The four piece band originates from New York, same as Gaga. While just seeing guitarist Stevy Pyne, bassist Cole Whittle and drummer Dan Crean one would think this is just another dirty grunge rock band that lucked out of playing the dingy dive bars from whence they came. That is, until you set eyes on Justin Tranter the lead singer of SPW. A few words to briefly describe him would be fabulously fierce and undeniably energetic. With an energy through the roof and a fashion sense that blends the best of David Bowie and Tina Turner’s gorgeous legs Justin puts on a sweaty, filthy show that your eyes won’t let you look away from and the grin on your face only gets wider.
Describing themselves as a filthy party band that split the difference between AC/DC and Queen, the members met while attending the Berklee School of Music, of where Justin received a degree in songwriting. He also explains that a few years ago, Lady Gaga used to open for SPW in New York to a crowd of twelve people. He then thanked us, “for being more than twelve fucking people” and continued his antics on stage.
I can honestly say that I have never seen someone, and especially not a man, engage in a wardrobe change onstage that included pulling off his fish net stockings and giving us a show of everything but one spot on his body. He then apologized to all the moms out there for having sexier legs than they do, which was a perfect transition in their hit song, “Semi Precious Weapons” in which he sings, “I can’t pay my rent but I’m fucking gorgeous.”
SPW is the epitome of rock star, a title that seems to be slowly dying. Even though the band have only been performing for a handful of years, Justin has always known he was a rock star and seems to emote a Hollywood style that Hollywood can’t even keep up with. With his thick black eyeliner and custom made Stuart Weitzman heels, he stands for applause and even asks the crowd to get louder. Even going so far as to make sure that the audience has a little champagne in their system, courtesy of Justin. Simply a fantastic opening act for Lady Gaga and I’m sure they will be headlining their own tour some time. I will definitely be picking up their music. For their latest album, You Love You go to http://www.semipreciousweapons.com/
Not to switch gears too much, but most came to enjoy some Gaga action. After Semi Precious Weapons got the crowd all wet with anticipation, the curtain rose up to show a shielded stage with a shadow of Lady Gaga standing on a fire escape type of staircase with her enormous shoulder pads giving her identity away. The shadowy figure stood very still taking in all the screams and applause and only building more anticipation when she would very subtlety move a hand or a leg and the crowd would go wild. Those who have said that this “Justin Bieber” character could be the next Michael Jackson have it dead wrong. Lady Gaga is Michael Jackson, Madonna and Elton John all wrapped into one. I also see a part of Cher and Bette Midler in her performances. Heck, let’s just throw in a bit of Oprah too for her storytelling abilities.
Once the curtain did rise completely we are drawn into a New York world and a story unfolds in front of us. Gaga and her friends are on their way to the Monster Ball and their neon green car breaks down. As Gaga comes down to work on the car, she opens the hood of the car to find a piano keyboard inserted inside and she plays us into the next song with her back to the audience and one leg hoisted up on the bumper of the car.
Let’s just talk about the fabulous, way too risque for life outside of an arena, high fashion clothing items she chose for the show. After coming out in her signature huge shoulder padded jacket with her long legs only covered in fish net, she dropped the coat and went through a couple of songs only in a tiny leopard-print leotard. She also donned a vampire-esque red cape that covered her from head to toe and had shoulder extensions of about two feet on each shoulder. She added a red face-covering mask/hat and then stroked away at a cello of some kind. She came out in one stunning white dress that was mechanically opening and closing at the legs and had a matching peacock-like headdress that opened and closed as she stood as still as a mannequin and sang a song. Just to name one more outfit that really impressed me, she appeared for one song with what had to be part table and part mop on her head making her look like one of the Wild Things from Where The Wild Things Are or a character out of a Roald Dahl story. All of the outfits were outstanding and seemed to out do the previous one. Who are we kidding, she is such a fashionista that she can make the cold war sexy. I didn’t even mention the sparkler bra and pantie set that she ended the show with.
One downside to all the outfits is the downtime between songs and set designs. However, the curtain covering the stage during the set changes were just as bizarre as the show. Most of the shots projected on the curtain were of Gaga in slow motion. One had Gaga posing and a young lady vomiting neon green fluid all over Gaga’s white dress, another was Gaga wearing gag masks and using the tiny mouth hole for smoking a cigarette or just sucking on two of her fingers.
When the curtain did rise each time, the set changed in order to move her story forward. The story of the Gaga group trying to make it to the Monster Ball. They took the subway, they walked through a forest that she called the darkest part of Central Park to finally end up in front of the Fame Monster, which lead into her Paparazzi song while she tried to defeat the huge anglerfish that had the tentacles of an octopus. It was fantastic.
She played all the hits from “Poker Face”, “Paparazzi”, “Telephone”, “Just Dance”, “Lovegame”, and her newest release “Alejandro” plus many more. However, I think my favorite performance of the night had to be “Teeth”. The song is so full of passion and she really gets to belt out the notes, but on top of that, she symbolizes that her heart has been torn out by drenching herself in blood and jumping out of the floor of the stage just after defeating that Fame Monster. She performs a lot of this song while lying on the ground and it was a pretty raw and powerful performance.
We finally make it to the Monster Ball, which is very glittery and shiny. All the dancers have changed from very dark clothing and dark makeup to ethereal white and silver and she closes out the set with “Bad Romance” which had the entire arena jumping like the largest rave you have ever been to.
I didn’t really know what to expect from Lady Gaga, but whatever it was, she went above and beyond it. I would gladly go to another show of hers just for the shock value. I have to give props to all the dancers in her show for really going all out in equally crazy clothing and back-bending dance moves throughout the night. It’s really amazing to think that Gaga and all of her dancers strut out on stage night after night in 8 inch heels and dance like there is no tomorrow. From the moments that Gaga was speaking to the crowd I really got a sense of how humble she really is. She donates a lot of time, money and effort to support the gay community that have been forced to become homeless because of the families that don’t understand them. It was really uplifting to hear her say that, “all the freaks have been locked out of the arena and we can be who we really are in here.”
Everyone has seen a music video or two of hers before, and her shows are those videos coming to life. I would encourage everyone of any age, race or creed to seek out one of her shows if possible. Even though, I wished there had been less down time between sets and songs, it’s a small price to pay to be wowed over and over again for two hours.
I give The Monster Ball Tour 5 “Fame Monsters” out of 5.
by Angela Davis
SPW photos by Ryan Davis