By Leah Greenblatt
Updated July 16, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

An outrageous blonde with Italian-American roots, a liberation-through-dance-pop message, and a lithe cadre of ambisexual backup dancers: Haven’t we lived this pop culture moment before? In many ways, yes. But as the second night of the Monster Ball tour’s three-date run at Madison Square Garden progresses and Lady Gaga tears through two-plus hours of chaotic, breathless bedazzlement, it becomes clear that the Material Girl’s DNA is just one of many strands. The Lady — 24 years old, with approximately one and a half albums to her name — contains multitudes.

Show opener ”Dance in the Dark,” from 2009’s eight-song EP The Fame Monster, does have a whiff of vintage Madge, with its dance-floor commands and ”Vogue”-style celebrity roll call, and bits of Gaga’s downtown-girl-made-good stage patter echo Ms. Ciccone’s early days. But her surprisingly rich musicianship sets her apart: At various points, the singer plays stand-up bass, piano, and a hip-slung keytar with both giddy abandon and technical dexterity. She belts, purrs, and sustains stadium-filling high notes, seemingly without any significant digital assist — and often while prone on her piano’s lid, dangling from a hydraulic lift, or flung precariously over some whirling dancer’s sweat-slicked shoulders. To be fair, the dancing’s not much; the choreography, and several of the show’s more ramshackle set pieces, comes off a bit art-school amateur in the grand confines of the Garden. Clotheswise, though, Gaga’s wardrobe cabal spares no expense, kitting her in both standard sexy-Halloween gear (Bond-girl vixen, naughty nun) and gonzo getups best described as, variously, Fiber Optic Snowflake, Vinyl Wonton, and Stalagmite Death Star. Constant costume changes inevitably hinder the show’s swift momentum, but these are quibbles. At her best, she’s fantastic, multi- faceted fun — a screwball vamp on the strutting ”Vanity” and ”Money Honey”; a full-blown diva on ”Alejandro” and ”Bad Romance”; a figure of commanding, Elton-esque gravitas on the baby-grand ballads ”Speechless” and unreleased ”You and I.” Also, apparently, a self-esteem guru in stage blood and fishnets, she has nothing but praise and affection for the fans she calls ”little monsters,” peppering the crowd with goofy anecdotes and ”you are all stars” exhortations throughout. That may be true. But on this night, they’re happy to bask in her light alone. A-

Here’s a look at her complete July 7 show, along with our thoughts on some highlights.
Madison Square Garden, New York City 7.7.2010

Dance in the Dark
Glitter & Grease
Just Dance Gaga introduced her first No. 1 with a question: ”Are you guys ready to party? Because I’ve been waiting my whole life to throw this party.”
Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
The Fame
Lovegame One of the New York City native’s many nods to her hometown: a freestanding — though oddly clean — subway car.
Boys, Boys, Boys
Money Honey
You and I The magic of YouTube helped turn this unreleased ballad into a full-stadium sing-along.
So Happy I Could Die
Monster Bloody hell! This beast arrived with a sternum splash of red plasma; multiple costume changes later, a telltale smear still lingered.
Poker Face
Bad Romance A single-song encore called for one last ”Bad” bang — and ”Romance” brought the evening to a triumphant close.