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OK, Lady Gaga. You have our attention.

At EnergySolutions Arena Saturday night, the pop icon who has transformed herself from Stefani Germanotta to the biggest star in the world in a few short years showed exactly why she cannot be ignored — and judging from her performance, why would anyone want to ignore a singer so fun, enthralling and inclusive?

The "Monster Ball" show was the best example I've seen of how much a performer feeds off of the crowd, and vice versa. Without a doubt, the crowd inside the nearly sold-out arena was the most invested and adoring crowd I have ever seen, and that atmosphere made you feel as if you wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Not even a BYU basketball game.

Like Madonna, Gaga is not the best singer, and she is not a classical beauty. But she uses that to her advantage, making her show an exercise in self-empowerment, with themes that can be sappy but ultimately irresistible. Like Madonna, Gaga has been one of the nation's leading advocates of the gay community, and the night was imbued with bringing the issue out of the closet and embracing the differences and similarities of the audience. She frequently stopped the show and became evangelical, but never fake.

All this would be futile if the music was hollow and unmemorable. Throughout the show, the hits kept on coming, and it reminded you of why her songs have the rare quality of being different from many other pop hits today. Gaga and her producers have created a sound that blends the syncopated beats, synths and sexually frank lyricism of Europe with the catchy choruses of American R&B.

The show was also compelling thematically. Gaga and her friends — a dozen tightly choreographed dancers — had a mission of getting to the Monster Ball, and the backdrop frequently portrayed obstacles preventing her from reaching her goal: the seedy underbelly of the city with broken-down cars, and at one point a forest (with a winged and bloody Jesus statue) that was every bit as scary as the one Dorothy and Toto encountered.

The best part of the night was that Gaga, rather than being the unknowable and mysterious cartoon we have seen on TV for so long, was flesh and blood, with a charisma that connected with each member of the crowd. She sounded great and alive, and it was not lip-synched, either vocally or emotionally.

Lady Gaga

When • Saturday

Where • EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City

Bottom line • Salt Lakers go Gaga for Lady Gaga in one of most thrilling shows in years.