The answer was evident when both singers joined together to shut down the Gentilly Stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival .
The set, part of a summer-long tour to promote a recent duets album, appeared to force some kind of connection between the elder singer and chameleonic pop star, but like any new product sold by an eye-popping marketing hook, it looked and sounded strained.
Being from different generations is fine (she’s 29, he’s 88), but not so much different traditions. Each time they met onstage the same thing took place: Bennett confidently sung behind and around the beat, presenting his voice as one of his band’s most finessed instruments while Gaga rolled him over with her barrelhouse voice honed after years selling hammering electro-pop to the rafters of basketball stadiums. As she danced around Bennett, rested her head on his shoulder, and rotated through a variety of costume changes — including a silvery space jumpsuit with skyscraper heels — Gaga made it clear she’s an effective theater performer who delivers for the occasion. But it was all dressing. On solo spots like “Nature Boy,” a soft voice and slinky stage movement telegraphed sadness, but her vocals didn’t know any. For “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” her performance went for comedy and ended up all camp.
The show was designed as a Tony Bennett set that injected her guest appearances after every few costume changes (all unnecessary). A master interpreter of ballads more than the uptempo swing numbers, Bennett knew the songs more and his voice grew even stronger as the set progressed. Moving little but just enough, his gestures were reserved for his vocals that, for songs like Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and Louis Armstrong’s “When You’re Smiling,” were delightfully simple to match the lyrics. The times he was left alone led to a feat of magic: He was able to create intimacy onstage before tens of thousands of people.