Not many pop stars could compel me to wake up at 5 am for a Today show concert, but Lady Gaga is one. This morning Her Ladyship performed at Rockefeller Plaza as part of the “Toyota Concert Series on Today,” and needless to say, she rocked the Rock. I was far from the only one who wanted a little Gaga with my morning coffee, though. The courtyard outside of Today’s Studio 1A was crawling with Little Monsters—paws up, clenched, and suffering from serious “Bad Romance” cat-scratch-dance fever. As Gaga herself acknowledged on Twitter, some of her fans even camped out as much as 12 hours before the show, jockeying for the best possible vantage point for an eye-popping view of their idol in all her spandex-and-sequins glory. Ann Curry reported that the largest crowd ever for a Today show concert—20,000 screaming fans—had assembled in Rockefeller Plaza, breaking the previous record held by Justin Bieber.
Many young Gagaphiles sported the lighting-bolt face paint from the “Just Dance” video. Others donned her sequined mask and stylish swimming cap from the beginning of the “Poker Face” vid, when Gaga emerges from a pool of water not so much as Botticelli’s Venus as the Creature from the Black Lagoon. One male Little Monster showed off his very own homemade cigarette glasses—and gave them to Meredith Vieira for her to model. Another dude came bedecked in Gaga’s Tholian crystal outfit and headpiece she wore at the Grammys in February.
I attended Gaga’s Monster Ball concert for the first time at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night and, as always, admired the level of passion and intensity she brought to otherwise mostly shallow pop songs. Her commitment to pure artifice is truly inspiring and challenges our tired conceptions of “depth” and “superficiality” more than any other artist of her generation. But I’ll confess I felt some trepidation as her Today concert started.
First of all, and most obviously, Gaga’s never particularly struck me as a morning person. Secondly, the Today show would require her to contain her excesses within the family-friendly parameters of daytime television. She wouldn’t be devoured onstage by a giant anglerfish, or sprawl herself out on her piano’s keyboard and gracefully pound the ivories over and over with her buttocks. When she’s performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show or The Oprah Winfrey Show–and she doesn’t wear the arch-camp persona she assumes in her Monster Ball concerts–she can lay on sappy clichés like “I love my fans so much” as thick as poisoned honey poured over greasy diner food.
When interviewed by Meredith and Ann, Gaga repeated some of these platitudes, but my fears were mostly groundless. Flaunting her Broadway-caliber pipes, she started in right before 8:30 with a passionate rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” followed immediately by “Bad Romance.” During the commercial break, she continued to consult with her musicians, telling her pianist, Joe, he should have left “a little more space” in his accompaniment between the verses of “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Then the heavens opened up. As if it wasn’t enough that Gaga already commanded the crowd, apparently she could summon the weather, as well, because the rain only seemed to enhance her performances of “You and I,” “Alejandro,” and “Teeth”:
It’s hard to believe how far Gaga has come in the 19 months since she first appeared on Today as a fourth-hour guest brought on to give Kathie Lee and Hoda a hilariously awkward dance lesson. From high school outsider to global superstar, Gaga’s career is itself the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy—to the point that her audience almost becomes part of her act. During her Monster Ball concerts she talks about how she used to be where all the rest of us are—in the crowd, screaming for her (and our) favorite popstars.
Apparently, she once even camped outside MTV’s Times Square studio to catch a glimpse of Britney Spears performing on TRL. That Gaga has taken such pains to narrativize her journey from obscurity to fame in a way democratizes the experience of being famous. As one fan sporting Diet Coke cans in her hair told me after the show today, “When I see her perform, I feel like a superstar too.” Lady Gaga has not merely captured the hearts of her fans, but like the hungry beast of her song “Monster,” she’s devoured them.
More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Lady Gaga preps ‘Remix’ album for US release