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Lady Gaga – Enigma and Piano & Jazz – Las Vegas Residency

June 17, 2019

When Lady Gaga came on the scene over ten years ago, I was unimpressed. She seemed like a Madonna wannabe. Then I saw her headline Lollapalooza in the summer of 2010 on her Monster Ball tour and I realized she was something special. I classify most pop stars into two categories: musicians (Dylan, Neil Young, Joni, Wilco, etc.) and performers (Madonna, Taylor Swift, etc.) and then there are the truly special: the musicians who are also performers (Prince, Elton, McCartney, Stones, etc.). Gaga is in that special category of musician/performers. I began to take her seriously.

Then in 2014, she showed us something more: a duet album with Tony Bennett. It was good and they had magic together. The album was mutually beneficial. It introduced Bennett to a younger audience (this was not his first rodeo – he had worked with Amy Winehouse a few years earlier) and he gave Gaga legitimacy as a jazz singer.

When it was announced last year the Gaga was going to do a Las Vegas residency (and this was before A Star Is Born) my wife immediately scored tickets through Gaga’s fan club. This was a must-see show. If there ever was a pop star made for Vegas, it is Lady Gaga. But the bonus was she was also going to do a handful of jazz shows to spice things up.

We got tickets to the “regular” Gaga show (titled Enigma) and the Piano & Jazz show. We recently made the trip to Sin City to see the shows. The Enigma show was great, but the Piano & Jazz was transcendent.

The Enigma show was classic Gaga playing her hits. It had the costumes, the dancers, the pep talks, the histrionics, that is, it was a spectacle. Like the Joanne Tour in 2017, the highlight for me was when she just got real with just piano and voice.

When we showed up the next night for the Piano & Jazz show there was a noticeably different vibe – an older and more serious audience. The stage was like a swing era bandstand. This was going to be about the music and not the show.

When Gaga appeared she was dressed elegantly, yet over the top – she is Gaga and has standards to maintain. She proceeded to belt out the great America songbook with grace and charm with her orchestra. After a few songs, she went to the piano and reimagined her mega-hit “Poker Face” with just piano and voice – complete with a narrative on the background of the song. Then it was time for a costume change and we were entertained with a video monologue where Gaga gushed about her love for jazz. She repeated this pattern four times with a few surprises.

Surprise number one was in the second set when she invited a friend on stage: Tony Bennett! You know that expression “the crowd went wild?” Well, the audience went something north of wild – it was full tilt crazy. They sang a couple of perfectly selected songs together: “The Lady Is A Tramp” and “Cheek to Cheek.”

The next set’s surprise was a brilliant big band jazz arrangement of her hit “Paparazzi.”

The final set opened with “La Vie En Rose” from A Star Is Born. Gaga introduced us to her featured soloist, trumpeter Brian Newman singing his signature song “Just A Gigolo.” Newman was brilliant all night.

The encore was a magnificent and ambitious arrangement of “Fly Me To The Moon” and of course “New York, New York” from the quintessential New Yorker.

I judge a concert as great if I get goosebumps. The Piano & Jazz show gave me goosebumps from beginning to end. I am guessing I have seen about 500 concerts over my 60 years and the Piano & Jazz show is one of the top five shows I have ever witnessed.

The full setlist is available here.

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From → Music Reviews

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