No matter what your feelings about Katy Perry are, it’s beyond difficult to go anywhere without hearing a song of hers, and more or less of a challenge to not find yourself singing it long after you’ve heard it. Her catchy and wacky tunes, along with her retro/glam/rock ‘n roll fashions, out-there personality, and stunning beauty have placed her in the spotlight to emerge as one of contemporary pop’s most-talked about stars. In support of her 2010 release Teenage Dream, Perry has embarked on the international California Dreams Tour, which hit my part of California last Friday night (I’m serious—but it was just so convenient for me to work that song title in there!) at San Jose’s HP Pavilion. The invitation into a created magical land of gingerbread men, candy, clowns, and clouds allowed us to experience all that has contributed to the 26-year-old Mrs. Russell Brand‘s popularity these past few years (Though also exposed some of her weaknesses), and all in all served as proof as to how infectious her music has become as we all screamed out the words to “Firework” and the like.
The tour’s openers were perfect to lead into Perry’s high-energy mix of pop: Danish artist Oh Land was the first. Dressed in a white Lady Liberty-esque gown and a headpiece that looked like a unicorn horn, her worldly style of electropop mixed with her unique voice and use of looping received a warm response, but was much more impressive than given credit for. Los Angeles-based DJ Skeet Skeet followed with even less enthusiasm from the crowd, but the general admission pit received him well. Mostly playing remixes and originals of current top 40 hits, he brought me back to San Francisco Pride weekend.
After a rather longer-than-usual-for-typical-concerts intermission, the jumbotron started to roll out a scripted video starring Perry as a girl wishing to escape her gloomy black-and-white world and dreams herself into a new color-filled land to find her cat Kitty Purry and her love, the Baker’s Boy (Played by Nick Zano). It overlapped with the intro to the album’s title track, which Perry sang in a white peppermint dress teamed up with her candy-colored back-up dancers.
With each song—almost all of the songs off of Teenage Dream, the singles off her debut album One of the Boys, and quite a few covers—came something new (Sometimes eccentric), and something extremely well-coordinated with the overall theme of the tune. “Waking Up in Vegas” was Vegas coming to life with a dancer dressed as a slot machine, an Elvis impersonator, showgirls, and fake money thrown at the audience; “Peacock” had the singer and performers donning extravagant and exotic feathers; on “Pearl,” she rose from a tall podium in a light sparkly drape—probably to coincide with the “She could be a Statue of Liberty” line—as acrobats performed contortions on trapezes; and she went through about six or seven 50s mom-like dresses almost instantly for the duration of “Hot n Cold.” The costumes and the production was certainly nothing short of fabulous, and the structured set list featuring all the unique visions and interpretations of each song in it truly made for a fantastic journey with Perry through her wonderland.
However, at times too many, it seemed like she enjoyed speaking more than singing. Her gift for gab can be seen a blessing to many of her more devoted fans—in fact, the way that she acknowledged both San Jose and San Francisco for this tour stop left a respectable impression on me. But her snarky, seemingly impulsive words makes for understandable reason as to why one might get annoyed with her. The stage banter in general sometimes went on for far too long that you just wanted to yell out “SHUT UP AND SING ALREADY!” but with more curse words mixed in there. Either way you wanted to perceive it, she’s one chatty girl, and she sure loves to interact with her fans. Whether they were preselected or not (At least that’s how it was when Britney Spears had her concert here), fans who were lucky enough to join Perry on stage to dance with her, as well as the one old guy who responded first after she said she’d let the first guy who took his shirt off go on stage, made for some sights to see and were undoubtedly more California dreams come true.
Although she proved to be an electrifying stage performer and worthy of her successes thus far, Perry still isn’t one of the best to hear live. Her effort to actually sing while performing on the most energetic songs is commendable, but she’s much more pleasant to listen to on ballads and acoustic tunes. “Not Like the Movies,” the piano ballad on Teenage Dream, had more beauty to it than just a floral-adorned swing and a matching pink dress as animated toon creatures shared hugs and kisses on a screen behind her—it allowed her to shine as a tender heart with some subtlety to her. “Thinking of You” furthermore gave her a platform—literally and figuratively—to show off her guitar skills as she strummed a stripped version on a pink cloud that extended to the other side of the arena. Perry also showed that she may be able to sing other artists’ songs better than her own. In a little section she introduced as “Katy-oke,” Perry was backed up by a few acoustic instrument players for a medley of some very interesting choices of song: Rihanna‘s “Only Girl in the World,” Jay-Z‘s “Big Pimpin’,” Rebecca Black‘s “Friday,” and Willow Smith‘s “Whip My Hair.” With her ability to mold these songs in new forms that showcase musicality and good vocals that do exist, she (And her band) deserves a high five. (Then again, who can’t sing those songs better?)
For all the fun music she has helped bring and for all the engaging and eye-popping visuals, Perry’s whimsical show served as a grand feel-good concert experience. The California girl made it playful and flavorful for a summer spectacle that’s as unforgettable and undeniable as her monster hit is.
- “Teenage Dream”
- “Hummingbird Heartbeat”
- “Waking Up in Vegas”
- “Ur So Gay”
- “I Kissed a Girl”
- “Circle the Drain”
- “Who Am I Living For?”
- “Not Like the Movies”
- COVERS: “Only Girl in the World” (Rihanna) / “Big Pimpin'” (Jay-Z) / “Friday” (Rebecca Black) / “Whip My Hair” (Willow Smith)
- “Thinking of You”
- “Hot n Cold”
- “Last Friday Night (TGIF)”
- COVER: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (Whitney Houston)
- ENCORE: “California Gurls”