A Vegas star is born: Lady Gaga stuns, soars in Sin City debut

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Lady Gaga performs during her “Enigma” residency at Park Theater at Park MGM Friday in Las Vegas. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Park MGM Las Vegas)
Lady Gaga performs during her “Enigma” residency at Park Theater at Park MGM Friday in Las Vegas. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Park MGM Las Vegas)

Lady Gaga has made quite a few grand entrances during her career: hatching from a space egg at the 2011 Grammys, jumping off a platform at the 2017 Super Bowl, stage-diving into the mosh pit in an underboob-flashing leather-babe getup while dueting with Metallica at the 2017 Grammys, strutting onto a dive drag bar stage rocking some skinny Edith Piaf eyebrows and belting “La Vie En Rosein A Star Is Born, etc.

But Gaga just may have outdone herself at the opening night of her “Enigma” residency at the Park MGM in Las Vegas Friday. As she hovered in a wire-strung harness, KISS/P!nk-style, above the 5,200-capacity crowd — which included superstar fans Katy Perry, Dave Grohl, Adam Lambert and Jeremy Renner — wearing a mirrorball-reflective unitard and geometric baby-blue wig, she fingered a keytar and sang her breakthrough 2008 hit, “Just Dance.”

One can only hope that Gaga recreates this epic entrance when she inevitably sails up to the podium to collect her A Star Is Born trophies at next year’s Golden Globes and Academy Awards. And one can also hope that Gaga wears that silver-sequined unitard — or another one of her Vegas costumes designed by her younger sister Natali Germanotta, a ’90s club-kid/cyberpunk PVC onesie with nuclear-green lacing, matching clubfoot boots and a neon feathered coat — to those awards ceremonies as well.

Regardless of whether Gaga wins at the Oscars or Globes, she definitely won over Vegas this Friday. That, of course, is no surprise, since perhaps no other artist in modern pop history is so clearly made for Sin City: Gaga has never shied away from spectacle, yet she can also clean up nice and croon the classics with her old-school pal Tony Bennett. Gaga will explore the latter, kinder, gentler side of her persona in a second Vegas residency, “Jazz & Piano,” in 2019.

“Enigma,” however, was a full-on conceptual production featuring the diva at her campy, crazy best, complete with a Wizard of Oz-meets-Aeon Flux-meets-Barbarella, anime/manga alternate-universe narrative starring Gaga’s artificial-intelligence alter ego: a sinewy, sexy Svedka vodka mascot-lookalike named Enigma. (Gaga’s superfans, aka the Little Monsters, may recognize Enigma as an evolved, updated reincarnation of PetGa, the “aura alien” character that Gaga debuted in an app while promoting her ARTPOP album release in 2013.)

Lady Gaga (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Park MGM Las Vegas)
Lady Gaga (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Park MGM Las Vegas)

Some of the Enigma/PetGa staging admittedly didn’t quite work — or at the very least, it could have been incorporated into the live show in a more intricate way, rather than just having Gaga trade scripted, somewhat stilted lines with a widescreen, two-dimensional image of her chrome-domed fembot ruler. That being said, Gaga the accoladed actress definitely committed to this storyline — so much so that several fans in the theater shouted, “Oscar!” whenever she uttered her dialogue. And ultimately the Enigma/PetGa character, representing “the part of the brain that you don’t understand” and “the parts of you that feel misunderstood,” allowed Gaga the opportunity to tap into her vulnerability.

But … more on that later. This was Las Vegas, after all, so of course Gaga’s show was packed with not-so-vulnerable, over-the-top moments. She flew above the audience in an egg-shaped cage chair during “Paparazzi.” She roared through David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” while standing in a circular Saturn-ring keyboard console (suffice to say, this Bowie homage went over much better than her controversial 2016 Grammys tribute).

Lady Gaga performs during her “Enigma” residency at Park Theater at Park MGM Friday in Las Vegas. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Park MGM Las Vegas)
Lady Gaga performs during her “Enigma” residency at Park Theater at Park MGM Friday in Las Vegas. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Park MGM Las Vegas)

And she performed “Scheiße” astride a giant animatronic, fire-breathing, chrome Trojan horse/dinosaur. It was all totally ridiculous, and it all totally worked.

However, as mentioned above, it was Gaga’s subtler moments — which may have served as an unofficial “Jazz & Piano” preview — that really resonated (and just might inspire fans to book a second trip to Vegas to catch that residency as well). As Gaga sat at a sculptural piano to perform “Million Reasons” and “Yoü and I,” she explained, “My enigma is my inner voice. That’s why she came to me, because I stopped listening. I started to believe the lies my head was telling me, the lies people were telling me.” Gaga then advised the audience, “You go home and you listen to that inner voice inside of you, and you believe I yourself! I swear I’ve been to the grave and back, and that is what heals you. You heal you.”

At that point, Gaga’s A.I. co-star, Enigma, became human and started to cry. But then it was Gaga’s turn to shed real human tears during her Oscar-baiting A Star Is Born ballad “Shallow” — her first public performance of the song. “For a really long time, I felt so misunderstood — [critics] thought the way I dress, the way I talk, my attire, was shallow. But this s*** is deep as f***,” declared Gaga, now wearing a simple, oversized, vintage Lady Gaga T-shirt, as she introduced the number. She paused to momentarily sob during the first verse, but she quickly collected herself, triumphantly finished the song, and ended it with a thudding, “Day in the Life”-esque sustained note.

This was Gaga’s first Vegas revue, but she seemed at home and happy on the Park Theater stage that told she audience she hopes to stick around for “two to three years.” For now, she is scheduled to play 26 more Vegas shows in 2018 and 2019. Below is the full setlist from Friday’s “Enigma” premiere:

“Just Dance”
“Poker Face”
“LoveGame”
“Dance in the Dark”
“Beautiful, Dirty, Rich”
“Telephone”
“Applause”
“Paparazzi”
“Aura”
“Scheiße”
“Judas”
“Government Hooker”
“I’m Afraid of Americans”
“The Edge of Glory”
“Alejandro”
“Million Reasons”
“Yoü and I”
“Bad Romance”
“Born This Way”
“Shallow”

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