Art and pop converged at Duggal Greenhouse, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Sunday night just as Lady Gaga had envisioned it, but nearly 70 minutes after fans expected her. At around 12:45 a.m. Monday morning (Nov. 11), Gaga took the steps in front of a larger-than-life sculpture of herself custom-made by Jeff Koons, and inspired by the cover of “ARTPOP,” which hit stores just 45 minutes prior to her opening performance of “Aura.” Clad in a clown-like white mask with black-and-white buoys that made her like a bizarro Jack In The Box mascot, Gaga spent the first two songs of her live-streamed concert lip-synching to a track – coming off more pop art than artistic pop music.
That seemed to be the central theme of Sunday’s “artRave” event at Brooklyn Navy Yard, during which Gaga hosted a press conference where she introduced the technology for a “flying dress” (the beta version of which could hovered about three feet off the ground), debuted new works of art from Koons, Marina Abramovic, Inez & Vinoodh and Robert Wilson; and showed up late to her own party (she cited traffic overload on Twitter: “Only little monsters can crash VEVO. *face palm.*”) Her Little Monsters, who turned out in costumed droves, already knew all the words to every one of “ARTPOP’s” 15 songs, but Gaga put spectacle first – singing along with the live band during “Gypsy” and emotional fan-dedicated ballad “Dope.”
Like the rough-edged live versions of these “ARTPOP” songs, which will surely be tweaked as Gaga brings her latest vision around the globe, the all-white stage setup and costumes recalled a blank canvas that would be etched upon at a later date. Album stand-outs like “Sexxx Dreams” and “MANiCURE” we’re presented with colorful choreography but paled in comparison to their studio counterparts. The two-single encore of “Applause” and “Do What U Want” were more refined and, not surprisingly, inspired rousing sing-alongs from the sleepy-eyed crowd at 1:30 am; “Do What U Want” may have required a backing track for R. Kelly’s verse, but Gaga put all of her remaining energy in the finale, continuing to warble the “WANT with my BODY!” flare-up long after the song ended.
Gaga’s newest live setup will strengthen with repetition, but the experience of artRAVE was pretty impeccable once the gaggle of costumed fans were allowed into the Navy Yard. App demonstrations were being held in a small room behind the stage, and Gaga’s technological portion of “ARTPOP” was explained thoroughly by women in white uniforms. The sculptures, including the Koons replica of Gaga, were ogled and photographed by all. Drinks, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and desserts were provided for free as ravers danced to “Empire State of Mind” and “Back That Azz Up” in the main hall. Even if the “ARTPOP” live show still needs a bit of tinkering to fully captivate, Lady Gaga showed on Sunday night that she knows how to meld low art and high art at a party.