It was nearly 10 years ago that I fell in love with Lady Gaga, through catchy pop-dance classics like “Poker Face,” “LoveGame” and “Bad Romance.” The romance continues with her soulful and visceral latest release, Joanne. I never thought I’d get to see and hear her perform the hits I’ve listened to on repeat for years, let alone up close in the luxurious Encore Theater in celebration of a new year.
As soon as Gaga first took the stage on December 30, clad in a floor-length, hooded, backless gown that sparkled like a beacon, she captivated the show’s 1,000 attendees. Her voice sounded fantastic, better live than recorded, and she performed with New York jazz musicians Brian Newman and his quintet and Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers orchestra. It was as if we’d been transported to the Prohibition era, with Gaga as time-traveling muse. The six-time Grammy winner opened with “Theme From New York, New York,” and whirled through favorites like classic show tune “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” which she dedicated to Mr. Wynn and sang almost entirely in French.
There was also a brief piano performance during which Gaga began to play a rendition of “Bad Romance” before switching to “Million Reasons,” per an audience member’s request. We became her backup singers as she paused to let us fill in the lyrical gaps, a rare opportunity to become part of a dynamic performance—but I’ve always felt connected to her lyrics. I might have questioned her alien-like metamorphosis on Born This Way, but I’ve come to love and embrace her bold defiance of societal norms. Friday night marked an exceptional end to a year in need of her love, confidence and class.