Katy Perry Mines for 'Internet Gold' With Sara Bareilles, Ellie Goulding at the Hollywood Bowl

The pop star brought out a slew of female singers to each put their own twist on "Roar" during Wednesday's show, presented by Citi.
Kyleen James

“I went through this thing -- I guess it’s called growing up,” Katy Perry confessed to a small group of lucky fans ahead of her Hollywood Bowl debut. 

Perry appeared onstage at the iconic venue for a preshow acoustic performance and fan Q&A on Wednesday afternoon, presented by Citi. The 28-year-old played three songs -- “Roar,” “Unconditionally” and “Firework” -- for the intimate group, inexplicably wearing what appeared to be her best business attire.  She later encouraged the crowd to stick around her performance that night, noting she was planning something special for “Roar,” the disc’s first single. “This is Internet gold,” Perry promised.

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It wasn’t exactly gold, but in honor of the evening’s event, billed as Citi Presents “Katy Perry's: We Can Survive,” Perry brought all of the show’s performers onstage with her for the finale. Bonnie McKee, Kacey Musgraves, Tegan and Sara, Sara Bareilles and Ellie Goulding, the show’s openers, all offered verses of “Roar” alongside Perry, revealing the distinctly different aesthetics between the performers. The connecting thread was, of course, that all are female musicians with pop inclinations, and all support Young Survival Coalition, a breast cancer awareness organization the event benefitted.

Bareilles, who noted she’d “never played on a stage this big before,” told the crowd, “I know that almost every person in my life has been affected in some way and it is a beautiful thing to be here tonight. We are stronger together than we are alone.” She later dedicated a song to a friend who’d recently overcome breast cancer, a theme that resonated throughout most of the evening’s sets.

For Perry, though, the causal awareness was a secondary to the promotion of Prism, out Tuesday, which involved a lot of mentions of the new album throughout her set. The singer performed ten songs, opening with “I Kissed A Girl,” a single that should stay buried at this point in her career. Juicy J made an appearance to guest on new album track “Dark Horse,” Perry’s attempt at hip-hop, which felt stronger live than it does as a recording. The singer rehashed her recent Saturday Night Live production for “Walking On Air,” a song that sounds like it was pulled out of the movie Night At the Roxbury.

Her only real mention of the evening’s cause was before playing “By The Grace of God,” a new album cut she co-wrote with Greg Wells. “That’s why we’re here because we’re survivors, right?” Perry, now clad in a shiny silver schoolgirl outfit with a matching cape, asked the crowd. “We have a choice -- to be defeated or to survive.” Of course, she could have been referring to her divorce from Russell Brand, rather than breast cancer, but the sentiment resonated with the primarily female audience.

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Perry apparently won’t be touring on Prism until next year, so this performance likely offers only a small clue as to what the production on this tour cycle will involve. Shiny silver stacked blocks was spread around the stage, which rotated between sets leaving no down time throughout the show, and Perry changed costumes only once, into a sequined gown for the “Roar” encore (during her “California Dreams” tour she had nearly 20 costume changes each night). The production and Perry’s white-clad dancers reflected the buoyant, simplistic pop songs on Prism, the singer’s follow-up to 2010’s Teenage Dream.

At this point, Perry should know better than to allow artists like Goulding and Tegan and Sara to play before her, though. The emotional and intelligent quality of those artists’ songs overshone her glimmering pop, despite Perry’s flashy production. Goulding’s rendition of her single “Lights,” as she strutted around the stage in leather shorts and a backless crop top, was a measuredly successful moment in the evening. Perhaps Perry should aspire to that sort of ebullient performative enthusiasm on her upcoming tour, rather than posing while male dancers draped silver fabric around her.

It’s hard to criticize a show that promotes such a positive cause and highlights a solid selection of female artists. But it raises the question of how we want our female pop stars to present themselves. If you watch a video of the evening’s “Internet gold” moment you can see apparent disparity between the artists, all varied in their presentations of what contemporary pop music is and how much clothing it should be dressed in. It didn’t seem to matter to the fans last night, however. The excitement surged as Perry performed “Firework” accompanied by actual fireworks toward the end of her 45-minute set. Sometimes the simplistic pop is all people want – and Perry apparently knows and embraces it.

Twitter: @EmilyZemler