Lady Gaga Fulfills Her Destiny at Roseland Ballroom
In its last week before closing permanently, the legendary Manhattan club Roseland Ballroom called upon a fellow iconic New Yorker for a sold-out seven-show sendoff. Outside the 92-year-old venue, framed posters featured a photo of the pop star on a New York street circa August 2008. On the bottoms of the posters were the words she said to the unsuspecting photographer: “I am Lady Gaga, a singer/songwriter. You’re going to know me one day.”
Nearly six years later–her prophecy long fulfilled–Gaga shows no signs of being any less determined. Her fast ascent to fame didn’t soothe her hunger for huge, constant, epic stardom. Though her first three albums teemed with hits, lackluster reviews and low sales of her most recent release ARTPOP have quieted the world-domination-status success she commanded just a few years prior. How Gaga’s latest critical reception will affect her career path is beside the point: when you see her perform, you’ll only know that she’s feeling pure, confident passion for her work.
Gaga’s hour long show on Roseland’s second-to-last day launched with a characteristically dramatic entrance. A door on a platform high above the stage slowly opened, revealing arms, then legs, then the top of a massively curly highlighter-yellow wig. Gaga let the audience cheer her on for a few moments before she finally burst out of the door and struck a pose, pausing for effect. Then she sat down at her piano and played a solo version of “Born This Way,” pointing at the crowd and stopping to make remarks about acceptance and love. The slow, sparse rendition of the usually super-upbeat dance song took an emotional tone as she marveled at “how far we’ve come” in progressing toward tolerance. It was a serious way to start the show, but it set the precedent for several thoughtful moments that would punctuate the otherwise awesomely campy evening.
Gaga’s heartfelt opening quickly gave way to her notoriously hyper-theatrical antics. She partnered with a dancer clad in a feather vest during “Black Jesus Amen Fashion,” then changed into a rose-covered costume for “Monster” and played a rose-covered keytar. (The entire stage was adorned with roses in tribute to the closing venue, which she declared her love for.) Anyone in the audience who wondered why there was a ladder connecting the stage to the balcony found the answer during “Bad Romance”: Gaga climbed it to serenade her friend and recording partner Tony Bennett, who watched the whole show with a smile.
Another piano sat waiting for Gaga inside a pretend subway car on the opposite balcony. The two songs she played there—closely surrounded by fans–were among the most moving of the night. It’s easy to lose Gaga’s huge voice in the chaos of her choreography and larger-than-life costumes, but her solo piano performances do it the justice it deserves. She treated “Dope” as a confessional while alluding to substance abuse issues and asking the audience to forgive her when she makes mistakes. Always one to empathize with her fans, the singer promised that she’d do the same for them. She hit a vocal peak singing the line “I’ve been hurting low from living high for too long” in a sorrowful, passionate moment that felt unquestionably authentic.
Gaga continued her solo detour with “Yoü and I” before her band joined in halfway through, energizing the song as she stood on her piano bench and pounded the keys. She returned to the stage and posed a question to the audience while the opening notes of “Just Dance” played: “Do you remember the first time you heard this song?” The affirming cheers were a bold reminder of Gaga’s whirlwind rise to fame backed by the city that raised her.
Gaga returned to the piano once more for a version of “Poker Face” that she transformed into a hilariously bawdy lounge tune. Ever committed to theatrics, she closed her set with the ARTPOP single “Applause” as copious amounts of confetti showered the crowd. “I live for the applause” is probably the only understatement Lady Gaga has ever made.
Setlist for Lady Gaga @ Roseland Ballroom | 4/6/2014
Born This Way (piano acoustic)
Black Jesus Amen Fashion
Dope (piano acoustic)
Yoü and I
Poker Face (piano acoustic)