“Can you believe this place is 95 years old?” Lady Gaga asked the Sunday night crowd at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, prompting — what else? — shrieks of adoration from her devoted fans. “What an old bitch.”
The venerable Roseland, in case you hadn’t heard (or don’t live in New York and don’t really care) is closing after Gaga’s seven-show residency ends next Monday. Which might explain why survival was the night’s unofficial theme: Gaga sprinkled her stripped-down ten-song set — an amuse bouche for her upcoming artRave tour — with reminiscences about her rough days as an up-and-comer in the music business, and even joked about overcoming a more-than-friends relationship with substances in the preamble to her ballad “Dope.” (“I did a lot of drugs in the bathroom here,” she quipped a few minutes later, to even louder applause.)
You can’t blame Gaga for having mortality on her mind. At a time when middling album sales and vomit-laden performances have downgraded her from supernova to mere superstar, there’s been reason to wonder if the singer was headed for the same 15-minutes-is-up oblivion that she used to skewer so gleefully back in her Fame days.
But if her Roseland show is any indication, Gaga’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Her brief set was light on high-art pretension — no Jeff Koons sculptures, no Marina Abramovic-style performance pieces — and heavy on the fundamental assets that make her a world-class entertainer. Her voice was in top form, thick and buttery on low notes and chills-inducingly clear on high ones. She had an easy, I’m-here-all-night rapport with the crowd. (“If you’re not having a good time, you can’t have your money back,” she told them. “Because it’s mine.”) She played the keytar and the piano and danced in a variety of minimal costumes, all while wearing a curly blonde wig the size of a golden retriever.
Throughout the night, Gaga seemed most comfortable cracking wise behind her piano, making believe the 3,200 fans packed into the Roseland were just a handful of sozzled late-nighters at a dive bar on the Lower East Side. The audience, on the other hand, roared loudest when she pulled out thundering renditions of “Just Dance” and “Bad Romance,” songs that she pumped full of urgency despite the fact that she’s probably sung them a few thousand times in the past five years.
The show ended abruptly after her latest ARTPOP single, “G.U.Y.”, clocking in at a lean 60-odd minutes with no encore. “I’ll see you when I’m 90 and you’re 92,” she told the crowd as a goodbye. For once, it didn’t sound like she was joking.