ATLANTIC CITY — While thousands of people gathered to watch fireworks explode over the bay, about 13,000 others inside Boardwalk Hall got a hearty dose of sexually, musically charged pyrotechnics as Lady Gaga made her city debut in memorable fashion.

Sexy, talented and certainly entertaining, the New York native finally appeared in Atlantic City on Independence Day after exhaustion forced her to cancel a February show.

Presented by Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Lady Gaga’s show was certainly worth the wait. Like a perverse version of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Lady Gaga’s circus featured a six-piece backup band, at least eight costume changes, three backup vocalists and a team of male dancers that would have made the late Michael Jackson proud.

After seeing a Gaga show, it’s difficult to focus on the music. A cross between the theatrics of KISS, the showmanship of Madonna and the musical craftsmanship of Queen, Gaga’s “Monster Ball” tour is like watching a modern “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with much better music (sorry, Meat Loaf). Gaga has put together a visual and musical spectacle that is brilliantly artsy yet totally trashy.

The amazing thing is that all of the glitz, lights, props, sexual antics, costumes and other tour gimmicks are equally matched by Gaga’s musical ability. Her songs are well-written pop masterpieces that cross disco, industrial and house music genres with a hard dose of rock thrown in to help her grow a male audience, something Beyonce and Gwen Stefani find impossible to do.

Lady Gaga, also known as Stefani Germanotta, possesses an edge that most contemporary pop divas seem to lack. And she manages to maintain that sound and visual while wearing butterfly wings and playing a keytar — a tough act to pull off. That’s because while her songwriting may be short of brilliant, her songs are addictively catchy.

That’s why all seven of her singles so far have been Top 10 hits. And that’s why she has already sold more than 15 million albums and 40 million singles despite just releasing two albums. Imagine what she would have done before the record industry went in the toilet.

She didn’t disappoint the audience, playing every one of her hit singles in a two-hour, mesmerizing set that was as much of a dance party as it was a concert, especially since the entire floor of the hall did not have seats.

Standouts included her megahits “Just Dance,” “Paparazzi,” “Poker Face” and “Telephone,” which were all accompanied by huge production numbers. But she also proved that she doesn’t need to be high-tech to impress, particularly on the opener “Dance in the Dark,” where she sang behind a huge screen while the audience watched her silhouette.

Gaga also does not lip-synch. Although she was aided by her backup trio, the performer can bring it vocally. On the ballad “Speechless,” she really showed off her stellar pipes as her flaming piano shot fireballs to the sky, mirroring her much talked-about performance during this year’s Grammy Awards.

The performer even offered a new song, “You and I,” a more straightforward pop-rock ditty that was one of the best songs of the night.

Gaga is also a stellar pop pianist. Not only can she play the piano, she can do it while one of her 10-inch stilettos is perched on the baby grand. Impressive.

There were some down moments, particularly “Boys Boys Boys” and “Glitter and Grease,” which just didn’t pack the wallop most of the night’s other tunes did.

The crowd was totally into the show, with many Gagaphiles dressing up to look like their pop hero, including some that melded Gaga’s fashion styles with red, white and blue patriotism.

Apparently, many parents either didn’t do their online research, weren’t from this planet or just didn’t care how down and dirty Lady Gaga can be as the crowd was filled with a surprising amount of children as young as 7 years old.

That proves Gaga’s amazing power to draw a diverse audience, but her revealing costumes, simulated orgies and risqué lyrics (rough oral sex, anyone?) are certainly not appropriate for the young set. Apparently, baby sitters were not available. With more F-bombs and vulgarities than you could count, Gaga is no Hannah Montana.

Lady Gaga’s meteoric rise to fame is no accident. Her talent may only be overshadowed by her incredible marketing savvy. Already playing arenas at 24 years old, Gaga is the rare artist — like David Bowie — that has the knack for putting on great, theatrical shows while also possessing musical chops.

Following in Madonna’s leather-clad footsteps, Gaga has crafted a concert spectacle that will draw fans year after year, tour after tour, just so her fans can see what her latest antics will be. Consider the sparks shooting out her crotch and breasts an added bonus.

Lady Gaga returns to Boardwalk Hall on Feb. 19.

Contact Scott Cronick:

609-272-7017