we were in, and the first thing to do was to wait for the support act. There was a competition to choose it in the months before and although I, personally would have preferred to see Berlin Brides, Alex Kavvadias was chosen.
And it proved to be a good choice, well suited to the mood of the evening with the added bonus of a cover of the Tears For Fears hit "Shout". 

Next, it was time for Lady Starlight's DJ set. I know she's been apparently supporting Lady GaGa since they both started together, but on a warm Greek evening and with the anticipation of the main event on a high, a minimal techno set was probably a bit tiring.
But now it was time for the real party to begin. The lights went down and the ArtRave was about to begin. And it began with 5 songs from Artpop. OK, not her most successful album, but the crowd did not seem to care. And my personal opinion is that the title track is one of the strongest and a perfect choice for the opener. After these it was time for a medley from "The Fame Monster" and 4 songs from "Born This Way". However, each album was treated differently: We got full versions of the tracks from "Artpop" while the songs from "Fame Monster" were mostly delivered in a medley with 2 minutes of each played.
OK, I know that most people would prefer more of these songs, but you have to remember that this tour is to support "Artpop", so this is what you're mostly going to hear. So, what about "Born This Way" then? Well, this is where (in my opinion) there was a slight disappointment. OK, so we had "You And I", but then we got "Born This Way" on an acoustic version on the piano.
And then we only got a 30 second, acapella snippet of "The Edge Of Glory". Only half a minute? Surely it deserved better. I wouldn't have minded the acoustic "Born This Way" much, if I could have had a full blown version of "The Edge Of Glory", one of her best songs. At least after that we got "Judas" albeit in a medley with "Aura" from "Artpop". Then there was more "Artpop" but also more "Fame Monster" for the conclusion of the show, where "Applause", the first single from the latest album seemed to work as one of the last songs on the setlist even though it's not one of her strongest tracks. It all ended with "Swine", but she was back in a few minutes for an encore with "Gyspy"
So what did we get between all this. She talked to us about Greece, Greek civilization but also about the Greek restaurants in the US she used to work at. The highlight of the show of course had to be the moment where she read, onstage, a letter from one greek fan.
Oh, and she wrapped herself with the Greek flag! (Not forgetting the moment where she changed her outfit on stage!).

With the show over, and the crowd going home you could see that everybody was happy. One could argue, that, we got to see a big name live, but, once again, as is often the case with Greece,not at the peak of her career. This has got to do with the fact that "Artpop" was not as successful as her first two albums. But then again, we would never expect to see Lady GaGa in Greece, right? Right?
There were still fans outside her hotel the next day, as she left, but before going to the airport she stopped at a record shop to promote her new album with Tony Bennett "Cheek To Cheek", wearing only the bare essentials. Unfortunately, the shop was closed, but she hung a promotional poster of the album on the shop window...

02. G.U.Y.
03. Donatella
04. Venus
06. Just Dance
07. Poker Face
08. Telephone
09. Paparazzi
10. Do What U Want
11. Yoü and I
12. Born This Way
13. The Edge of Glory
14. Judas
15. Aura
16. Sexxx Dreams
17. Alejandro
18. Bad Romance 
19. Applause
20. Swine
21. Gypsy