Live: Katy Perry Kisses A Girl For the Last Fucking Time at Hammerstein Ballroom
Tuesday, July 28
Packs of club-ready teenage girls shriek and and point and flash toward the balcony. Efron? Pattison? Um, Perez? Not quite. It's Donald Trump, who graces the Apprentice-weaned youths with a delightfully despicable bent-knee wave. Sort of shocking to think about: Katy Perry played the Mercury Lounge in April of last year. Even then--without the inflatable strawberries, army of stylists, infinite supply of Wonder Woman get-ups, and 30-foot-tall glowing-heart backdrop--the maximum-L.A. singer-songwriter acted like an inevitability. At Hammerstein, it was easy to recognize some hair-tossing, finger-pointing rawk moves from way back when. But while her ascent may not be a tremendous shock, her strategic maneuvering around insta-fame's pitfalls is surprising.
Over the last year, Perry cashed-in on shameless slumber party shenanigans while maintaining a semblance of 2k9 wholesomeness; two seats in front of me a mother and daughter enjoyed the show wearing matching "I love Katy Perry" t-shirts. At the height of "I Kissed a Girl" last summer, she was winning over skeptical Warped Tour crowds instead of going for quick-hit headlining gigs; many of those same Warped teens played dress-up and sang along to every word last night. In 2008, she put out an album of deliriously likeable Springfield-meets-Alanis pop with minimal filler and people actually bought it and listened to it. Katy Perry won.
And, watching her play air guitar as if she were headbanging to Brian May in her bedroom during a cover of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," I'm glad she won. Because for all the opportunistic sex kitten tropes she climbed upon to break in, Perry is not a seductive performer. She's a straight rock 'n' roll goofball. "Rock 'n' roll" because she screams, plays real guitar (even if it obscures her shimmering one-piece), stomps around like a grounded freshman, and isn't afraid to jump chest-first into a crowd of kids wearing nothing but a catsuit (replete with cat tail). "Goofball" because she can't dance for shit but flails around nonetheless, isn't afraid to act out an absurd mini-musical featuring awful-yet-harmless takes of "Please Mr. Postman" and "Build Me Up Buttercup" smack in the middle of her set, and trade licks with a sax player at the end of a song called "Ur So Gay." Consider a few selections from her post-"Kissed" C.V.: two retro-fun music videos that take silly over sexy and a Kelly Clarkson co-write for a song about not hooking up. Cyndi Lauper should be smiling.
But there are only so many songs with the ability to spawn their own chapstick: "Who's excited to kiss a girl one last fucking time?!" The key there, of course, is "fucking"-- a slight admission of frustration from an artist who's now gunning for an album's worth of greatest hits, rather than just one. Still, a lot of people were pumped for that semi-lesbian glam-rock steamroller. Including Perry, who couldn't help but pogo her way through the whole thing even if she really wouldn't mind locking it up for the next decade.