Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 10 , 2018, 12:46 pm | Mostly Cloudy 63º


Jeff Moehlis: Lady Gaga’s Birthday Ball

Los Angeles crowd goes gaga for the pop diva on her 25th birthday

Before Lady Gaga’s performance Monday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on the occasion of her 25th birthday, her father warned her that people were going to throw gifts on the stage, and to “be careful what you put in your mouth.”

Indeed, the yellow-haired Lady Gaga was showered with presents thrown to her by her fans, a display of affection that seemed to truly touch the artist, who is arguably the world’s biggest pop star.

But her favorite birthday present — from her wardrobe staff — was a pair of red ruby slippers that Judy Garland had worn during the filming of The Wizard of Oz. This gift, which she brought onstage and at one point was used to play the piano, was particularly meaningful to Lady Gaga. She revealed that she had wanted to play Dorothy in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, but lost out to an older girl who had rubbed it in by pointing out that she used Coca-Cola on her ruby slippers to keep from slipping.

In retrospect, maybe that stage just wasn’t big enough for her. Like Dorothy, Lady Gaga is now the star of the show, but she also has brains that would make the Scarecrow proud — she’s a marketing genius, plus she can write some pretty darn catchy music; the bravery that the Cowardly Lion craved — she is seemingly fearless in her fashion and antics; and the heart sought by the Tin Man — in her advocacy of gay rights and anti-bullying campaign, and her rather sizable donations to charity.

The stop in Los Angeles was part of Lady Gaga’s worldwide Monster Ball Tour, which, keeping with a theme, she described as a “punk-rock version of The Wizard of Oz.” It is loosely based on the story of Lady Gaga and a group of friends getting lost while trying to reach the Monster Ball, but this narrative wasn’t essential to the show.

From start to finish, Lady Gaga delivered a thrilling night of song and spectacle, with outrageous costumes worn onstage and by the audience.

Of course, in addition to song and spectacle, there was shock. At one point she wore a headpiece that resembled a nun’s habit and a see-through outfit with white tape crossed over her nipples. Later, a dancer from Germany, hovering suggestively over Lady Gaga, was introduced with “Michael loves California girls, and Michael loves California boys. Like Jesus, Michael loves everybody.” But let’s admit it: If Lady Gaga didn’t do anything shocking, we would probably be disappointed.

Her hits were scattered throughout the show. Early on, “Just Dance” exploded with energy, with a kaleidoscopic projection behind the dancers, adding a trippiness factor. This was also Lady Gaga’s first foray onto the part of stage that extended out into the audience. A bit later, “LoveGame” was a joyous collective ride on the “disco stick.”


Before singing her hit “Telephone,” originally recorded with Beyoncé, a 19-year-old fan got the thrill of his life — he got a phone call from the onstage Lady Gaga and was christened Ambassador to the Monster Ball. This fan, with poise beyond his years, had earlier been sitting a few rows behind me, and was overwhelmed when he found out right before the show that he had been chosen for this role, something he told Lady Gaga that he had prayed for the night before. You just had to feel good for this kid.

After this song, she gave spirited piano renditions of her current No. 1 hit, “Born This Way,” and the newish song “You and I.” Oh, did I mention that for the latter song the piano was on fire?

Her main set ended with hits “Alejandro,” “Poker Face” and “Paparazzi,” during which a huge Fame Monster with glowing eyes and mouth grooved along, with Lady Gaga donning a sparkler bra. For the encore, Lady Gaga turned the Staples Center into the world’s coolest club with the “Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah / Roma, roma, ma / Gaga, ooh, la, la” of “Bad Romance” and the empowering “Born This Way.”

It is somewhat hard to believe, but Lady Gaga has topped her fabulous Andy Warhol-inspired Fame Ball Tour, which I was fortunate to catch at L’Olympia in Paris in July 2009. At the Monster Ball she is able to draw upon a greater wealth of material, and there seems to be no limit to the realization of her artistic vision. But I did miss the plastic bubble dress that she wore at the Paris show.

Exhausted after giving it her all for two hours — with no lip-synching or other corner-cutting — Lady Gaga was touched when her supporting cast brought out a cake and led the 20,000 “little monsters” in singing “Happy Birthday,” while “Happy Birthday Gaga!” scrolled around the electric lights of the venue.

Thanks to Lady Gaga for sharing her birthday with us. I’ll give her the final word: “Good night, be yourself and love who you are.”

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >