Vegas, the home of the dramatic. One moment you’re walking along in France, the faux Eiffel Tower gazing down at you in the blistering sunshine, the next, hundreds of fountains burst into life to synchronised music. When the sun falls, neon lights decorate the night’s sky, while the sound of chinking casinos waft through the air. I mean, of course, Lady Gaga has a residency here! The over the top glitz and glam is the perfect backdrop for Mother Monster’s show, and it’s a theme that carries its way through the whole set. Sit back, stick on some classic Fame Monster tunes, and get ready for my Lady Gaga Enigma review.
Picture it: a teal zigzagged stage, a circular keyboard, a mysterious orb ebbing and flowing on the screen. Thousands of Monsters dressed in Lady Gaga Enigma merch and meat dresses and wigs, all waiting with bated breath for the Queen of Pop to make her grand entrance. The air thick and hot. The room filled with electric anticipation. Eyes turned to the back of the stage, where, every time a glimmer of light flashes the crowd cheers and stomps and shouts “yaaaaaas Gaga!”. And then, finally, fashionably late, the lights drop, and Gaga emerges from the back, carried down on wires, donning an outfit that dazzles like a hundred crushed diamonds, carrying her iconic key-guitar. Yep. This is a Lady Gaga show, for sure.
As Gaga hovers over the crowd gathered below like some sort of human disco ball, she plays the infamous first notes of the song that started it all: ‘Just Dance’. It’s interesting to see how far she’s come in the decade since the song dropped (elven years?!). In some ways, she’s still the same old Gaga, doing cartwheels in a catsuit surrounded by dancers dressed in neon. In others, she’s completely different. She’s oddly… refined. Confident yet humble. Grounded yet elated. It appears ‘Enigma’ was the perfect name for the residency, after all, as it’s one that describes the Lady herself perfectly.
She bounces through this double ensemble throughout the show, mirroring the duality of the Lady and the Gaga. At times she’s poised, refined, pouring out her heart to the lucky fan that sits next to her on the piano. Others, she’ll be playing a guitar with her high-heel rocking her blue wig back and forth. It’s a duality that exists in her career and extends into her personal life, too. Going from singing ‘Swine’ while a performing artist vomits paint on her chest to performing ‘The Sound of Music’ at the Oscars, dressed in a pure white gown. And Enigma is no different. (Though, it does tend to focus a tad more on the Gaga, rather than the Lady).
And I, personally, wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is the pop star I fell in love with. The gritty New York punk kid who doesn’t take any shit. The rock-star hidden behind a veil of pop, whose guttural vocals let you know exactly what she’s feeling through the music. The weird kid at school. The outcast. The freak. It’s something that all of her Monsters bond over, all over the world, and it’s nice to see her not only acknowledge that, but revel in it. Essentially, with the rather stripped-back ‘Joanne’ (which I adore), and her success following the raw and vulnerable ‘A Star Is Born’, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Gaga had chased this trend to keep her image squeaky-clean, to dilute herself and make herself more digestible to the general public. Thankfully, she said ‘fuck that’, and screams the chorus to ‘Government Hooker’ over and over again whilst wrapped in a neon-green outfit, gyrating on stage. Not only is the rah rah bitch back, but she never really left. (And, thankfully for those who do prefer their Gaga a tad more filtered, there’s always the Jazz and Piano engagements).
Before the residency started, Gaga described the show as “an odyssey of her pop hits built as an experience unlike any other”, and she wasn’t wrong. Enigma has something for both die-hard Monsters and casual fans alike, ranging from her biggest hits (obviously ‘Bad Romance’ makes the set list, duh), to her lesser known fan-favourites like ‘Dance in the Dark’. The ultimate peak of the show, for me, was when she performed ‘Scheiße’ – one of my favourite tracks from my favourite album of all time – belting it out on top of a gigantic robot, surrounded by laser beams and streams of fire (Gaga, I love you, but please, we’re in the middle of the desert and I’m surrounded by 7,000 people. Couldn’t you have used dry ice?!).
Oddly enough, all of this extravagance doesn’t swallow Gaga up. In fact, it elevates her. It amps up the energy in the room, forcing you to jump and dance while she screams “put your fucking paws up!” at the top of her lungs. It’s a party, and it’s just as much for you as it is her. You can see it in her eyes, as she gazes down into the crowd, that your joy is only making her happier – and it’s a beautiful give and take dressed in the form of a dirty, gritty concert. What Gaga has with her fans really is something special.
The set list itself was pretty much perfect (except for the lack of ‘Venus’, waaaah!). Featuring six songs from her debut album ‘The Fame’, four from ‘The Fame Monster’, six from ‘Born This Way’, two from ‘ARTPOP’, one from ‘Joanne’ and one from ‘A Star Is Born’. Throw in a David Bowie cover, too? Why the fuck not. There’s something here for everyone, casuals and stans alike. It was nice that this show heralds back to some of her older stuff, it’s rare that superfans will ever get to see songs like ‘The Fame’ or ‘Beautiful, Dirty, Rich’ performed live ever again – and Gaga seems to relish in rediscovering her roots. She tells the crowd how she dragged her way up with her motley crew from the New York City streets, acting like they were famous until they became the real deal, and how some of her squad have stuck with her to this very day. Aw.
Her vocals were on point, obviously. If you strip everything away, the choreo, the outfits, the sets – and just stick Gaga in front of a piano to sing (which is exactly what you’ll get at the Jazz and Piano engagement), her voice shines strong, unique in tone yet strong and commanding. Hearing her belt out ‘Million Reasons’ on the piano in real life sounds just as good – if not better – as the studio version, and that’s a very rare thing indeed.
The concert borders on being theatrical art as opposed to just a straight up pop gig – there’s even a plot, where Gaga is trapped inside an artificial intelligence! Gaga keeps the crowd engaged, at one point noticing a Little Monster is on FaceTime, yelling “is that your boyfriend? Hey! If you break their heart I’ll find you!” Much to the audience’s delight. She, as always, accepts letters and gifts from fans as they loiter the stage, and, after reading one out, brings the lucky fan on stage. She hugs him at length, before guiding him down the piano. “Do you want to sing?” She asks him. “You can’t? That’s okay, we’ll sing for you.”
The concert features everything you could ever want from a Gaga gig and more. She asks the audience to tell her to go and fuck herself and flip her off. She nails the ‘Bad Romance’ choreography. She interacts with the crowd. She laughs. She cries. She belts out her classic tunes and cult classics. All while putting in her all. Even when she took a slight tumble during ‘Judas’, she still kept on singing. That’s my girl. There’s robots and lasers and a flying seat and huge, dramatic interludes featuring anime, video-game like cutscenes. Tucked away in a smokey casino in the heart of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga makes the theatre her own.
The main takeaway from the gig- the thing that really makes Gaga shine as a performer – is how much she throws herself into her shows. You can tell she’s giving every single fiber of her being to put on the best show she possibly can for her fans. You can feel her pulling it all together, with every note and every step she manages to perfectly hit. Gaga cares. She doesn’t just show up, sing a few of her best known tracks and bounces, but she connects. The sincerity she has for her message – for her fans – is palpable, and it’s this that makes Gaga truly unique. Not the meat dresses. Not the glitzy costumes. But her soul. Whether she’s performing at a stadium seating 70,000 people or a theatre holding 7,000, Gaga puts in the exact same amount of effort to wow her audience. And it really is a sight to behold.
For more on Lady Gaga, check out my experience at her sick new museum, the Haus of Gaga.