Lady Gaga kicked off the first of nine Jazz & Piano engagements of her Las Vegas residency at Park MGM’s Park Theater on Sunday night with a special guest appearance by Tony Bennett that couldn’t have been more fitting.
“You know this guy right here: When everyone was calling me a tramp, he was calling me a lady. We love you Tony,” Gaga said when introducing her 92-year-old duet partner. They lovingly belted their way through “Lady is a Tramp” and “Cheek to Cheek,” receiving a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.
From the opening night’s impression, Gaga’s Jazz & Piano concerts will offer a more down-tempo accompaniment to her wild ENIGMA residency that kicked off late last month, transforming The Park Theater with her avant garde pop music. Coupled together, the two shows balance the spirits of new and old Las Vegas — something the superstar nodded Sunday to opening up with the city’s unofficial anthem “Luck Be a Lady,” while wearing a plunging black sequin gown and a starburst turban that could poke out the eye of anyone who dared get too close.
Making no reference to her headline-grabbing call out of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during her ENIGMA show the night before, the multi-hyphenate performer captivated the audience with two hours of jazz classics and hits from the Great American Songbook and rearrangements of four of her most popular songs, including “Paparazzi,” “Born this Way” and “Bad Romance.”
“It was just last night I was bent over in a thong singing some progressive pop,” she said jokingly. “And you know we didn’t want to freak you out too much tonight so we tried not to change too much around here. Cole Porter said it back in the 1930s, he said, ‘Anything Goes’ and I think that is really true now. I think it’s amazing. How wonderful I get to sing my own music and jazz in Las Vegas.”
The evening was filled with jazz hands, witty quips, toe tapping, piles of glittering sequins, costume and wigs changes, as well as introspective moments at the piano. The big band and the orchestra rocked with more than a dozen horns, including trumpet player Brian Newman, and a dozen strings, while the stage was set up like a club with four tables accommodating eights guests who bought super-VIP concert packages.
During “Poker Face,” Gaga got cheeky with the casino, alluding that she wouldn’t be leaving any of her hard-earned cash with the house. “Sorry MGM, I already cashed the check, she quipped. “They are running it out of here right now before I even finish this show.” Meanwhile, the jazz arrangement accentuated the lyrics in ways that the pop version doesn’t, allowing an audience that might be best familiar with her from her work with Bennett to get to know her as a lyricist. She also revealed that the true meaning of the song, has nothing to do with gambling. “[It’s about] When you are with a man and you are thinking about a woman,” Gaga said.
The show was cut with black and white video of Gaga expressing her love of jazz and American classics, offering advice that you “have to learn the ink on the page … you gotta know what was written” in order to experiment and get creative in music. “Jazz is special. It’s unpredictable,” she expressed, shouting out the greats who came before her: Billie Holiday, Etta James and Dinah Washington, among others.
Throughout the night, Gaga’s four looks included the previously black sequin gown, a silver rhinestone column dress with long white marabou cape, a strapless velvet number with black velvet gloves and a red cape, and a black and white tuxedo with detachable skirt helped her a play the part of jazz club diva — one that she clearly embraces.
Prior to an encore of “New York, New York,” which Gaga also performed at the Sinatra 100 concert at Wynn Las Vegas in 2015, she dedicated Ol’ Blue Eyes’ song “Fly Me to the Moon” to Bennett. “Tony, it is swingin’,” she said. His response was: “Yea, it’s swingin’.”
Offering something for everyone from Gaga’s ENIGMA show continues for select dates Jan. 24 to Feb. 2 and will wrap up with another Jazz & Piano engagement on Feb. 3, with more dates running through the year. These performances were exclusively developed for her 2019 run at Park Theater.