By Laura Hertzfeld
Updated December 20, 2019 at 02:47 AM EST
Gaga 2

The inaugural balls may have been the talk of Washington on Monday night, but it was Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Ball that brought the house down at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The pop diva/fashion icon/songstress put on a show that was closer to a Broadway revue than a rock concert, lasting nearly two and a half hours, complete with a goth sci-fi “storyline,” about a dozen costume changes, and a bevvy of tight-ab’ed, midriff-baring dancers.

While Gaga is still a force to be reckoned with – legions of devoted “little monsters” were dressed in all manner of Gaga-ness, from wigs in every color to sky-high heels – the show was not sold out, and the spectacle of Gaga wearing crazy costumes or preaching about LGBT rights, while admirable and fun to see, did not feel as shocking or momentous as it has on past tours. That said, she more than delivered on the promise of an over-the-top glitterfest.

Loosely organized around a story that has something to do with Gaga being an alien visitor from G.O.A.T. (Government Owned Alien Territory — or Greatest of All Time), a medieval castle, and a disembodied talking mask floating down from the rafters, the Born This Way Ball moves through nearly all of Gaga’s repertoire, from the tour’s title song and on through her radio hits and dance club numbers.

Entering in an outfit that looked like something from Alien vs. Predator and trailed by a human-made horse emerging from a castle with battalions of dancers, she kicked off the show with “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” and moved next to “Government Hooker” and then “Born This Way,” which began with Gaga birthing herself from a blow-up belly flanked by fishnet-clad inflatable legs.

It was about half an hour into the show before she addressed the crowd, declaring “I will be everything you love tonight and everything that you hate.” While looking out into the pit area, she picked out a Happy Birthday sign from the crowd and sang a Marilyn Monroe-esque rendition to a fan turning 21.

Scripted or not, it was a nice moment. Gaga’s connection with her fans was also clear later in the show, when in an ongoing promotion for Virgin Mobile to support LGBT youth homeless centers, she called a fan on his cellphone mid-show. The lucky fan was a gay man, who introduced Gaga to his fiancé and gave the singer an opportunity to embrace the cause of gay rights in a more personal, connected way.

Before jumping into “Telephone,” which was performed by Gaga and her dancers in leather-clad outfits and culminated with Gaga molesting a motorcycle with a “BTW” license plate, she talked about her history as a go-go dancer and her friends who put themselves through medical school by stripping. “I’m really just one of the highest paid strippers in the world, naturally!” she said.

A short (and vegetarian) version of the infamous meat dress made an appearance during “Poker Face,” when Gaga and her dancers put themselves headfirst into enormous meat grinders, kicking out in bright red heels.

The clothes overall were a highlight of the show; Gaga’s quick changes into elaborate costumes with headgear, massive shoes, and even a simple black bra and camo pants (she skipped the controversial machine-gun bra) set the scene for each number. Mid-show, a garment rack appeared in the upper floors of the castle, and it was incredible to glimpse outfits, from a Kermit-the-frog inspired jacket to a metal robot-like dress, up close.

The show mellowed as the night went on, with Gaga delivering a stripped down piano version of “Born this Way,” and returning again to the piano for “You and I.” The evening wrapped up with two encores, “Edge of Glory,” sung from the rafters of the castle, and “Marry the Night.”

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