Wednesday, July 20
Once upon a time, a girl named Katy worked for a mean, scary butcher and spent her>"/>
Once upon a time, a girl named Katy worked for a mean, scary butcher and spent her evenings eating cupcakes with her cat, Kitty Purry. Or so goes the storyline of Katy Perry's California Dreams tour, played out in a video sequence on screens above the stage. One night, Kitty Purry runs away and leads Katy to a magical place called Candyfornia, where a duo of dancing mimes give her a bite of their special brownies.
"That's the most interesting-tasting brownie I've ever had!" chirps the wide-eyed Katy, as the picture on the video screen gets blurry.
The video follows along with the juxtaposition of Perry's image as a pop star: There's the infantile side, as represented by the fantasy Candyland, which the stage at KeyArena last night was set up to resemble, complete with a red-and-white-striped candy-cane walkway. At times, Perry's concert resembles one of those shows Mickey and friends put on at Disneyland--during "Waking Up in Vegas," she performed a dance routine with a walking slot machine, an Elvis, two magicians, and two showgirls. For her heartfelt ballad "Thinking of You," she flew over the (sold-out) audience on a giant pink cotton-candy cloud and strummed a glittering rainbow-streaked guitar. Later in the set, while she sang a cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," someone in a purple Kitty Purry costume came out and danced onstage with her. All of this is where it makes sense that KeyArena was packed to the gills with screaming tweens in blue wigs, screaming tweens in pink wigs, vendors selling light-up cotton candy, and thousands of moms.
(Side note: I love it when moms try to outdo each other. Example, overheard last night--Mom 1: "We got backstage meet-and-greet passes!" Mom 2: "*GASP.* No, you didn't!)
But then there's the other side of Katy Perry, the one that reminds her audiences that she's a 26-year-old woman, not a Lisa Frank-loving seventh grader. Going back to the video analogy, that side is obviously represented by the pot brownies. Perry's songs have always been a bit racy by mom standards; some are downright raunchy, and she didn't shy away from those in concert. "Hummingbird Heartbeat" opens with the line "You make me feel like I'm losing my virginity/For the first time, every time when you touch me." (That actually sounds really unpleasant to me, but that's another point.) The crowd went wild when she donned an emerald bodysuit and a feathery tail to sing "Peacock," whose catchy chorus goes "Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock?/Don't be a chicken, boy, stop acting like a beeyotch." (After that song ended, a dad behind me ACTUALLY said, "I don't get it." It was amazing.) It's interesting to note the fine balance that Perry manages between innocent and totally naughty, and to wonder what all the moms think about the weed and sex references, but ultimately it doesn't really matter. A long time ago, around the time "I Kissed a Girl" became a massive hit, Perry figured out that that balance worked for her and has successfully run with it ever since.
In the same way, you could sit around and wonder why an adult woman is choosing to wear a dress adorned with spinning pinwheels and dance with a giant gingerbread man on stage, but ultimately it's best not to. Perry's living out her fantasy--at times it's kind of a bizarre one, but she seems to be a bit of a strange person, in the best and endearing sense of the word--and at this stage in her life, that fantasy is Candyfornia. And next to the robotic performer that Britney Spears has tragically become and the sometimes cloying seriousness with which Lady Gaga takes herself, it's nice to see a pop star goofing off and clearly having a good time. Perry struts and smiles like one of her Vegas showgirls, and it's also nice to see that she's gotten over her latex-dress obsession. Last night her costumes ranged from that pinwheel dress to a black catsuit complete with cat ears and a tail, a floor-length neon green gown with slits up to there, a silver bustier with tassels, and a white bodysuit bedazzled with what looked like cyst-like pink, blue, and yellow growths. (During "Hot n Cold," with the assistance of her backup dancers and some curtains, she changed outfits an incredible seven times, all while continuing to sing the song).
And, maybe surprisingly for those who've thus far only focused on catchy bounciness of Perry's hits (myself included), the girl can really sing. Last night, "Not Like the Movies" was one of the rare moments when Perry wasn't moving around the stage; she sat on a giant swing and sang the slow song, and it was one of the show's better moments, because you could actually hear her voice, unhindered by the loud backing tracks and instrumentation that accompanied her up-tempo dance numbers. (Her vocal ability was also nicely showcased during, oddly, her version of Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" in her karaoke medley). Her voice isn't quite at diva status, but it's unique and sultry.
Katy Perry can't belt it like Beyonce, and she's not as good a dancer as Lady Gaga, but where she trumps the competition is in personality. (Onstage, at least). If Beyonce's all about soul and Gaga's all about edginess, Perry's all about pure fun, and she makes that work for her. In a way, Perry makes it easy to be a fan of hers--she's a good singer, she's young, and she's sexy, but she doesn't take herself too seriously, and doesn't ask that we do either.
Waking Up In Vegas
Ur So Gay
I Kissed a Girl
Circle the Drain
Who Am I Living For?
Only Girl in the World/Big Pimpin'/Friday/Whip My Hair Karaoke Medley
Thinking of You
Hot n Cold
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston cover)
Check out this slideshow from the show.