Woh, I'm still in awe of the great time I had at the Born This Way Ball in Seoul on April 27, 2012! Here is a brief recap, with multiple links to tweets and pictures.
After a smooth 23+ hour travel via Chicago and Tokyo, I landed safely in Incheon, Seoul's great airport, in the evening of April 25. The following day, I gave a talk at the University of Seoul about Lady Gaga and the globalization of K-pop (video) in Dr. Seo's cultural changes class. In the afternoon, I had a closer look at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in preview of the concert.
On the day of the show, I went to the Monster Pit waiting line around 7:30am when there were about hundred monsters or so already ahead of me at a provisional spot. At 8:00 am we moved up to the actual Monster Pit waiting line and soon thereafter we were escorted to a place closer to the stadium entrance where we lined up in rows of four. The local staff and Gaga's security collaborated to keep everything in check, and the fans all got along really well. Korean monsters are simply awesome! I met so many wonderful people. It really made the long wait very enjoyable. Also, one lucky fan, Jean, got contacted by security that he could meet Gaga! He met her along with his three friends after the show and got the necklace.
Early in the afternoon, local security gave us wristbands for the age check (only in Seoul!) and for our GA standing tickets. Then we got the wristbands for Monster Pit at 4:00pm and were then escorted into the venue at around 5:30pm. It was such a thrilling feeling to first see the huge stage (at that point still covered) and to take our spots in the Monster Pit. I got to the front at stage left. I moved to the second row to be a bit more center and allow two fans with me to get closer as well. There's not one bad place in the Pit! Korean fans were so cool that we even could go for a quick bathroom break and come right back to our respective spots. Also, Terry Richardson at one point came out and took our picture.
German DJ Zedd started his set at 7:00pm and he got the crowd jumping! At that point, the seats in the stadium started filling up. But because of the age check, things went a little slow and the seats were still just half full a little before eight. By 8:15pm, fortunately, the stadium was filled to capacity with some 45,000 in attendance. It was an awesome sight!
The show itself... where do I start and how do they I best describe it. Having flown out to another continent and having waited so long and then getting a spot in the Monster Pit up front at the stage, everything was very intense, that's all I can say really. Gaga came out on a unicorn horse all in black and in a mask, with dancers in black clothing and GOAT flags. I was indeed speechless. The opening is grand, adequately setting the tone for the remainder of the show.
The full setlist is available, but here are a few of the highlights from my viewpoint. Highway Unicorn was a strong opener on the unicorn. Government Hooker was a spectacular presentation, followed by a more subdued Born This Way. There were no video interludes.Instead, short audio interludes, either taped music or the live band, provided useful breaks and transitions. The staging with the castle is done extremely well, using various lightings and rotating parts. Spectacular!
Several songs of BTW were executed in stellar fashion, especially Bloody Mary, a distinct visual stand-out. Bad Romance was especially meaningful to me because Gaga sang part of the song right in front of me, looking straight in my direction a few times, eerily reminiscent of when I attended the first ever Monster Ball in Montreal from the front row... Oh, dear. Speaking of which, Gaga followed Judas with Fashion of His Love. Once again, I must apologize for the silly mistake during my live tweeting. What can I say... It was all just too crazy! But Lady Gaga did not perform The Queen in Seoul. Both are songs I had not heard in some time or ever really, and then I tweeted a picture and, before I realized my error, the song was already over as it was just a short version. Apparently, my error even got The Queen trending on Twitter. Oh, dear.
The next set of songs featured several classic hits, followed by another great combo of BTW songs, featuring a stunning Heavy Metal Lover with Gaga as motorcyle, followed by a piano section. Electric Chapel saw Gaga on guitar along with Ricky and Tim. The entire band, by the way, was keeping it very tight, with, besides the two guitarists, Kern on bass, Brockett on keys, and Spanky on drums.
BTW songs Americano, with acoustic guitar intro by Ricky, and Scheisse were interjected with classic hits, among them Poker Face, Alejandro, and Paparazzi, the latter beginning with a hologram-type head along to the version of The Fame before Gaga took over on live vocals. Amen Fashion closed the set followed by the encores The Edge of Glory and Mary the Night. The latter, needless to say, was very special, especially because at some point Gaga came out to the runway and laid herself down to reach out for the fans. Because it was right next to where I was standing, I could reach over to her hand, thereby breaking off part of the nail of my middle finger... :) How amazing and appropriate at once!
This was surely one of the most memorable concert experiences I have had. I don't quite know what to say about the form of the show as the experience was so emotional. But the Born This Way Ball is distinctly more theatre rather than pop music show. The music is live sound from the band integrated with taped track, which fits the specific form. The color scheme is often two-toned (dark/light, purple/green) and sober. Gaga speaks much less than during the arena 2.0 version of the Monster Ball. She is more distant in some sense, though not standoffish, especially because she is often masked on an enormous stage. In this sense, the show shares more with the theatre 1.0 version of the Monster Ball, but now on a much larger scale and with a different story set to different music. It will be interesting to see if, as happened during the theatre 1.0 version of the MB, the colors and songs will brighten up as the tour progresses...
Until a next Born This Way Ball! Should you see me, do step and and say hi!
Click here for audio!
Go to the Seoul 2012 page for related posts, including pictures!