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Lady Gaga at United Center | Concert preview

The pop icon’s Born This Way Ball tour kicks up the campiness.

Photograph: Mariano Vivanco
Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga doesn’t do things by halves. Whether she’s wrapped in a dress fashioned from raw beef, using Diet Coke cans as hair rollers or arriving at the Grammys encased in a giant egg, the “Poker Face” hit maker has built her mega brand on raised eyebrows and ruffled feathers. So when it comes to Stefani Germanotta’s 115-date world tour in support of her 2011 album, Born This Way, we expect the freaky, sassy, salty-mouthed songstress to deliver radical performance art on an epic scale.

The “Born This Way Ball” kicks Gaga’s visual thrills up to 11. The self-dubbed Mother Monster, whose Twitter profile describes her M.O. as “when pop sucks the tits of art,” starts the show by clambering out of an enormous inflatable vagina before feeding herself into a meat grinder and shooting sparks from her bra in front of a 50-foot medieval castle. Hey, it’s just another day at the office.

The 26-year-old pop maverick and her creative team, headed by legendary art director Marla Weinhoff and stage director Richy Jackson, have conjured a campy, gothic spectacle that gives fans bang for their buck. Although Madonna’s younger rival is often accused of putting style before substance, she offers lashings of pure pop theater at its most entertaining. Even for those who deem Gaga more kitsch than cutting-edge, the “Born This Way Ball” is a worldwide victory lap for a diva at the top of her game.

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