“This is so exciting! How completely epic for an amazing venue,” Lady Gaga trilled in a Disney princess voice four songs into the first night of her closing residency at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, which also happened to be her 28th birthday. “I mean, what a dream come true. Who has a 10-day funeral?”
Gaga will perform six more shows at the Roseland Ballroom through April 7, helping close the famed venue whose past famed performers include everyone from famed dancers like Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray to huge pop stars such as the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Nirvana and Beyonce.
The venerable Ballroom, owned by developer Larry Ginsberg and booked by Live Nation, opened at its 52nd street location, a converted skating rink, in 1958 and is a sentimental favorite for many bands. The history of the venue in New York dates back to 1919, when it was located at 51st and Broadway, and prior to that in Philadelphia.
Here, during Gaga’s hour-long set, there was no vomit to be found or any attention-seeking stunts melding performance art and pop music, a la her Doritos-sponsored South By Southwest performance just two weeks prior. No, the Roseland residency was about celebrating the many phases of Lady Gaga, the New York club kid-turned-global pop star.
Gaga, solo at the piano, kicked things off with a stripped-down, impassioned take on “Born This Way" and then tore through 10 more hits, fan favorites and deep cuts over the next 60 minutes. She also treated the sold-out audience to four outfit changes -- basically a new one for every three songs -- that were more function over flash (leotards and capes versus a meat dress), to remind everyone that she’s still the quick-change fashionista who danced on tables at St. Jerome.
For the intimate, for-the-Monsters ballad “Dope," Gaga took to a sidestage where an elaborate recreation of the Lower East Side had been assembled, complete with an F train subway car and neon letters that spelled “176 Stanton Street,” the address of Gaga’s former apartment. Many of the sets were decked out in fake roses, a not-so-subtle tribute to a place named “Roseland,” after all, but one that allowed Gaga to have a little fun with props like a rose-covered keytar, which she strapped on for a rafters-scraping take on “Bad Romance.” At one point, she climbed up a ladder (festooned with roses, natch) to sing the song’s final chorus (“I don’t wanna be frieeeends!”) to the left balcony – and left them with a long, lingering glimpse of her red leotard-clad ass to boot.
The show was formatted for more of a club setting, and a more low-key, celebratory vibe. It was less of a proper preview of her forthcoming ArtRave: The Artpop Ball Tour, and more of a chance for the most dedicated Monsters (and Citi cardholders, as the residency was prominently sponsored by the bank) to have an impassioned sing-along with Gaga before she starts playing arenas again.
There was an almost judiciously sanctioned sprinkling of songs from all four of Gaga’s albums -- the hits from “The Fame” (“Poker Face,” the piano version of course, and “Just Dance”), a deep cut from “The Fame Monster” (“Monster,” the overlooked title track), selections from “Born This Way” (including deluxe-edition track “Black Jesus – Amen Fashion,” chosen more for its New York City narrative than its place in fans’ list of all-time faves) and her latest, “Artpop" (“Applause” closed the set, “G.U.Y.” served as encore).
If SXSW served as a statement about how brands should fund artists’ creative expression, Gaga’s Roseland residency was about giving the people what they wanted. (“Do you remember where you were when you first heard this song?” she said as she began “Just Dance.") If the night ended rather abruptly after almost exactly 60 minutes, perhaps that was the point. After all, there’s six more shows to go.
Gaga's final Roseland show is April 7.
Born This Way (piano)
Black Jesus - Amen Fashion
You And I
Poker Face (piano)
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