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Lady Gaga’s Vegas return gets a boost from Rock and Roll Hall of Famer

Updated June 22, 2024 - 3:58 pm

The video Lady Gaga plays in her “Jazz + Piano” show depicts Las Vegas as the classic adult playground. She refers to it as such, in her voice-over, played to black-and-white footage showing her cavorting in the casino with her backing band.

They smoke and drink and play craps and hack it up, enjoying the Rat Pack-styled trappings that still pervade the city’s late-night scene.

A night with Gaga at Park MGM’s Dolby Live is like that video, a real-time party that starts with her “J+P” show and lumbers to bandleader Brian Newman’s “After Dark” show at adjacent NoMad Library.

You never know who you will run into at “After Dark.” Flavor Flav, for instance, who slammed the drums and lit up the scene on an instrumental cover of “Play That Funky Music.”

The Public Enemy legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer showed up at 12:40 a.m., according to his neckwear.

Before that, Gaga peppered her show with standards from previous “J+P” shows, leading with “Luck Be a Lady,” “Call Me Irresponsible” and the pairing of “Fly Me To The Moon” and “New York, New York.” The returning headliner sang “Fly Me To The Moon” a cappella, a brazen move in front of her reliably sonorous crowd.

The set list reflected Gaga’s most recent performances last fall, with her original “Americano” added and the cover of Dean Martin’s “Mambo Italiano” dropped. The Gaga anthem”Paparazzi” remains a high point. Newman masterfully re-charted the song, which summons the spirit of a James Bond chase scene. “Born This Way” is her tribute to the Pride culture and, currently, Pride Month.

“I wish every month was Pride Month,” Gaga said, as the crowd shouted approval. “I wish it was Pride Year.”

From the piano on “Poker Face,” the superstar’s naughty lyrical adjustment reminds us why she sometimes asks her crowd, “You brought a kid to a Lady Gaga show? What were you thinking?”

Gaga showed off a few new outfits, a hot crimson-sequined number and a purple gown, both with matching boas and headpieces. The tux-and-tails in the show’s closer is still a crowd favorite.

“J+P’s” conductor remains the terrific Michael Bearden (Michael Jackson’s final music director) and the orchestra features several Las Vegas musicians, most from Santa Fe & the Fat City Horns. Newman contracted all of them, and has also enlisted Vegas players and singers at Bruno Mars’ Pinky Ring at Bellagio.

Newman’s “After Dark” at NoMad is now running concurrent with the Bellagio nightspot. There should be enough drawing power for both of these clubs, that bounce with live entertainment. This is true of Angie Pontani, burlesque star and Newman’s wife, now a permanent performer at NoMad.

Guitar virtuoso Tim Stewart, who appeared earlier with Gaga and has also backed Rihanna and Janet Jackson, joined Newman’s core band of keyboardist Alex Smith, sax man Steve Kortyka, bassist (and Pink Ring associate music director) Daniel Foose and drummer Nolan Byrd.

Vocalist LaShonda Reese, who opened Mayfair Supper Club and now toggles between “After Dark” and Pinky Ring, was Wednesday’s featured singer. The Chocolate Showboy and stage Buttercup expanded the immersive, burlesque experience.

We leave it to Flav to tie a ribbon on this one.

“Brian Newman was incredible, you hear me?” Flav said in a phone chat Wednesday. “And the Gaga show was definitely great. Her show was the bomb. I’m gonna go back to another one of her shows, and I’m gonna go back and jam again with Brian. I don’t know when it will be, but it’s gonna happen.”

What Works in Vegas

The rock cellist Hauser performs on Saturday at Encore Theater, which was a swift sellout. Blending pop, rock and classical stylings, Hauser co-founded 2Cellos, and gained fame online with his performance of “Smooth Criminal.”

Hauser samples Gaga, Tchaikovsky and Shakira. He’s also toured with Elton John and (it seemed) could have filled multiple dates at Wynn Las Vegas.

Tease this …

A star headliner is returning to the Strip next month, sharing the stage with an impressively skilled family member.

Cool Hang Alert

“All Request Sundays: Punk Rock Edition” takes over Barbershop Cuts and Cocktails at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas at 8 p.m. Sunday. We are promised “hardcore, disrespectful sound and nothing but crowd-favorite punk rock hits.”

Barbershop is open for cuts at 10 a.m., and the sportsbook with pool tables and shuffleboard is just across the casino floor. Cosmo has it all.

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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