In one of the more unusual examples of a match-up of old and new media that pays off, Tony Bennett has found the perfect dance partner in Lady Gaga as their “Cheek to Cheek” tour rung in 2015 in Las Vegas.
The fanbases for both singers filled the Cosmopolitan resort’s Chelsea theater for a two-hour show that proved charmingly effective in showing off the talents of both artists on a stage simply decorated with crystal-studded curtains.
Bennett, 88, can still belt out the lyrics as he always has, especially his performance of “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” and a sweet, memorable version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.”
But it’s Gaga who stood out perhaps the most, gamely taking on jazz classics as she shimmied across the stage or around Bennett in a variety of sequined flapper dresses, feathered boas and headdresses during her many costume and wig changes, some of which invoked Liza Minnelli.
Backed by the Brian Newman Quartet, her explosive rendition of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” as she wore a shiny silver jumpsuit, was the highlight of the evening, although her sassy approach to “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” and “Lush Life,” came close.
Yet it was their duets of songs like “I Won’t Dance,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” that audiences clearly came to see, and showed off the chemistry between the two.
Gaga never tried to upstage Bennett, often showing restraint and making sure to pay respect to the iconic crooner. That, and her confident performance, surely went over well with the older crowd in the audience, and could pay off in the future as she releases new albums.
Suddenly, she’s no longer the risque pop singer who pushes the boundaries for headline-grabbing sake, but the approachable talented young artist (she’s 28) who can stand alongside the best of them — and actually sound as they do in their songs when they perform live, something many pop artists struggle to do.
In their setlist Bennett and Gaga smartly held off on featuring too many duets during “Cheek to Cheek,” giving each of them equal time to shine with solo numbers. But the energy in the room always lit up once Gaga took the stage.
Given the stature of its two stars, “Cheek to Cheek” needed to launch in Las Vegas — and from inside the New York-themed Chelsea. The album was recorded in Gotham and has been a top-seller worldwide since its release in September. The tour’s first ticketed performance was held Dec. 30, also inside the Chelsea.
The show also is a win for the Cosmopolitan, which built the Chelsea in order to regularly attract bigger music acts to a large theater that isn’t devoted to a single artists like Britney Spears, across the street at Planet Hollywood, or Celine Dion in Caesars.
With a sold-out crowd, the Cosmopolitan easily competed with the hotter nightclubs in the area (even inside its own property), with Drake performing New Years Eve at Marquee, Iggy Azaliea at Drai’s, Robin Thicke at Foxtail and Macklemore + Ryan Lewis at 1 OAK.
Gaga is hardly a newcomer. But if collaborations like “Cheek to Cheek” are the future and will give Hollywood an idea of how established artists can work with younger artists — especially those emerging on YouTube and other digital platforms — as a way to speak to a broad audience, it looks like 2015 could be a very good year.