NEW YORK — Roseland Ballroom has hosted scores of stars of every musical stripe since it was converted from an ice-skating rink into a concert hall in 1956. The storied venue is nearing the end of its run, and Lady Gaga, who's in the midst of sending it off in style with a seven-night stand, is doing the Roseland proud in its final days as a New York icon.
The Roseland residency-of-sorts couldn't have come at a more opportune time for Gaga, nor could it have taken place in a more appropriate spot. After third studio album Artpop's disappointing debut at the tail end of 2013 and a neon, vomit-soaked performance at South By Southwest music festival earlier this month, Lady Gaga has raised more eyebrows than accolades for her most recent artistic endeavor.
Applause may have joined the ranks of Bad Romance and Poker Face as a standard in her hit parade, but Artpop and its lack of cohesion — in both concept and presentation — paled in comparison to the distinctly stylized and totally off-the-wall productions of Gaga in each of her previous iterations. The chance to not only set up shop at the Roseland but also hold the distinction of being the final artist to take its stage was a tailor-made shot at redemption for Lady Gaga and her newer material, especially given her personal connection to the spot as a native New Yorker and a musician who came into her own in the city's clubs and basements.
"I'm going to miss you!" she cooed, less to the sea of screaming Little Monsters in homemade "Born This Way" and "Just Dance" T-shirts on her home turf and more to the walls and floorboards beneath them. "I did a lot of drugs in the bathroom here!"
Lady Gaga's mother was in the audience at the Roseland on Sunday night, but it didn't keep the young diva from candidly reminiscing throughout the stellar performance she delivered. Her range as a live artist was exceptionally exercised over the course of an hour, with heart-wrenching ballads such as Dope shouldering up to the hopeful strains of You and I or the rallying party cry of Just Dance.
Her turns at the piano were the points that truly anchored Gaga in the swirling din engulfing the Roseland, as Born This Way and a jazzier take on Poker Face gave way to the kind of New York swagger that can only be picked up from cutting one's teeth in the shadow of the Empire State Building. These simple moments — the ones free of difficult choreography, bizarre props or elaborate costume changes — shone amid the excess of Bad Romance and G.U.Y., and the playing field between the songs of Artpop and the hits of Lady Gaga's past finally began to level.
She may have arrived at Roseland as a girl with dreams of the spotlight all those years ago, but Lady Gaga is set to leave with the switch of it in her back pocket by the time her final bow comes along April 7.