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Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga can draw a crowd

Posted 8:53am on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010

DALLAS -- You either buy into Lady Gaga or you don't.

Those who embrace her consider the pop superstar to be a kind of 21st-century Madonna, a fashion-forward diva who knows her way around a pop hook.

Those who dismiss her look down their noses, writing off the woman formerly known as Stefani Germanotta as little more than a low-rent recycler. (Which, of course, ignores the obvious truth: Pop music is built on reusing that which came before.)

The sold-out crowd at American Airlines Center on Thursday night was obviously in the former camp. It was the first of two nights of her wildly successful "Monster Ball" tour, a Dionysian spectacle fairly reeking of cash and daring.

But there was something else in the air as well: empowerment.

Whole chunks of the roughly 90-minute set were given over to Lady Gaga's self-help pronouncements. "I didn't used to be brave," began one such stemwinder. "But you helped me be brave."

When she wasn't doing her Up with People shtick, Lady Gaga was delivering a highly theatrical performance that owes a hefty debt to The Wizard of Oz -- and maybe fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier.

Athletic, lascivious and relentless, the "Monster Ball" either delighted you or broke down your defenses. Certainly, the crowd's electrified reaction to such hits as LoveGame, Telephone and Alejandro proved infectious. Whatever your opinion of her, the simple fact that Lady Gaga sang live is commendable in an age of taking it easy and letting computers do the heavy lifting.

Lady Gaga is, for now, the reigning queen of pop music. Will she sustain her current level of visibility?

Based on the audience's borderline apathy toward a new tune, You and I (performed, naturally, at a flaming grand piano), she might want to make the most of her moment.

UPDATE: For further thoughts on last night's show, click here.

Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram pop music critic, 817-390-7713

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