Monday, July 22, 2024

Lady Gaga Wraps ‘Jazz & Piano’ Residency In Las Vegas

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Lady Gaga bid a tearful farewell to her landmark Jazz & Piano concerts at Las Vegas’ Dolby Live Theater inside Park MGM on Saturday, July 6. Throughout the two-hour performance, Gaga hinted at an eventual return to the Strip, gave a shout-out to her dad and boyfriend in attendance, and praised her jazz mentor, Tony Bennett.


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During the finale, she poked the audience with a cheeky, “I can’t believe this is the last time we are going to do this. No, it’s not, we’ll do it again …” Throughout this run of Jazz & Piano, which began on June 19, Gaga teased a potential new residency, telling audiences, “… when we come back, we hope you’ll come back, we’ll have a brand-new show for you.” At another time, she confirmed it would be “pop.”

This first Las Vegas residency turn from Gaga began as two shows: the progressive pop Enigma, which opened on Dec. 28, 2018, followed by Jazz & Piano on Jan. 20, 2019. Dual residencies with entirely different types of music was a groundbreaking notion; no artist had previously attempted it in Las Vegas.

Lady Gaga Jazz & Piano drew inspiration from the Great American Songbook. Also, it featured jazz rearrangements of Gaga’s most popular work, including “Paparazzi,” “Born This Way,” and “Bad Romance,” which accentuate the lyrics in ways that the pop versions don’t. These additions allowed an audience that might be best familiar with her from her work with Tony Bennett on their collaborative albums Cheek to Cheek (2014) and Love for Sale (2021) to get to know her as a lyricist.

Over its 48 performances, Jazz & Piano experienced a rollercoaster of highs and lows, including a 21-month pause, Bennett’s passing and an Oscar win for best song for A Star is Born.

Opening night saw Gaga and Bennett take the stage together. “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 then 92-year-old duet partner. They lovingly belted through “Lady is a Tramp” and “Cheek to Cheek.”

The final run, the eighth iteration of Jazz & Piano, carried on many of the residency’s traditions while adding new surprises that her little monsters love.

The show started with a black and white video of Gaga and her bandmates backstage warming up to Nat King Cole’s “Orange Colored Sky” broadcast on the side-stage screens. The band, with conductor Michael Bearden, trumpeter and bandleader Brian Newman, pianist and organist Alex Smith, saxophonist Steve Kortyka, drummer Donald Barrett, and bassist Daniel Foose backed by a full orchestra, took the stage and kicked off the evening with the classic Vegas anthem “Luck Be A Lady,” as they have 47 other times.

As he did on opening night back in 2019 when he appeared in person, Bennett, who passed away last July, at age 96, introduced the star via voiceover: “Ladies and gentlemen, the incredible Lady Gaga.” Even after his death, Bennett remained an omnipresent part of the show.

Every note sang and played on closing night felt like a long, raspy, soulful goodbye love letter delivered in the “wisegal” showroom banter for which her jazz persona “the “Lady” has become known.

“Las Vegas, you are in for a treat … it is Saturday, and you are going to feel like shit on Monday and in the morning, too,” Gaga promised. “This is the last show of this residency in Las Vegas, which means tonight we will make you sick. You will be so sick, but the best is yet to come.”

This statement introduced Sinatra’s tune of the same name. Modifying the lyrics of “The Best is Yet to Come” to “Las Vegas, I’m gonna teach you to fly.”

A visibly emotional Gaga gave every song its send-off, her band matching the energy with blow-out instrumentation and the sell-out crowd gushing with adoration through multiple standing ovations.

There were special guests in the audience. Four songs in, Gaga shouted out her father, Joe Germanotta. After downing a glass of whiskey in one gulp, she said, “My daddy taught me how to do that—my daddy is in the audience tonight, thanks, dad—call me irresponsible …”

In the lead-up to “Do I Love You,” Gaga called out boyfriend Michael Polansky. “I don’t know if you brought anybody you love tonight, but I brought somebody with me that I love, Mr. Michael Polansky. I can’t bring you up on stage, but you are always in my heart, honey,” she said.

The costumes have changed throughout the years with sparkling new additions, and for this stretch of dates, the wardrobe received a complete revamp. Gaga’s second look of the evening, with its ornate bejeweled necklace and headpiece, felt as if it came from Elizabeth Taylor’s 1963 turn as Cleopatra. Gaga sat at her piano in the gown and said, “‘Born This Way’ is everything I stand for.”

Each run introduced setlist modifications. In 2021, in promotion of a second album with Bennett, Love for Sale, Gaga added “Love for Sale,” “Let’s Do It,” “Do I Love You,” and “You’re the Top,” in addition to “Rags to Riches” and “Mambo Italiano.” In 2023, the revised setlist included “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “Sway,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” and her own “Stupid Love.” “Americano” came on board in 2024.

Closing night put a spotlight on extended solos from the band. Newman unforgettably glided through “The Best is Yet to Come” and “Paparazzi,” demonstrating the extent of what a true master can do with a trumpet. Barrett pounded through drum solos and Smith’s work on the keys completely reinvented the sounds a piano can produce.

The final set before the encore commenced with “La Vie En Rose.” Gaga’s version stands up to the original, unlike any other attempt. She performed the Edith Piaf classic in shadow, a lead into the whispering haunt of “Bad Romance,” with the articulation of every word a dalliance between vice grip and petal soft.

As Jazz & Piano ended with its last two tunes, Gaga promised the crowd, “I’m not going to stop singing jazz … this one’s for you, Tone.”

The second-to-last song, Bennett’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” began with Gaga dropping her mic and belting unamplified to the 5,200-seat theater.

Ending with “I’m super emotional, but there’s no crying in baseball and thanking the audience for helping us preserve the legacy of jazz. … I am going to die an old lady singing this music on this stage.” Gaga then made her way around and shook the hands of each orchestra member.

Throughout the five-and-a-half-year residency, various pop-up experiences helped to create an entire Gaga universe in Las Vegas.

In May 2019, the Haus of Gaga mini museum opened alongside the theater. It showcased clothing and accessories from the singer’s archive, including the infamous “meat dress.” Donations benefitted the Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit that Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, co-founded.

Brian Newman’s “After Dark” late-night lounge gig debuted at NoMad’s The Library in June 2019. Gaga frequently popped in to join her bandleader on stage in the intimate setting. Newman produced the soundtrack version of “La Vie En Rose” for A Star Is Born and was her bandleader and trumpeter for “Cheek to Cheek.” Both Gaga and Newman have the same Miles Davis trumpet tattoo on their right arms, based on a sketch by Bennett.

While final numbers won’t be available for a few months, Jazz & Piano is estimated to have earned more than $100 million, placing it in the top 10 Las Vegas residencies. This fall, Lady Gaga will star as Harley Quinn in Joker: Folie à Deux and has teased a forthcoming seventh studio album.

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