The outrageous superstar drew hyperventilating throngs that stretched for blocks behind an endless ribbon of yellow caution tape, then let it rip in a show televised on NBC's "Today" show. The performance drew an estimated 20,000 fans, a record for the show's summer concert series, which has attracted the likes of Bon Jovi, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.
“Too much excitement,” gushed Kevin Acevedo, 17, who trekked in from New Jersey with his cousin, brother and his brother’s girlfriend to claim the first spot in the line at 11:30 p.m.
Fans began lining up for the show more than 30 hours beforehand, many wearing homemade Gaga costumes, or sporting her signature bizarre hairdos.
Garbed in white sequined pants and a bra adorned with crosses, Gaga began with the classic Gershwin ballad "Someone to Watch Over me," before performing hits "Alejandro" and "Bad Romance," then sat down at a white grand piano to play "You and I," a song slated for her next album.
"Thank you for changing my life and making my dreams come true!" she shouted to the sea of adoring fans.
Indeed, the love affair between the 24-year-old star and her adoring public is something to behold. She had pizza and water sent to fans camped out in line late Thursday. While some stars imply contempt for their fans, Gaga affectionately calls hers "little monsters," and revels in her role as Grand Dame of Misfits.
Known before superstardom as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Gaga is equal parts Madonna, Bowie and Warhol, with undeniable vocal talent and canny knack for self-promotion.
"This is showbiz for me," Gaga told Rolling Stone last month. "I don't want people to see that I'm a human being."
And the fans who swarmed 30 Rock Friday weren't disappointed.
"She's extravagant! She doesn't care what anyone else thinks and her music is fantastic," said Jemma Gibb, from South Africa.