By Shannon Carlin
After 95 years, Roseland Ballroom is shutting its doors, but not before Lady Gaga gets a chance to have her way with it.
Last night, Gaga kicked off her seven-night run at the famed New York City venue,which opened in 1919, but moved to its current location on W. 52nd Street in 1956. The best way to describe the night, which just so happened to also be Gaga’s golden birthday (she turned 28 on the 28th), was subdued.
There were no meat dresses, no Jeff Koons sculptures, no arrivals in giant eggs. Though Gaga did make a very New York entrance, arriving at the side entrance of the venue in a rose-adorned checkered cab (in a see-through bodysuit with strategically placed roses, nonetheless) to a crowd of fans singing “Happy Birthday.” And there was definitely no vomiting. At least not on stage.
Instead it was a throwback to what so many of us could only imagine it was like to see Gaga before she was Mother Monster. When she was still Stefani Germanotta working on her act downtown at those Lower East Side piano bars where she used to play in her early days.
Earlier this week, Gaga had said she wanted the show to be a tribute to the venue that has hosted Hillary Clinton’s 53rd birthday party with a performance from Cher, Fiona Apple’s infamous 2000 “breakdown” and a 2009 Franz Ferdinand show, in which Gaga broke her nose in the mosh pit. But more importantly she wanted these seven concerts to be a tribute o the city where she was born and raised.
The stage set-up, a recreation of an NYC apartment fire escape – not unlike the one she used in her “Edge of Glory” video – was simple in comparison to the lucite stage she’s planning for her upcoming ARTPOP Ball. But it allowed Gaga to turn the smaller space into a multileveled stage that had her dancing in the rafters to “Monster” and playing piano outside her fictional apartment window. That’s where she started the night, sitting at her keyboard singing a stripped down version of “Born This Way” off her 2011 album of the same name.
Later Gaga would move into the crowd to a side stage that was a subway car where her Little Monsters could get up close and personal with their favorite singer. She once again got behind the piano to sing “Dope” off ARTPOP and “Yoü and I” off her previous album, which was the night’s overwhelming favorite song.
This doesn’t mean the night was all torch songs and piano ballads. Gaga is Gaga after all and there was simulated sex acts during “Judas” and Euro-disco lasers for her latest single, “G.U.Y.” She even managed to throw in about five wardrobe changes. Though this time around, it was nothing as elaborate as we’ve seen on the red carpet. Instead it was a variety of different colored high-cut body suits that allowed her to show a little T&A. Mostly “A,” really. One fan even shouted out, “Gotta love that a–.” It was certainly not scandalous in Gaga terms, but for a place that once banned The Twist, it was certainly risqué.
But it was those quieter moments where Gaga just sang that really stood out. This included her very Glee-rendition of “Poker Face” that had her cracking jokes in a high squeaky voice about her Little Monsters’ alcohol intake: “Six years later, still wasted.” While the Bette Midler-schtick was a little cheesy, it managed to play right along with the night’s festivities. We were in the Broadway district after all.
Gaga’s kick off, which was all about substance instead of schtick, proved that you can’t make it New York on gimmicks alone, you need some talent to back it up.