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Lady Gaga’s Vegas tribute to Bennett: ‘He’ll never be gone’

Updated September 1, 2023 - 6:40 pm

Everything lives on in Lady Gaga’s “Jazz + Piano” show. Music created generations ago is refashioned and refreshed for today. The legendary friends are still present, in spirit if not in fact.

Tony Bennett is such a figure. Gaga made referred to her friend and legendary entertainer, who died in July during her return of “J+P” Thursday at Dolby Live.

Donned in shining tux and top had, the headliner called out to Bennett’s widow, Susan, in the crowd.

“Susan, everybody in this audience loves you so much … The truth is I didn’t know what to say about Tony, because this whole show was for Tony,” Gaga said to the packed crowd, now standing. “Everything. The opening number, the middle number, all the diamonds. All the musical instruments, all the conducting, all the improvisation, was in his memory.”

The 37-year-old superstar paused, and continued, “If I know Tony well, he would be real mad at me for being sad. So I couldn’t come out here and be sad. But I sung this song while Tony was still alive, and I’m going to sing it now, even though he’s not, because he’ll never be gone.”

Gaga leaned on the piano, played by the virtuoso Alex Smith, and embarked on a measured, heartfelt version of “Fly Me To The Moon.” She pulled the mic away and sang the final verse with only Smith’s solemn notes playing behind her.

The song was especially meaningful for those who had experienced one of Bennett’s pop-up performances with Gaga at Park MGM, the final show in June 2019. The two first appeared together in Las Vegas at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve Weekend 2014 album and subsequent world tour, and “The Lady is a Tramp.”

Trumpet great Brian Newman, Gaga’s close friend and collaborator since the late-2000s, was bandleader that night. Newman was back at Park MGM on Thursday, too, with conductor Michael Bearden and an orchestra again peppered with members of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns (still crushing it Monday nights at The Copa at Bootlegger Bistro).

Newman continued the “J+P” party into his “After Dark” show at NoMad Library. This show could be called “Before Sunrise,” as some nights we barely beat dusk.

Newman’s longtime band mates Smith, Daniel Foose on bass, Steve Kortyka on sax and Nolan Byrd on drums played two sets through about 2:30 a.m. Newman’s wife and burlesque star Angie Pontani (aka “The Italian Stallionette”), throwback comic and emcee Murray Hill, Vegas vocalist Skye Dee Miles and guitar master Tim Stewart also joined the 2½-hour gig. More Vegas performers, and possibly Gaga herself, are expected in “After Dark,” which follows every “J+P” show.

New to Newman’s set is a cover of The Killers’ signature song, “Mr. Brightside.” He also performed his own tribute to Bennett, “It’s The Good Life.” Because this was past 1 a.m., the Library crowd was a little rowdy. As he started the tune, Newman shouted at the bar, “Be quiet over there!”

But Newman is meant to be a showman, not a librarian. He called out the lyrics, “Oh, the good life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal/the good life lets you hide, all the sadness you feel …” You felt a legend was in the room, nodding, saying, “Sing it, Kid.”

B-52’s want more

Kate Pierson says the B-52’s are not ready to close out their live-performance career. They are still popular in ticketed shows and private events.

“We want to keep playing, we keep getting hired for private gigs, that happens all the time,” Pierson said Friday during a Save The Apes sanctuary painting event at the Punk Rock Museum. “Who better to have than us play your birthday party, if you can swing it.”

The band plays its final Vegas shows of this year Saturday and Sunday at The Venetian Theatre. Its most recent tour was framed as a “farewell” tour, ending last November. But they continue to fill seats and have fun, living up to their moniker as “World’s Greatest Party Band.”

“It’s fun to do this show in Vegas, it’s small, people get into it,” Pierson said. “We like not having to travel. We say, ‘You’re paying us to travel, we’re doing the show for free.’ ”

B-52’s return to The Venetian on April 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 of next year. The read here is more will be added. There’s also a major project, a documentary about the band, due … At some point in the future.

Even the band is not certain of the timeline of the project, produced by musician/comic actor Fred Armisen and directed by Craig Johnson ( “The Skeleton Twins,” “Alex Strangelove”).

“The decision is not ours to make,” Pierson said. “Every time I ask, they say, ‘It’s coming along.’ We’ll see it when we see it.”

A real ‘Scream’d’

The latest Majestic Repertory Theatre production, “Scream’d: An Unauthorized Musical Parody,” a take-off of the 1996 horror movie “Scream,” itself a parody of the genre. The playlist is a rollout of such ’90s hitmakers as No Doubt, Britney Spears and N’Sync. The production runs through Nov. 4. go to tickttailor.com for intel.

Majestic hit on something with a sendup of “The Craft: An Unauthorized Musical Parody” last year. That show went on to be a long-running hit.

“We really tapped into the zeitgeist,” Majestic Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Troy Heard says. “Gen-X moms came with their Gen Z daughters. Groups arrived cosplaying characters from the movie. The experience had a real party vibe, with audiences shouting out lines from the movie.”

Cool Hang Alert

Remix at The Strat fills the no-cover void with Variation from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Sept. 8, and In-A-Fect 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Sept. 9. DJs follow both acts.

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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