Going Ga Ga Over Lady GaGa
Lady Gaga arrives in Las Vegas at the perfect moment for both the city and its newest star. Let’s hope she shakes things up.
Lady Gaga seems intent on being all things to all people, and if her previous track record of success is an indication, she might very well have the gravitas to pull off what would be impossible for anyone lesser.
No singer-songwriter-performer-actress-influencer-icon on the planet is hotter at the moment. So, it came as quite a shock to find out Lady Gaga is making Las Vegas her temporary residency. Let’s be honest here — the Las Vegas Strip isn’t the usual first choice for a performer who could sell out any football stadium in the world within mere hours.
Indeed, casino showrooms have typically been the last whistle-stop before being tossed into the heap of the CD bin at the discount dollar store. It’s where once-great but now-old performers go to die; it’s where one-hit wonders come to make one last fat paycheck before retiring and fading off into artistic oblivion. Sure, most headliners make Las Vegas a mandatory concert stop on any national tour. But the prospect of doing dozens, perhaps even hundreds of nightly shows isn’t just excruciatingly repetitive for cutting edge performers. It’s always been a dead end. For just about everyone here who’s turned into Wayne Newton, it’s been a set of golden handcuffs — lots of sweet guaranteed money, but with a heavy price. Las Vegas has always been a creative graveyard.
Enter Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, a.k.a. sister slayer of all expectation. Lady Gaga is set to revolutionize the old concept of the Las Vegas residency, destined perhaps to use her time here as a showcase of talent and display of extravaganza. Hers is everything that a real Las Vegas show really should be but sadly — is not. Hers isn’t a sham residency propped up by endless lip-synching, lights and lasers, and laziness that’s made the Strip a cultural malaise. To the contrary. This promises to be Lady Gaga at her raw, wild, and often uninhibited — brilliant best.
Full Disclosure: I haven’t seen any of Lady Gaga’s shows, nor do I expect to. I simply can’t afford a ticket, which according to reports run as high as $1,500 per seat. Even the “cheap” seats are now being scalped at $600 and up. Hence, common folk like me must rely on blurbs and broadcasts and the occasional YouTube video that gets posted before being removed for copyright infringement.
Lady Gaga began her residency on Dec. 28 (about a month ago). Her shows already pack the Park Theatre, at Park MGM, not to be confused with the far more cavernous and aesthetically awful MGM Grand. Park MGM is the old Monte Carlo, which has been thoroughly renovated. So far, 32 shows have officially been announced (about half now completed). Reportedly, more will gradually be added and 74 shows could pay the superstar as high a figure as $100 million up through Nov. 9th. Wow! Wow, not just to $100 million — but wow to a fearless workload that may include a whopping 74 shows, over an intense time period certain to be packed with many other musical ventures and movie offers. Lady Gaga is probably the only performer who could pick up the phone right now, call anyone in music or entertainment, and get an instant green light to any project she wants. So, Las Vegas comes as a bizarre career move.
Most impressive of all is Lady Gaga’s stellar talent which despite all the distractions never seems forced nor contrived. This isn’t some expired ex-pop princess with a few teenage hits mouthing words to Autotune at Planet Hollywood for bachelorette parties. This is a singer that sings and a supremely talented pianist that plays — every note on her own. I can’t imagine taking on the daily grind of 74 shows in real time and no props, given all that’s going on in her life at the moment.
Then, there’s the unprecedented decision, presumably at Lady Gaga’s insistence, to offer two very different types of shows for her Las Vegas audiences. This too is groundbreaking.
Lady Gaga has crafted multiple dimensions to both her performances and persona. She’s the diva in the wild stage costumes. She’s the rocker chick who performed with Metallica at the Super Bowl. She’s a gifted keyboardist who can pound the ivories with the very best. She’s also the elegant spotlight-stealer who toured previously with the ageless wonder Tony Bennett while performing the classics. Oh, and she’s now an Academy Award nominee for Best Actress in the wake of her first movie appearance.
So, we wondered — which Lady Gaga would show up here? Which Gaga would we see in Las Vegas? How could she be all those many splendid things to all people, including audiences with very different tastes? Moreover, would the people who marvel at her natural talent, anxiously awaiting her stories while sitting calmly at a piano and singing (that’s fine) really want to watch the scantily-clad Lady Gaga rolling around the stage in fishnets? Okay, so that’s fine, too.
Point is — she is an exceedingly rare chameleon performer who’s capable of pulling off almost any look and range of sounds she wants. Lady Gaga has scheduled about two-thirds of her shows to include the racier, flashier performance — which is titled “Enigma.” The remaining one-third of her schedule is titled “Jazz and Piano,” featuring the more thoughtful and creative Lady Gaga stripped down to unparalleled raw talent. This is probably as intimate as you’ll see someone who’s been described as “a cultural earthquake.”
No doubt, I’m a shamelessly biased devotee of Lady Gaga. Not that I play much of her music, nor often listen to her albums. I’m more a fan of her spirit. I’m a fan of her talent. I’m a fan of the way she handles herself, on and off-stage. I’m a fan of her choices. I’m a fan of her throwback to authenticity.
Lady Gaga arrives in Las Vegas at the perfect moment in time for both the city and its newest star. Let’s hope she really shakes things up. After Britney and Celine, we could sure use a musical and entertainment earthquake.
Depending on how the Gaga residency goes (indications appear that all expectations have been exceeded), there’s talk around town that other megastars might try to do the same thing here. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Drake, Beyonce, and U2 are but a few of the big acts whose names have floated around as the next $100 million show stoppers. Hey, why tour and live out of hotel rooms for 6 long months when the world is willing to pay and come to you?
Lady Gaga isn’t just another entertainer. She’s an icon and a revolutionary. She’s the real deal.
No, a star isn’t born.
Lady Gaga was born this way.
Note: I love occasionally-clunky, unrehearsed, risky performances far more than any mindless pre-programmed sing-a-long soundtrack with dancers and a light show. Las Vegas needs much more of THIS. Here’s Bradley Cooper joining Lady Gaga onstage a few weeks ago at Park MGM (notice his backstage pass around his neck while performing — since presumably otherwise he might get tossed out by security):