Lady Gaga put on one hell of a show on Friday night at Rajamangala Stadium, to the delight of 50,000 screaming Little Monsters.
The production of the biggest concert ever in Thailand was super tight, the sound was solid (even in our seats in literally the last row of the massive stadium), and, most importantly, Lady Gaga sang beautifully.
While performing a stripped down version of “Hair,” Gaga wore a traditional Thai Chada headdress (given to her by the leader of the Shade of Gaga fan club) and sat on a modified motorcycle with a keyboard installed in the handlebars. It's a bit surreal to see a 26-year-old young woman in an outfit that looks more fitting for sadomasochism play a perfect piano sonata and fill a massive arena with her voice, but that is what we witnessed on Friday night.
During that number, a highlight of the night, she addressed some of the controversy that has dogged her tour. “You know, the past few places that I've been to, there's been a lot of protesting. And coming to Thailand has been the first country in a few shows that has really been excited and embraced me. So thank you so much to all 50 or 60 thousand of you for believing in what I stand for,” she said, seemingly crying as the crowd erupted into cheers. She probably wasn't aware that she was causing more controversy by wearing the Chada headdress as some netizens called it an affront to Thai culture, but that didn't really matter.
Indeed, the always controversial Gaga had managed to avoid major criticism in Thailand for a while – unlike in the Philippines, where Catholics protested against her sex-charged show, and in Indonesia, where fundamentalist Muslims threatened violence if she performed (she just canceled her June 3 date in Jakarta.) But soon after she landed in her private 747 on Wednesday night at Don Muang, she ruffled some Thai feathers by sending out a tweet to her 24 million followers that said, “I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex.” Some weren't happy that she chose to mention Bangkok's pirated goods industry and a possible reference to prostitution. But ultimately that didn't really matter either.
What mattered is that she rocked the socks off of every attendee at Rajamangala.
I am a grown-ass 28-year-old straight man, but I joined the legions of Little Monsters on Friday night and I am not ashamed. To all the naysayers and haters out there – and there have been many, especially on Twitter – I would respectfully say that Lady Gaga pretty much blew your chatter out of the water.
During dance-y numbers like “Alejandro” and “Poker Face” everyone in the place shook their tailfeathers, while during the aforementioned “Hair” fans sat down, enthralled by the music.
One of the many peaks of the night was the performance of “Born This Way” which featured a massive sculpture of a woman giving birth and lots of moaning and groaning from Gaga in the lead up to the song. When the song finally did kick into action, Rajamangala erupted.
During “Hair” Lady Gaga talked about visiting a ladyboy cabaret show the night before and then screamed out, “my love for the LGBT community here in Bangkok is this fucking big!”
Indeed her message of self esteem no matter who you are resonates bigtime with the LGBT community everywhere, and especially in Bangkok. A fan on the Coconuts Bangkok Facebook page commenting about the show summed it up succinctly: “All the huge population of GLBT and drag queens in Bangkok will block all protesters for u, so no worries Gaga.”
“Thank you on behalf of the LGBT community all over the world, all of the drag queens and the ladyboys all over the world, thank you for showing us how it's done Bangkok,” Gaga added later in the performance.
We now know why three 747s and 20 shipping containers were needed to transport everything for the performance, as the size of the production rivaled a Superbowl halftime show. The stage featured a huge haunted castle with lots of moving parts and Gaga changed outfits for nearly every song. Memorable costumes included an Aliens-esque get-up that obscured her face, an all-white outfit with a ram-horn headpiece, and the leather and chains of her S&M leotard. Nearly every step Gaga made was echoed by dozens of back-up dancers wilding out in their own crazy get-ups and at least some of the music was made by real people playing instruments. As far as we could tell there was no lip-synching by Gaga and she even hit a wrong note on the piano at one point. But that didn't matter either.
Getting to the show was a massive test of will and was not nearly as fun as being there, as the Airport Rail Link was absolutely rammed. We ended up taking the train backwards from packed Makkasan station and pushing our way on at Ratchaprarop. Once we arrived at Hua Mak Station, the line to get on free busses transporting folks to Rajamangala was at least 45 minutes. Just getting out of the station parking lot took 20 minutes and the whole ride to the stadium probably totaled another 45 minutes.
The organization at Rajamangala however was first-rate and once we arrived everything went smoothly. Organizers BEC-TERO deserve plaudits for putting on such a huge event without the hiccups common at Bangkok concerts. Entering the show was easy and so was finding our seats. Walking up countless steps to our seats wasn't so easy on the other hand, but hey, I needed the exercise.
And once we were in our seats it was all about the music. After performing for over two hours, Lady Gaga closed out the show with an encore version of “Marry the Night,” a motivational dance number off her “Born This Way” album. Then the lights came on and everyone went home – transformed into Little Monsters if they weren't already – and having witnessed what was Thailand's biggest and, many will argue, best concert ever.