About 90 minutes before taking the stage at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night, Lady Gaga sent a tweet to Britney Spears and Cher. It read:
I WOULD COME TO YOUR SHOWS BUT I’M PLAYING ACROSS THE STREET @ sametime WHY IS THIS HAPPENING @cher @britneyspears #Vegas #JoanneWorldTour
— xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) August 12, 2017
That’s what’s become of Vegas on a weekend night, or any night: The Diva Triangle. These superstars name-checked by Gaga were indeed across the street, or two streets. Cher was busy headlining at The Park Theater just across the way from T-Mobile at Monte Carlo. At the same time, Spears was holding forth at her “Piece of Me” production at Axis theater, set to close at the end of this year.
Gaga asks, “Why this is happening?” Blame success, and the simple tenet of supply and demand. Cher and Spears are both hot tickets, and Gaga sold out at about 15,500 at T-Mobile, the Vegas stop on her “Joanne” tour. The Strip is an eager host for all of them.
Gaga had Vegas on her mind, no question. She led into one of her hits with, “Vegas, you’ve taught me a lot, but I don’t have a poker face!” And the tweet might have been a way to tip her hand at a plan, or even whimsical vision, of performing an extended engagement in Vegas in the same fashion as her Twitter pals.
Vegas is an atypical tour stop for Gaga, at least for those who put her performance in the context of a potential sit-down series of shows at, say, Park Theater or Axis. She is a coveted performer not just because she sells well, and is still at her commercial peak, but artistically she can do it all. In Vegas, she’s performed with Tony Bennett at the Cosmopolitan and hosted her own cabaret-styled evening of standards at Encore Theater. Borrowing moments from those performances would seem a natural strategy for an extended engagement on the Strip.
Her arena show, of course, is a massively entertaining experience, highlighted by multiple stages set in the middle of the arena. The performance marked by the requisite costume changes, from fringed leotards in “A-Yo” and “Diamond Hart” to a crimson one-piece in “Paparazzi” and “Bloody Mary.” Each number was a production show in itself, with real fire and video pyrotechnics boosting “John Wayne” and the colored pod at the ceiling of the arena lowering to create footbridges through the crowd.
Gaga donned the familiar white suit and wide-rimmed glasses for “Bad Romance,” which electrified the crowd, many wearing their LED-trimmed Gaga cowboy hats. She took to a black leotard in “Diamond Heart” and “A-YO,” and set up in the middle of the crowd for “Born This Way,” which, for many in the arena, still sounds like a tribute to Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”
The generosity of the show was inescapable, with the advanced and imposing staging and also a dozen tightly choreographed backing dancers.
As if to remind her fans of her personal commitment to her craft, Gaga told the crowd, “I have written, or co-written, all these songs tonight.” Imagine that. Gaga is a genuine musician, a trait she has shown since breaking on the music scene a decade ago. Her work on “Come to Mama,” performed on a multicolored piano on an auxiliary, circular stage effectively cooled the crowd for a bit.
“Joanne” was another soft touch, as Gaga movingly talked of her aunt Joanne, who died of lupus when Gaga was a child. The album and song were named for her.
“Where do you think you’re goin’?” she sang. “Honestly, I know where you’re goin’, and baby, you’re just movin’ on.”
The writer of that song can go any which way. I feel she’ll be back one day for a longer stay, in a city suited for her vast talents and unyielding imagination.