Lady Gaga At Roseland: The Pop Powerhouse Returns

On the first night of her Roseland residency, Gaga showed she's still a force.

Lady Gaga kicked off her Roseland residency on Friday (March 28) with a show that was heavy on the hits, sublimely sexual, suitably sentimental — both for her glory days and the iconic venue she's closing with this seven-night stand — and ridiculous in all the right ways.

It was also only about an hour long.

And, sure, she's still getting back into fighting shape after a lengthy layoff (ARTPOP was released last November, the corresponding tour doesn't begin until May,) which probably explains why Friday's set was so short. But, at the same time, it's impossible to write about the show without at least mentioning its brevity.

So let me get it out of the way. Yes, Gaga was guilty of cutting things off just as they were starting to simmer — her main set concluded with a fierce, fiery version of "Applause," complete with confetti cannons, and a good-natured "Goodnight, you drunk a--holes" salute — then she only played a single song during the encore (fittingly enough, it was new single "G.U.Y.") before bowing out. And that abrupt ending seemed to surprise many of her fans, who clearly came to party and now found themselves filing out of Roseland before 11 p.m.

But I'm willing to bet that, by the time they read this, all will have been forgiven. Because while Gaga's show wasn't a long one, it was a rather promising preview of what those same fans should expect when the ARTPOP Ball returns to New York City in May ... not to mention a profound reminder that she's still one of the most formidable pop performers on the planet.

From her opening number — a torchy take on "Born This Way," performed seated behind an electric piano — to the runway thump of "Black Jesus" and "Monster," Gaga certainly didn't show any signs of rust. She strutted and stomped across a multi-tiered stage (festooned with roses in honor of the venue), even scaling a ladder to sing to the folks in the balconies. And, with her hip fully healed, she finally seems comfortable dancing on the stage, as evidenced by the multitudinous moves she displayed during "Bad Romance" and "Just Dance."

In short, this wasn't the weird, art-obsessed, dreadlocked-and-dirty version of Gaga we got (no one barfed on her this time;) instead, she was the supremely-focused superstar that once conquered the world ... or at least a close approximation thereof.

That was evident in the way she attacked ARTPOP tracks like "Dope" and "Sexxx Dreams," both of which seemed ready for much bigger stages, and slayed "You and I," an already anthemic number that's now also an oddly nostalgic one ... after all, not only is the man she's singing about gone forever, but so is an entire era. There was a sentimental streak throughout her entire show, to be certain, but nowhere was it as palpable as when she was belting out this Born This Way ballad.

For those keeping score at home, there were roughly a dozen costume changes, plenty of profanity, and exactly one rose-covered keytar. Gaga is still capable of being wonderfully weird — for most of the night, she addressed the audience in a voice that was part Disney Princess, half Harajuku Girl — and it was nice to see she'll always be able to stretch "Poker Face" to the sublime levels of silliness while seated behind a piano. But really, this night was about something more.

It was about proving that she's still got it, that the reports of Gaga's death are greatly exaggerated, and that everything you've read about ARTPOP is wrong. Sure, the pop landscape has shifted immensely over the past 12 months, but you get the feeling the Mother Monster's finally figuring out where she fits into it all. She'll return to the arenas soon enough, but her journey back begins with the tiny, tenuous steps she took Friday night.

And, hey, like the showbiz pros that stalked the Roseland stage decades earlier liked to say, always leave 'em wanting more.