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Lady Gaga says ‘Jazz + Piano’ should be her ‘forever’ show

Updated September 9, 2023 - 9:23 am

Lady Gaga has been riding the “Jazz + Piano” express at Dolby Live since the pandemic reopening. Her “Enigma” pop show hasn’t performed since Dec. 30, 2019. There has been talk of the show coming back, in some form, maybe as a theater version of her 2022 “Chromatica Ball” tour.

Here’s a thought: Stay with “Jazz + Piano.” Ditch the pop show. The gorgeous orchestral production consistently trumps the towering transformer (from “Enigma,” lest we forget).

Gaga seems to be edging in that direction. On Thursday, the multi-talented superstar strayed from the script — we are led to believe there is a script, anyway — and said, “We’re gonna make a contract. Everybody on this stage will be here forever, we’ll do it. I’m not kidding. I make a lot of jokes on this stage. This is not one of them.”

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I checked the musicians lined up on the bandstand behind Gaga, many of them Las Vegas players. There were a lot of raised eyebrows on that stage. Whether Gaga’s riff can be considered a binding agreement is debatable. But it is evident Gaga has relished the “Jazz + Piano” show since its inception.

Gaga said from the stage during her first “J+P” performances that she had negotiated the first six jazz shows into her original residency agreement. “The jazz shows sold out faster!” she gleefully called from the stage.

“J+P” continues to motor along, like the ‘61 Ford T-Bird featured in the new promo clip for Brian Newman’s “After Dark.” Gaga wound up at the late-night NoMad Library scene again Thursday for the first time since she restarted “Jazz + Piano” on Aug. 31.

Gaga’s show has become a more personal experience even from its original concept, with the superstar’s nightly tribute to Tony Bennett. She has said something different about him every time, words from the heart. “Tony would not want me to be sad on stage,” she said Thursday. “There is an audience out there.”

Last Saturday, Gaga mentioned, “Tony gave me his charts,” for “Fly Me to the Moon” And a fan shouted, “What are charts?”

“Finally!” I said from my seat. “The voice of reason!” Fans who know Gaga from her “Chromatica Ball,” persona (where she wears a sarcophagus costume instead of rhinestone gowns) might not know the relevance of music charts.

Gaga gave a quick tutorial that the charts were the music being played by everyone in the band. Without them, performing that song, or anything on stage, would not be possible.

The next day, I talked to a member of Gaga’s band and mentioned that moment. He said, “I actually teared up.”

The charts, the arrangements, in Gaga’s show are just ridiculous, if you are into rearranged classics.

Newman’s remaster of “Paparazzi” is so musically exhilarating you simply forget that Gaga, the original composer, once arrived in “Enigma” in a sequined jumpsuit and playing a bedazzled keytar.

The Gaga-Newman doubleheader could actually be offered as an uber-VIP package. One spills into the other. Newman’s performances are fulfilling enough to stand on their own, clocking in at more than two hours and powered by the backing band of Alex Smith, Daniel Foose, Steve Kortyka and Nolan Bird. All but Byrd swing over from “J+P.” Smith, Kortyka and Newman all write arrangements. Smith’s work on “Stupid Love” is a favorite of the band.

We’ve mentioned many times and for good reason, Newman’s cast of characters. The throwback bandleader brings in his burlesque-star wife, Angie Pontani; vocal flamethrower Skye Dee Miles; esteemed emcee Murray Hill (for this run, at least); a pair of genuine showgirls; and a rotation of side acts to “After Dark.”

This is the Gaga empire. Genuine, vintage-inspired entertainment, passionately conceived and executed. There might not be pyrotechnics or dancing robots, but the experience sets you back. Find that “forever” contract, and a quill pen, and get it done.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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