She panted into the mic, breathless from chasing her dreams in song, her orange lips glowing like a black-light poster beneath an ultraviolet bulb.
“Where am I?” Lady Gaga wondered four numbers into the opening night performance of her new “Enigma” residency, draped in a Big Bird-fluffy feather boa.
Well, technically, Gaga was commanding the stage at the Park Theater at Park MGM Dec. 28, her movements suggestive of a sort of dance pop jiujitsu, elbows, hair and knees flying through the air as if jet-propelled. But the venue was a mere backdrop for Planet Enigma, a futuristic, fantastical realm of robots, fire and bare-chested male dancers in latex hot pants, which transformed the theater for the evening, complete with flying saucer-sized lighting rigs and a production design that bore the look of an alien mountain range.
The show’s story line — yes, there was one — began with Gaga being confronted by her Enigma, which was depicted by a luminescent, animated character on the massive video screen behind the stage.
What’s an Enigma? Basically, it’s one’s inner voice, something that’s not meant to be ignored, but which we often do, to hear Gaga tell it. And so the running narrative revolved around our heavy-breathing heroine attempting to get back in touch with her true self.
This quest for identity took place in a “The Matrix”-meets-“Alice in Wonderland” landscape, with Gaga plunging down
the depths of her psyche in place of a rabbit hole.
If this all seems a tad high-concept, well, Gaga had an answer for that in song as well: “Pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture in me,” she sang as a tidal wave of propulsive synth lines crashed ashore during “Applause.”
With Gaga entering the venue descending from the rafters while gripping a gleaming keytar, the show’s first two acts — out of five — focused on her early repertoire, back when her bank account was lean but her aspirations were fat and she pined in song for the life she’d eventually get.
“I can see myself in the movies with my picture in the city lights,” she sang presciently on “The Fame,” from her 2008 debut album of the same name, a song which she hadn’t performed live in seven years, same for vintage cuts “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” and “Dance in the Dark.”
During this portion of Enigma, scheduled to run through November, Gaga remained in character, portraying the younger, pre-star version of herself, the sharp-tongued New Yorker with a Big Apple accent, seldom addressing the crowd as she normally does at shows. That would come later. So would the “Terminator”-worthy stage props and enough pyro to sting nostrils with the scent of sulfur.
The show’s third act was its most concussive, soundtracked by full-contact electro pop.
Gaga, a closet headbanger who performed with Metallica at last year’s Grammys, brought the heavy metal thunder during the near-industrial surge of “Scheiße,” where she took the stage astride a massive mechanized robo-thingy.
Gaga then strapped on a guitar for a similarly seismic “Judas,” and during a cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans,” she joined her pianist inside his nifty, circular “PianoArc” keyboard, whipping her mane violently to the beat.
Gaga parted the veil on all this artifice and aplomb soon enough, though. Seated at a gleaming metallic piano whose surface elevated into what looked like glass shards, she performed brittle-hearted ballad “Million Reasons” alone
on a circular riser in front of the stage, the only tune she played from her 2016 album “Joanne.”
It was here, within arm’s length of fans on the general admission floor, that she spoke to the audience in her usual candid style, getting emotional. “I love you with all my heart,” she said, choking back tears while urging the crowd to embrace their own enigmas. “If you take anything away from tonight, you go home and listen to that inner voice.”
A full-throated “Yoü and I” would follow, with Gaga perched atop her piano seat, waving her derriere in the air like a battle flag, with impossibly bombastic versions of “Bad Romance” and “Born This Way” closing out the show’s final act.
For her one-tune encore, Gaga returned onstage clad in a T-shirt for a similarly stripped-down version of her “A Star Is Born” hit “Shallow.” “I’m off the deep end,” she sang, “watch as I dive in.”
The song is about plunging headfirst into love’s often choppy waters, but Gaga’s words could just as well have applied to the production she was fully immersed in on this night, rarely coming up for air.