Lady Gaga puts on her Poker Face at the Ritz
This morning I woke up to an allergy attack that could debilitate a rhino. Like the brave and heroic American I am, I made my way into work, only to leave around lunch, a snorting maelstrom of tears and damp Kleenex.
I was about to call off tonight's 50-50 Club concert and spend the evening on the couch watching Ocean's Thirteen*, but then I remembered the sage advice of Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. 2009's breakout pop queen Lady Gaga:
I love this record, baby, but I can't see straight anymore ... just dance, gonna be okay.
That was all the encouragement I needed. I popped a Claritin and donned my trusty concert Chucks, and headed down to Ybor City to see Lady Gaga in person.
The way I saw it, I didn't have a choice. After all, it's not every day the No. 1 song in America comes to your city.
That song is Lady Gaga's Poker Face, and that club would be the Ritz Ybor, formerly the Masquerade and possibly Tampa's Next Big Venue.
But it's Lady Gaga -- booked by the Ritz when she was still a relative newcomer -- who has turned out to be the venue's biggest post-Maxim coup. Over the past year, she's turned her conceptual New York dance-floor mojo into real-world single and album sales. Hers is a tale of pop imitating art imitating pop, and if that confuses you: Just dance, gonna be okay.
So what does the crowd look like at a concert by the current holder of America's No. 1 single? In a word: Fierce. It looked as if a Forever 21 had exploded in the Ritz, and EMS personnel responded by administering hats from Zara.
Silver tights. Blue, pink and platinum wigs. Bangs that could slice a mango. I counted at least seven homemade disco-ball masks. I saw one guy wearing a fingerless chartreuse glove on one hand; on the other, he wore the fingers.
But the vibe in the room was kinetic. High-energy openers Chester French and the White Tie Affair whipped the crowd into a frenzy; five seconds after the White Tie Affair left the stage, fans stated chanting, "Ga-ga! Ga-ga! Ga-ga!"
Roadies blocked off the stage with a giant white curtain, behind which I assume laborers were busy assembling Lady Gaga from parts discarded by Madonna, Posh Spice and and Lil Kim. (Kidding!)
And then, shortly after 10 p.m., just as the crowd was hitting Fierceness Level Five**, the curtain dropped, revealing Lady Gaga inside a spaceship-like booth, wearing a futuristic cocktail dress dominated by a big silver triangle.
This was the first of five costumes Lady G. donned during her 11-song set. The others, as transcribed directly from my notebook:
-- "Jigsaw Zebra"
-- "Bubble Suit"
-- "Business Suit With Pointy Shoulders"
-- "Military, No Pants."***
Actually, that last part was redundant, as Lady Gaga wore no pants whatsoever at any point during the night. Anyway, Lady G. opened with Paparazzi, LoveGame and Money Honey, and if you weren't dancing at that point, you were definitely a robot made of stone.
Somewhere in the middle, in what must have been an attempt to make absolutely sure the crowd knew this whole pop-star thing was a bit of a put-on, Lady Gaga (wearing Bubble Suit) took to a piano for a couple of songs -- the new Future Love, and a slow, solo version of Poker Face. It sounded like Regina Spektor.
"Some say 'Lady Gaga' is a lie," she chirped from the stage. "You're right -- it is a lie. And every day, I kill to make it true."
Hmm. Yes. Interesting. Hey, you know what? No one there cared. This was an audience of front-runners -- why else would they come to a show by an artist with two recent No. 1 pop singles? -- and they desperately wanted to hear Lady Gaga's big hits.
"I guess what you're thinking," she said during the encore, "is, 'Shut the f--- up, you dumb blond, and play Poker Face.'" And she did, and the crowd went ballistic, screaming every word all the way to the fist-pumping climax.
If Lady Gaga turns out to be a two-hit wonder, fans might remember this as a pretty snazzy, highly energetic, entirely enjoyable concert that ultimately didn't mean much of anything.
But I believe it was H.L. Mencken who once wrote, "No one ever went broke underestimating the public's desire for blond chicks in hot pants." So who knows? Maybe this time next year, Lady Gaga will be an international megastar, headlining the St. Pete Times Forum instead of the Ritz.
If so, we'll all still be talking about the night the No. 1 song in America came to Ybor City.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo by Luis Santana, tbt*.
Next up in the 50-50 Club: Insect Joy, Child Abuse and Flexxehawk on April 12 at Kelly's Pub in Tampa. Health willing.
* Why is this always on?
*** Can you believe Elle hasn't lured me away yet? I know!