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    RETROSPECTIVE: A Year Since Lady Gaga's artRAVE

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    A year ago today, Lady Gaga kicked off her $83 million grossing artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball Tour, in support of her fourth studio release. Spanning 79 dates - 38 of which in North America alone - it saw the performer bring her huge staple hits like Poker Face and Bad Romance, as well as new material from the album ARTPOP, to over 920,000 fans across the globe, in 4 major continents.

    Touring has always been Gaga's forte, since The Fame Ball club tour in 2009 huge crowds have been flocking to see her, and arenas, stadiums, theatres and clubs selling out minutes after going on sale. Despite this, artRAVE was my first encounter with her shows; I have been a fan since November 2011 and couldn't get tickets for The Born This Way Ball (I live in the south of England and would have attended Twickenham). As everyone else, my excitement for artRAVE was huge, and I followed with great excitement the behind-the-scenes updates and information in the weeks leading up to the show. This included the incredible first promotional still released from the tourbook/interludes (as seen below, and shot by the incredibly talented Ruth Hogben), as well as Gaga's regular LittleMonsters.com, Instagram and Twitter updates, and even the news that she was to undergo urgent surgery to remove her wisdom teeth, a mere 2 and a half weeks before the world tour began.
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    CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS

    The tour itself opens with an incredible interlude, with Gaga's robotic voice gleefully proclaiming 'Welcome to the artRAVE', with the dancers creating otherworldly shapes in unconventional and clashing costumes, a light show to rival the Ministry of Sound raves and giant colourful inflatables - all creating the perfect mood for a night that worships creativity, pop music, Greek gods, and us ourselves. From this moment it is clear that the attention to detail for this tour in particular is incredible, particularly in terms of the audio production and visual interludes behind the show. All at once the band begins playing the familiar sound of the title track from ARTPOP, with the huge electric guitar chords hitting the audience in the chest, as Gaga rises from underneath the stage as a golden phoenix. A metaphorical rebirth from a broken era, that is finally being appreciated by the masses and celebrated each night as it deserves.
    As always, a huge part of the reason the artRAVE was so special was the couture Gaga sported whilst performing. The inflatable octopus outfit in particular is a very striking costume, alluding to Gaga becoming the Fame Monster we saw trying to devour her during the climactic moments of 2010/11's The Monster Ball. Dayne Henderson, 26, a fashion graduate from the UK, designed the chilling piece, which Brandon Maxwell (Gaga's stylist, as seen in March's The Hollywood Reporter) saw via Twitter. Henderson told BBC's Newsbeat last May:

    "I sent the tweet around April Fools Day so when they got back in touch I thought, 'This has to be a joke.'

    "It was just nuts. I don't think I believed it until I saw her wearing the gear."

     

    Other fan favourite's from the show include the opening and closing outfits, both designed by Atelier Versace with Jeff Koons also aiding in the opening garment with his Koons Ball, and the "raver girl" outfit for the penultimate act. We again see Seashell Girl's seashell bikini for Venus, a staple from the ARTPOP era and arguably the most recognisable imagery from the campaign.

    My artRAVE experience was incredible: I was third row to the right of center stage, in close proximity to both the main stage itself and the first catwalk - although whether seated, standing, sober, intoxicated, tall, short, to the front or back of the crowd, I don't think there are many people that attended The ARTPOP Ball that can say they didn't have the night of their lives, and leave loving themselves just a little more. Next to me at my artRAVE was a wonderful woman named Malene, who had battled cancer and won. When the time came, she threw her letter onstage - and Gaga picked it up. Seeing her glee at finally finding recognition from her idol, as well as overcoming her unspeakable struggles to reach that moment of unadulterated happiness made the night, and hearing Gaga sing the lyric 'you were born to survive' while a true survivor was sat beside her gave the song a new meaning entirely.

    Throughout the tour there were many moments that will be remembered by many forever - both personal, like Malene's, and by the fanbase as a whole. This includes the premiere of Partynauseous, the unreleased Kendrick Lamar collaboration from 2012, Gaga's only performance of Brooklyn Nights, the leaked ARTPOP outtake that almost replaced Mary Jane Holland on the tracklist back in 2013, and of course the release of her #1 collaborative jazz studio album, Cheek to Cheek, with Tony Bennett - who joined her in Tel Aviv to perform I Can't Give You Anything But Love from the set. She also added Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) to the setlist following the release of the album. Rapper T.I. joined Gaga onstage at Madison Square Garden (situated inside the United States, so he didn't have to cross any borders, lucky thing) to perform his verse from Jewels N' Drugs. Additionally, an old fan feud was re-ignited when Gaga accidentally Instagrammed a picture of 2011's Quebec Music Festival instead of the artRAVE's stop there. Correcting herself, she tweeted:

    @ohnotheydidnt here's a proper pic. Maybe the Madonna fans on your site can use a microscope to count the fans pic.twitter.com/y9BWdn2et5

    — Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) July 5, 2014

    Never known to do things by halves, Gaga announced last November that for the final artRAVE in Paris on the 24th, Yahoo would livestream the show as part of their concert series, including the opening acts - Breedlove and Lady Starlight - and behind-the-scenes clips of Gaga getting prepared for the show, as well as changing throughout the night, revealing intimate moments about the concert that were until that point unseen. Fans across the globe watched in awe as Gaga bid farewell to ARTPOP and the artRAVE with a huge celebration, giving her all to the music and the fans one last time before saying goodbye. In a poignant and unexpected moment, the Parisian monsters had arranged on Twitter to release balloons as Gaga entered the stage for the final time for the encore Gypsy, holding up signs saying 'Thanks Gaga for this Fucking artRAVE' and chanting "All we hear is Radio Ga Ga, radio goo goo, Radio Ga Ga," the hook from the famous Queen song that allegedly birthed her name. As she began singing, she explained 'when this song is over, the clock will start ticking until the next time.' And I don't know about anyone else, but I can't wait for her to be in front of us again performing brand new material and dancing her ass off once more.

    A year later, regardless of your opinion on ARTPOP as an album, the era, or the message, there is no denying that if you attended (or even danced alone in your room to the livestream) it was a huge celebration of self, others, and art in a way that no other Gaga tour - or tour full stop - ever has been. More than anything, it was a celebration of duality - art and pop, music and fashion, dance and party - but most importantly of all, us and Gaga. We finished the era as we began when she played ARTPOP from her car in August 2012: belonging together. 

    Watch the final ever artRAVE, livestreamed courtesy of Yahoo, below.

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