Five years ago, Lady Gaga did a residency in Las Vegas. For half of those shows she did her regular pop act, but in the other half she performed jazz standards from the Great American Songbook. I was sorry I couldn’t get out there to see those.
Fortunately, she returned to Vegas this month to do a dozen more Jazz & Piano (as they’re billed) concerts. This time, I was able to get a couple of pretty good seats for this weekend and a room at the Park MGM, where she’s performing in the Dolby Live Theater.
I’m not familiar with most of Gaga’s pop catalog, but I know what a huge talent she is, and was impressed by her big screen debut (as Ally) opposite Bradley Cooper (as Jack) in his remake of “A Star Is Born” — particularly the scene where Jack brought Ally onstage for the first time and they sang “Shallow.” What blew me away was what Gaga did in the moments at the side of the stage, when she was hesitant and fearful to walk out in front of a large crowd…
I was even more dazzled watching Gaga Saturday night. Over the course of two hours, she sang, danced, played piano, joked around, and changed outfits a half-dozen times. Almost all of the songs were from an earlier era, when they were made famous by Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, and other legends whose music — according to the Playbill from that night — Gaga has been singing since she was 13 years old. Throughout, there wasn’t one false note, whether she was belting out ballads or upbeat swingers, backed by an orchestra of thirty top-notch musicians.
In addition to the Great American Songbook tunes, Gaga also played piano while singing stripped-down versions of a few of her biggest hits (e.g. “Poker Face,” “Born This Way,” and “Bad Romance”). Her fans sang along with every word, though many of them didn’t know the older songs, which were originally recorded before they were born (hell, before I was born!). But they gave a rousing ovation when she did Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose,” which they knew because Gaga sang it in her first scene in “A Star Is Born.”
As a Tony Bennett fan, I admired the way she embraced him in his later years, recording an album of duets (“Love For Sale”) and performing with him at Radio City Music Hall for his final two concerts in 2021 (I wrote about them here). In the Vegas show, she spoke of how he was both her friend and mentor, and then did something Tony pulled off the night we saw him in 2015 — put down the microphone and sang “Fly Me To The Moon” loudly enough to fill the theater, a cappella and unamplified. A beautiful moment.
In case I haven’t made it clear, let me sum up: “Lady Gaga Jazz & Piano” ranks among the greatest nights of entertainment I’ve experienced.