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Over the past few years Katy Perry has cultivated a very specific brand identity. She has a cartoonish shtick that is wild, colorful and highly sexualized. It contains little space for nuance or subtlety, but that’s of little concern for the singer, who brandishes her boisterous sensibility with a heavy but likeable hand. Sometimes all this aesthetic noise is deafening, but on Perry’s current Prismatic Tour, it has been channeled into a compelling production that celebrates how animated Perry truly is.
Friday night at Staples Center, in the first of two performances this weekend, Perry showcased how a pop star’s irreverent brand can translate into a theatrical spectacle that emphasizes fun over drama. The two-hour concert, heralded by a buoyant opening performance from Tegan and Sara, felt like a cousin of Miley Cyrus’ recent Bangerz Tour, which similarly employs the singer’s own predilections in its production. Perry emerged onstage inside of a massive silver prism as a collection of male dancers strutted around the stage in futuristic gladiator costumes with illuminated rainbow helmets and glowing spears. The singer, clad in a sparkling dress with Tron-like glowing trim, launched immediately into “Roar,” the hit single off her latest album, Prism.
The performance set the tone for the rest of the show (light-up jump ropes were used to compelling effect), but didn’t necessarily reveal an overall narrative, perhaps because it turned out that there wasn’t one. Perry’s last tour, the California Dreams Tour, was driven by an overarching story — the singer became trapped in a Candy Land-like world and rolled through her entire set list based on this premise. The Prismatic Tour, on the other hand, was impossible to predict. Literally anything could come next, something that became evident as Perry transitioned from ancient Egypt, replete with a giant gold horse, for “Dark Horse” and “Alien” to an intricate homage to Broadway’s Cats.
It felt like we were seeing inside of Perry’s head during a fever dream, particularly during the sequence that involved her dancers dressed as massive felines, climbing all over grandiose scratching posts. As the cats clawed around the stage, Perry, wearing a pink sequined cat suit, transformed “Hot N Cold” into a jazzy Broadway number.
This desire to revisit and revitalize older hits was integral to the tour’s success — Perry not only staged the songs in new, interesting ways but also revealed possible new ways of performing them musically. She did this again later with “The One That Got Away,” stripping down the track’s pop production and performing it as an acoustic ballad at the forefront of the stage (with the help of a gold glitter guitar, of course).
Together, the segments of the show were nonsensical, connected only by Perry herself. But for the most part she kept the momentum going. The only lag occurred partway through the set as Perry brought Ferras onstage, a Los Angeles singer she’s signed to her imprint on Capitol Records. The show can to an almost screeching halt as the duo performed a duet of his track “Legends Never Die,” a deflated number that truthfully didn’t belong in Perry’s set.
But the audience, which was comprised of very young, mostly female fans, forgave the lapse, especially as Perry spent time walking around the edges of the stage taking selfies with her so-called KatyCats. “Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because I used to play the Hotel Café,” Perry told the audience, gazing over the massive crowd in Staples Center. “Now we’re here. Started from the bottom, didn’t we?”
Later she acknowledged her gratitude for her fans, who were notably respectful and captivated throughout the performance. “Can I just say with my whole heart thank you for still liking me?” Perry said. “Thanks for still choosing me. I hope we never break up.” She paused, then added, “I don’t know if I’m always going to have No. 1 songs, but I’m always going to keep it at 100.”
Her finale, themed with ‘90s neon, smiley faces and a bouncing dance party, featured a slew of hits in rapid succession, from the beachy “This Is How We Do” to “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” to “Teenage Dream” to “California Gurls,” which was performed as if the stage were an old school black light arcade. The double encore served a climatic finale, which saw Perry bounding through “Birthday” as balloons and confetti flew all over the room. (Note to Perry: Do not give an arena full of fans that many balloons lest you want them to be all popped in horribly thunderous unison.) “Firework,” performed by Perry in a glittering firework dress as fireworks shot out of the stage, provided a final exclamation point for the evening.
If any of the production seemed nonsensical, it didn’t matter. It exciting and diverting and appropriate to Perry’s overall aesthetic. Early in the evening she gushed over returning to Los Angeles, where the singer currently lives. “It doesn’t matter if this is show 65,” Perry said. “You are not just another number. I’m going to bring it home tonight.” She’s a woman true to her word.
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