“Tonight we will celebrate our mutual love and admiration for one another,” declares Lady Gaga at the beginning of her latest pop extravaganza, claiming she derives as much excitement from watching the audience - still her ‘little monsters’ - as they do from attending one of her gigs.
But then she also adds: “For those who have come to hear the hits, we will play a few - but this is about celebrating the one and only Artpop.” Cue some concerned murmuring from the crowd.
The Artpop to which Gaga refers is the 2013 album which - while a decent seller, and offering her usual, souped-up blend of dance, pop and rock- didn’t shift copies to the same degree as her previous three LPs. However, there really wasn’t any cause to worry, as the hits were all present in varying degrees.
The tour was billed as the ‘Artrave’, complete with a set boasting sprawling translucent walkways which allowed Gaga and her 14-strong horde of dancers to roam around the arena floor.
This also gave the audience a chance to get closer to the star herself.
Some of the wilder - and expensive - excesses of earlier shows have been toned down, but Gaga still donned a host of offbeat costumes throughout the night.
The opening sequence began with Artpop’s title track - during which colourful, helium-filled inflatable balls were launched into the air - and saw giant fake flowers blooming through trapdoors in the stage during Venus. Gaga then indulged in a little nostalgia, combining Just Dance, Poker Face, Telephone and Paparazzi in a frenetic medley, before being hoisted aloft in a large hand-shaped silver chair for Do What U Want. She took to the piano for a solo Dope - pausing for an anecdote about being under the influence as a maid of honour at a friend’s wedding - and invited a fan, who shared a moving story about their troubled upbringing, to join her during Born This Way.
The closing two Artpop tracks, which followed a joyously-received, harajuku-themed Bad Romance, made clear that Gaga’s agenda-setting imperial phase is over - but she remains a breed apart from most arena-sized fare.