This year I will be spending Easter like I do most years: quiet, at home, coloring eggs with my family. That has been my tradition for almost every Easter. Except one. Easter 2011 was spent with my friend Maria and Lady Gaga.
Picture it. December 2010. In the midst of winter vacation, Maria calls me up. Or I call her. Either way, doesn’t matter. We decide to buy tickets to see Lady Gaga on the tail end of her Monster Ball tour. The only hitch: they are on Easter weekend. We buy them, vowing to figure it out later. When things start to get closer to the date of the show, I try figuring out how to pull this ordeal off. At this time I was attending Manhattan College, a Catholic school. But for some reason, being Catholic, they make you go home for Easter. MAKE. NO OPTION.
So I got kicked out of the dorm. But, of course, I can’t leave. The concert is in New York. My home-home is 200 miles away. So I hid in my dorm. For two days. It was actually kinda fun. I was living in a suite, so I had a bathroom and my bedroom closed off. I shut the blinds, kept the noise down. I’d sneak to the lounge to heat up some Easy Mac. I was a bonafide criminal.
When Maria came to NYC, I went to go meet her for dinner. We met at a place called Dinosaur BBQ, which is quite possibly the best restaurant in the world. Maria was decked out for Gaga. Her best accessory: a giant, glow-in-the-dark cardboard claw. It even had painted on nails. Dinner was impeccable, as it always is at Harlem’s amazing eatery. When we got back to campus, I somehow managed to get us into my dorm. I think I told some cockamamie story about Maria being my sister and her bus crashed and we desperately needed to stay the night. It worked.
We went up to my room and listened to Gaga all night, getting ready for the show. Her single “Judas” had just been released, and that track was on replay for much of our adventure.
(I just realized now that we went to Dinosaur BBQ on Good Friday, and I absolutely had meat. There’s no way to not have meat there. Whoops. I’ll have to add that to the list next time I go to confession. I also just realized that I haven’t been to confession in almost a year. But I digress…)
When I told my good friend Kate about our totally un-Easter like banishment from a Catholic campus, she told her dad and he very generously offered to take in two wandering Gaga vagabonds. So earlier in the day on Saturday, show day, we went to a Mets game with him and Kate’s sister, Sara. (To add another level of craziness to this weekend, Kate was actually in Atlantic City with her boyfriend, so Maria and I weren’t squatting with her; we were squatting with her family!)
Maria, of course, brought the claw to the game. Every time the Mets got a hit, a giant yellow Gaga-paw cheered them on. After the game, Kate’s dad accidentally snapped the claw in half when he was closing a car door. But no worries. That claw had travelled hundreds of miles. It would prevail, thanks to some masking tape.
Finally, it was showtime. We made our way to Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum on Long Island. While we were outside, representatives from the Human Rights Campaign were collecting signatures in an effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. Getting signatures at a Lady Gaga concert? Well played, gays. Of course, we signed the petition and soon after, thanks in part to lobbying from Mother Monster herself, equality prevailed in New York State. I am very proud to have played a small part in that historic initiative.
Once we got inside, it was a madhouse. Tens of thousands of little monsters filled the stadium. The opening act, Semi Precious Weapons, were pretty good, although I don’t think I can print any of their lyrics, in case any minors are reading this.
After days of peradventure, near-disaster, exile, and redemption, it was time. Lady Gaga FINALLY came out on stage, singing “Dance in the Dark.” She was spectacular. Up next was “Glitter and Grease,” and then the first showstopper of the night– she played the opening synth riff to “Just Dance” on a keyboard that was under the hood of a car that had teeth. Yes.
This was followed by “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,” “The Fame,” and then “Lovegame,” which of course included a giant disco stick prop that lit up and did all sorts of bizarre yet awesome things. “Boys Boys Boys” followed, along with “Money Honey” and “Telephone,” where she called a random fan in the crowd who proceded to sob profusely. Then it slowed down. Gaga sat down at a piano to play a beautiful ballad version of “Born This Way,” which had just concluded it’s run of six weeks at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100. Right away she went into “You and I,” a then-unreleased track, which was also simple and piano-driven.
After her 653rd costume change, she roared into a trio of harder hits: “Monster,” “Teeth,” and “Alejandro,” before closing out the show with the smashes “Poker Face,” “Paparazzi,” “Bad Romance,” and a full on dancepop reprise of “Born This Way.” The music for “Judas” started, but she just sang along to it and danced away…
During the show, Gaga spoke (and shouted) a lot about her usual causes: self love, respect, confidence, equality. But I was really struck by how much she talked about Jesus. At least two or three times throughout the show, she shouted “Jesus loves everybody” to thunderous applause. At one point, she told a provocative story along these lines: she introduced one of her dancers. ‘This is Jimmy. He’s a Long Island boy. He loves Long Island girls. And Long Island boys. [HUGE CHEERS] So Jimmy’s just like Jesus. Because he loves [DRAMATIC PAUSE] EVERYBODY!’
At one point, she said something that struck me so much, that I found a YouTube video and wrote down what she said, word for word:
“I’m confused. You know people say, Jesus, that you only love a certain kind of person, or a certain kind of beliefs or background or sexual orientation but when they told me about you at school they told me that you loved people. They told me that you saved people, the people that needed you the most. So I’m quite certain that as I bleed to death in front of 20,000 people, every night when the Haus of Gaga is talkin’ about about love and unity I’m quite certain that Jesus must love everybody. He didn’t close doors. Jesus loves everybody.”
In today’s world where somehow Jesus’ name is used to spread more hate than love, it was refreshing to see somebody who was actually paying attention to what the message was really about. Acceptance. Not judging. Real crazy, radical stuff!
So that’s that. Lady Gaga. 4/23/11. After the show we waited outside for about two hours in a futile attempt to see Gaga. We did, however, meet her guitarist, who- no joke- was named Jesus. He was very nice, and signed our tickets.
Two years later, we were supposed to see Gaga again, but she had to cancel her tour due to health issues. Here’s to a speedy recovery for Mother Monster, so we can have more bizarre adventures.
Oh, one last thing. After the concert, Maria gave the claw to Gaga’s wardrobe designer, who said she would give it to Gaga. Hashtag winning.
UPDATE: Check out a few pictures from Gaga’s show in March, 2014 here.