You’d be forgiven for thinking that Katy Perry has a weak vocal judging by her various TV performances. Surprisingly, you’d be wrong. Perhaps her music just sounds better in an arena environment rather than on screen, but she sure as hell makes up for any doubts with production value.
It all started with Perry taking us on a trip through ancient (neon) civilisations – opener Roar saw her accompanied by an army of Roman centurions whose costumes and skipping ropes lit up in the dark, continuing with Part Of Me and Wide Awake (in dance remix form). For Dark Horse we moved, Stargate-style through space, to Egypt, where Perry emerged from the stage riding a mechanical puppet horse; for ET she took a page out of Pink’s book with some impressive acrobatics; the sexy I Kissed A Girl led us inside the on-screen pyramid to witness twerking mummies with oversized breasts and bums, and flying guitarists shooting sparks during a blazing solo.
From here things only got weirder. A trip to “Kittywood” had tap-dancers dressed as cats for a Broadway version of Hot N Cold that Lloyd Webber would be proud of, followed by International Smile that had bizarre cartoon cat imagery on the screen (playing keyboards, shopping and attending “Yoga Puss” - meow meow anyone?) and a middle eight that mashed in Madonna’s Vogue, before Perry poured fake glittery milk over herself and the dancers chased a cartoon mouse. A mega mix of 90s dance hits (complete with big-headed smiling DJ and ‘Dance Cam’ on the audience) led into Walking On Air where Perry flew across the stage; a giant inflatable emoji poo (amongst others) floated over the audience during the frothy fun of This Is How We Do as Perry sang from an inflatable car; and on California Gurls the arena erupted in neon disco, before she performed current single Birthday where she literally brought out the big balloons and soared over the audience after inviting one lucky
bitch fan on stage to
be strapped into a giant cake and sung to.
One video short, to the soundtrack of Peacock, had Perry seemingly trapped in the Jackson’s Scream video before the white walls exploded in a shower of paint. Likewise, for the two hour gig the whole arena was a volcano of neon – from light up costumes, to quirky imagery, a thick mist of balloons and ticker tape, and Perry’s ever-changing coloured wigs and costumes. There was perhaps an over-reliance on the screen and a lack of large-scale set pieces, but this is Katy Perry not Gaga levels of crazy. Or Miley for that matter.
In the middle of it all she proved her critics wrong. As is now becoming customary at so many pop gigs, she performed an acoustic set on the B-stage (“I get to talk to you like we’re in my room eating pizza”), with beautiful renditions of By The Grace Of God, The One That Got Away and Unconditional. The former especially was an arrestingly emotional (and vocally exposed) moment, Perry thanking her fans whilst her boyfriends “come and go”. Not only does she have a great set of pipes and a zany personality, but she accompanied herself on guitar and showed some real vulnerability beneath the costumes - “As a popstar you’re supposed to be invincible and I’m not”, she claimed. Perry is far more than just a blue-haired cartoon character squirting cream out of her breasts at jelly babies.
But if the gig as a whole was a battle between Katy ‘the serious musician’ and Katy ‘the popstar’, what really showed was the quality of her music. The songs may be mostly bubblegum fun, but the full setlist consisted of hit after hit after hit. The finale was Firework, the stage lit up in dazzling fiery explosions for a fittingly vibrant ending to the ultimate feelgood gig. Isn’t that what being a popstar is all about?