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Updated Friday, January 11, 2013 at 07:01 AM

Lady Gaga brings bus, drive to Tacoma stop

By Tom Keogh
Special to The Seattle Times

Little Monsters, take heart: Mother Monster will be here soon.

Lady Gaga, the colorful pop superstar whom even President Obama once said he felt a little “intimidated” by, will perform Monday at the Tacoma Dome, trailing three albums, extensive tours, and many millions of digital downloads and YouTube hits in her wake.

Often called “Mother Monster” by adoring fans (whose affections are reciprocated by the attentive performer, keenly aware of the broad diversity of her audience), Gaga’s appearance here is the first stop on a U.S. leg of her “Born This Way Ball” world tour.

On the road since April, Gaga has been singing, dancing and drawing on material from her three albums. Her trademark flamboyance in costumes and sets, inventive choreography and unabashed erotica are all part of the show — as is her obvious evolution as an artist with and since the 2011 release of her disarmingly good “Born This Way.”

The latter album, though steeped in some bombastic sounds of the 1980s — techno, synth-pop, heavy metal — revealed increasing nuance and transparent intelligence in Gaga’s vocals. The fact that her voice channeled a heightened craftsmanship and soulful charisma through such crunchy but enormously listenable dance tunes as the title track, “Judas” and “The Edge of Glory” (a nod to Bruce Springsteen, featuring a stirring solo by the late saxophonist Clarence Clemons), was all the more impressive.

Gaga’s musical and stylistic influences openly lean toward such outré, image-conscious pop icons as Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. But — unlikely as it sounds — in a way, the artist she most closely resembles is Springsteen.

At Gaga’s age (26), Springsteen was very much building a bigger-than-life mythology around his concerts and records, both steeped in, yet more than the sum of, his formative passion for the kaleidoscopic spectrum of 1950s-’60s pop. Gaga’s penchant for self-invention is far more extreme than Springsteen’s, but her music and persona similarly transcend, while embrace, her core inspirations.

It’s no wonder Gaga has said her goal is to revolutionize the pop world around her, just as some of her heroes did in decades past. Yet here, too, her reach often seems unprecedented.

Gaga’s drive and self-awareness began back when she was still Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, and has been evident in everything from her pre-stardom professional songwriting to her knack for raising expectations of what a pop artist can do.

While there’s nothing new, for instance, about finding sex in a music video, Gaga’s most recent (and controversial) videos reach beyond titillation to hint at ecstatic experience in sexual discovery. If her malleable portrayal of pop characters owes something to Bowie, her frequent changes of image can result in bold, unexpected theater, such as her bansheelike performance on “Gimme Shelter” with the Rolling Stones last month.

Accompanying Gaga at the Tacoma Dome will be the Born Brave Bus, a resource for young people 13-25 seeking professional resources for mental health, anti-bullying help and suicide prevention. A ticket to the show is not necessary to obtain services.

Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation reflects her often-stated commitment to LGBT equality and other anti-discrimination issues. Her advocacy led to a 2011 meeting at the White House with Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and a separate conversation between Gaga and President Obama at a human-rights event, that led to the chief executive’s remark. It’s not hard to understand why he felt that way:

Lady Gaga’s a force to be reckoned with.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

CONCERT PREVIEW

Lady Gaga: ‘Born This Way Ball’ Tour

7 p.m. Monday, Tacoma Dome; $51.50-$177 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).


AP
Lady Gaga kicks off the U.S. portion of her “Born This Way Ball” world tour Monday in Tacoma.




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