By Paul de Revere
Let it never be said that Lady Gaga loses any of her artistic vision in subtlety.
Gaga’s performance at South by Southwest on Thursday night at local barbecue landmark Stubb’s BBQ was a study in broad, hokey kitsch. Her stage set was full of neon signs and featured prominent use of a mechanical bull. The provocative performer’s grand entrance involved her dangling from a barbecue spit amid smoke in the dramatized throes of S&M bondage, performing “Aura,” her first song of the night. Also there was vomit painting. And real vomiting.
If you think that’s crazy, all that wasn’t even her first choice, which would’ve been still more grandiose. Before a denial of permit by the City of Austin, Gaga planned to emerge from a large vending machine-like stage, the Doritos-sponsored #BoldStage a few blocks south of where she ended up performing Thursday. Instead, Gaga got her own #BoldStage — because she’s fabulous — full of triangular framing screens and entrances, meant to mimic the shape of the iconic snack chip.
The ARTPOP pop artist was cheeky and fearless, her typical form. Her short setlist pulled mostly from Artpop, her latest: the snap-and-click “Manicure,” the EDM trap of “Jewels and Drugs” (with a surprise appearance by Twista, rapping his featured verse), a perfunctory performance of hit single “Applause” and encore finale “Gypsy,” a strong torch-song finish.