I was shocked a few months back when my best mate called me judgemental. Judgemental, moi? You've got to be kidding! I'm as open minded as - as - OK well as it turns out I am more judgemental than I considered myself to be. However I had my eyes well and truly opened a few nights ago and all thanks to someone I thought I hated - Lady Gaga!
Whilst I would admit to humming along to some of her songs, on the whole my opinion of Lady Gaga was rather low to say the least. Here was a person who was making a fortune out of deliberately shocking people - crude, sleazy and on occasion even meaty. Every time I saw her on TV my reaction was more 'Gaah!' than Gaga. I honestly thought she was repulsive and when it was announced she was coming to our shores I couldn't imagine anyone I would rather see less. Until a couple of weeks ago when quite by chance I saw her perform 'Marry the Night' live on the Alan Carr chat show, just her and a piano. I was absolutely gobsmacked. What a voice! I literally sat in the lounge with my jaw on the floor - and kicked myself for not getting tickets.
Fortunately for me, as destiny would have it the opportunity presented itself quite unexpectedly to go along to her first Auckland concert and I grabbed it with both hands (oh thank you cousin Jenny I am eternally in your debt *mwah*!) I also grabbed the opportunity to wear the new purple dress which had been sitting in my wardrobe for months, unworn and begging for an outing. As we made our way to Vector Arena I was worried I was overdressed for the occasion. I couldn't have been more wrong.
As we entered the venue we were immediately greeted by the most colourful, outlandish throng of people I had ever set eyes on. There were glow-in-the-dark cats' ears, wigs of every colour, bows intricately woven into the wearer's hair, there were bra-tops, stockings of every description, sparkle, lipgloss, leather, sequins and pearls - and I don't just mean the women. Ahh yes, I had completely forgotten. Lady Gaga has a big gay following. It was like being a fly on the wall at the annual convention of the Village People - and it was brilliant!
You know when people say things like 'I'm not racist, but...' and immediately follow with something which IS totally racist? I'm embarrassed to admit to being a bit like that when it comes to 'I'm not homophobic, but...' I have several gay friends who I went to school with and am still friends with today and I was absolutely fine when they 'came out' to me. I didn't have a problem with it at all and it didn't change my perception of them. Because I was at a safe distance of 12,000 miles away. I know, I know, how small minded can you get...
Yet here I was now, laughing and chatting away like old friends with the bloke next to me; a very sweet young chap with stars and butterflies all over his face. And who could help but notice what surely must have been the outfit of the night - an elderly man with snowy white hair dressed from head to foot in a silver and white sequined suit. Now that takes a lot of guts! He was having a blast too, bless him and as I looked around I realised something about Lady Gaga that had never crossed my mind before. She brings people together. All kinds of people.
Suddenly the curtain lifted and we were greeted with the sight of an enormous Gothic castle. Before we knew it, the great Gaga was making an entrance on her unicorn (as you do) and 12,000 people were immediately gobsmacked, just as I had been in my lounge a few weeks before. Her voice was amazing; powerful and flawless throughout, which was no small feat when you consider how much she was dancing and jumping around. Even when she was singing upside down she never missed a beat!
Once again I was impressed. Yep, this was what we had all bought our tickets for. OK, it was weird - how many singers do you know who actually give birth to themselves on stage? Or shove their dancers into a giant mincer and appear in the next instant sitting on a meat couch (yes, you read right) wearing a meat dress? But hey, I expected her to be weird. What I didn't expect was for her to be so... nice.
I've been to a fair few concerts in my time. Everything from *cringe* New Kids on the Block when I was 16 to Jimmy Barnes, Robbie Williams and the Eagles - even Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. I am nothing if not cultured! But I have never witnessed an artist take so much time to talk to their audience and make them feel special before. If you're lucky you might get a 'WE LOVE YOU AUCKLAND!' or 'EVERYBODY PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!' but not Lady Gaga. Instead, she sat on her motorbike - which, naturally had a piano built inside - and talked to us for around 15 minutes. Except she didn't just talk, she inspired us. This woman was so humble, so genuinely grateful for everything she has and just wanted to give us the best show possible. More than anything, she wanted us - this big, colourful crowd of Village People - to embrace our differences and not be scared of being ourselves. And why not. After all, look at where it got her!
She picked out individual people in the crowd and invited them backstage, much to the delight of the crowd. She would be in the middle of a song and all of a sudden spot someone and say 'Look at you, you're so pretty! Oh don't cry, you'll ruin your Judas t-shirt!' A definite high point of the night was when she interrupted a song to go and chat to a 78 year-old man and his wife. 'Look, you're probably wondering what on earth you're doing here and have thought about leaving at least 10 times already. I understand if you would rather just sit here than dance. I just want you to know that I think you're lovely and thank you for coming'. By the end of the show, that same guy had his jacket off and was dancing his heart out. Like I said, Lady Gaga brings all kinds of people together.
I left the concert buzzing. It had been an incredible show and no mistake, but not just for the music and the special effects. The lasting memories are of the woman herself. I learned a lot that night about so many things and I am so very glad I went. I guess you could say my opinion of Lady Gaga has undergone a complete turnaround - and I'll be first in line for tickets next time she comes to Auckland!
TODAY I LEARNED: Never judge a book by its cover. Even if it's covered in meat.