Lady Gaga's Las Vegas residency debut is 'bizarre and beautiful'

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

image copyrightKevin Mazur / Getty Images

Was there ever a better match between performer and venue than Lady Gaga and Las Vegas? The 21st Century's most OTT pop star, taking up residency in a city with all the nuance of a pink Doberman running through a field of saucepans.

As you might imagine, Gaga's Enigma show at the Park MGM didn't disappoint when it opened this weekend.

She literally flew onto the stage, trussed up in a harness while playing Just Dance on a keytar; and later performed Scheiße from the top of a giant spider-robot.

The show is themed around Gaga's quest to discover her true self, aided by an animated spirit guide, Enigma, who's projected onto screens at the back of the stage.

image copyrightKevin Mazur / Getty Images

But while the songs find the star battling emotional and personal demons, the stage show puts her in alien landscapes, floating egg-shaped escape pods and a series of increasingly uncomfortable-looking unitards.

"The best moments are the ones that feel improvised," said Rolling Stone in its review. "Like when she ad libs during You and I, singing the line, 'Been a long time but I'm back in town' before adding, 'And I'm stickin' around for two whole years. Three if I'm lucky!'"

Dave Grohl, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Renner, Marisa Tomei and Adam Lambert all checked out the opening night on Friday, while Celine Dion attended the second show on Sunday - and if her reaction to The Edge of Glory is any sort of barometer, the show was a massive success.

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So did anyone enjoy it more than Celine? Here's what the critics had to say.

It's bizarre and beautiful [Entertainment Weekly]

"Enigma is Gaga's way of sharing an epiphany that we can only assume she's recently experienced and strove to manifest creatively. At some point, Gaga lost who she was - whether by her own fault, or the machine around her, is only for her to say - but Enigma serves as her way of affirming that she's never been more secure in who she is.

"Her way of showing us is bizarre and beautiful, but Lady Gaga has always spoken in theatre and spectacle - and in her stunning Las Vegas debut, her vocabulary has found a perfect home." Marc Snetiker

image copyrightKevin Mazur / Getty Images

Come for the spectacle, stay for the ballads [Billboard]

"From Gaga commandeering a giant robot while performing Scheiße and flying over the crowd in an escape pod for Paparazzi; to her hunched over behind a piano with metallic wings sprouting from its base on Million Reasons, the set pieces were just as grandiose and over-the-top as the performances themselves.

"[But] as over-the-top as the show was, it was the more sombre moments that stood out and gave insight to her separate Vegas show titled Lady Gaga Jazz & Piano, which will feature stripped down versions of Gaga's hits." Andreas Hale

She's really singing [Variety magazine]

"Enigma is a generous show, by Vegas pop standards, not just by exceeding the standard get-'em-out-onto-the-slot-machines set length, but because Gaga also happens to do almost two hours more of actual singing than some of her counterparts on the Strip. (No names necessary here.)" Chris Willman

image copyrightKevin Mazur / Getty Images

The story is confused and disjointed [LA Times]

"Although her songs recognise and address social and cultural challenges, the show largely feels afflicted with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There's little sense of narrative flow, as each elaborate production number and colourful set of imaginative costumes come into play.

"Likewise, the choreography she and her thoroughly committed dancers engage in offers little in the way of physical expression or amplification of her songs' lyrics or music, but they do provide plenty of wild, kinetic energy." Randy Lewis

But the fans enjoyed it [Yahoo]

"Some of the staging admittedly didn't quite work - or at the very least, it could have been incorporated into the live show in a more intricate way, rather than just having Gaga trade scripted, somewhat stilted lines with a widescreen, two-dimensional image of her chrome-domed fembot ruler.

"That being said, Gaga definitely committed to this storyline, so much so that several fans in the theatre shouted, 'Oscar!' whenever she uttered her dialogue." Lyndsey Parker

Shallow is a highlight [Rolling Stone]

"There's a short encore to properly conclude the show once Enigma departs. In an oversized shirt that has her Bowie-inspired Poker Face lightning bolt cutting through a silhouette of her body, she sings one last song: Shallow, the runaway hit from A Star Is Born. The moment is a balm... reminding us how far she's come and the many lives she's lived after taking us on a tour of her own musical history." Brittany Spanos

Gaga asserts her place in pop history [Vulture]

"There's something about seeing a superstar soaring overhead that changes your sense of perspective. Up in the roof she looks dainty like a Polly Pocket. Behind me is Katy Perry.

"I stare at Perry, staring at Gaga, zipping overhead and think about women and glass ceilings. For the next two hours, Gaga demonstrates her contribution to this pop era and to smashing the system, with an exquisite setlist." Eve Barlow

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