Live: Katy Perry Is Soaking In It At The Prudential Center
Katy Perry w/Robyn
Sunday, June 19
Better than: Being sent to bed without dessert.
Pop music can be a funny thing sometimes. So often, the factors that divide fandom from outright loathing can be completely extramusical, yet they can still inspire frothing at the mouth/keyboard over the "realness" of performers and songs and suchlook at the gallons of virtual blood that get spilled when you dare to compare Beyoncé to Gaga, Rihanna to Ke$ha, Britney to anyone.
It was with this in mind that I went to see last night's concert by Katy Perry, who has been a particular bane of my existence since "I Kissed A Girl" dropkicked itself into the national consciousness in 2008, and who many of my colleagues have tried to convince me to come around on. She was taking Robyn on tour! She was promising a trip to Candy Land with the purchase of each ticket!
After a brief set by the aforementioned proto-perfect popbot, who punched and kicked her way around the stage to songs from the Body Talk trilogy and who won over a good chunk of the arena's front section, the anticipation for Perry to arrive onstage seized the room; at around 9 p.m. after a brief film that outlined the Dorothy Goes To Candy Land And Finds A Cute Boy At The End Of The Rainbow conceit of the show, she went right into "Teenage Dream," the first-blush title track from her hit-spewing 2010 album; she then spun right into "Hummingbird Heartbeat," a catchy, if marblemouthed, rewrite of Kylie Minogue's "Love At First Sight." (Kylie came to mind quite a few times during the course of the evening; the scope of Perry's show was impressive, complete with aerialists and a cloud to bring her out to the middle of the stage, and reminiscent of the Aphrodite tour.) It was fun, light, and frothyand a woman dressed like a slot machine came out, and Perry noted that this pal of hers was named "slot," not "slut." She helpfully spelled out both words to both underline the joke and wink at her brilliance for coming up with such a half-entendre.
Subtlety is not Perry's strong suit at all; the robo-stomp of the extremely heteronormative "I Kissed A Girl," the various things shooting out of her breasts, everything about the extended dick joke "Peacock." The first time I saw her, at the Warped Tour a few years back," she actually yelled "PENIS!" to lighten the mood; she didn't repeat that stunt last night, but the "jokes" she would make ranged from smirk-inducing to facepalm-worthy.
The Desmond Child crunch of "Waking Up In Vegas" (which was capped by her throwing coins into the crowd) at least put the groaning aside, but any goodwill engendered by that performance further evaporated when she stormed into "U R So Gay," the angry riposte to a metrosexual ex that preceded "Kissed" in the Katy Perry Onslaught Of The Late Naughts. Considering that the shrill "Firework" has become something of a rallying cry for the It Gets Better movement, you'd think she'd retire this particular track, trafficking as it does in the use of the word "gay" as nothing more than a pejorative, albeit one that's somewhat synonymous to the dreaded word "hipster." The performance had Katy dancing with two mimes, as if to underscore the "ewww!" factor; they then let her eat some of their "magic" brownie, which was her excuse for acting omg, so crazy! for the next couple of songs. She invited a guy up on stage but instructed him to take off his shirt first for some sort of lap-dance-ish action that would go wrong; the comedy came from her assuming he was from Jersey (he was from Brooklyn; this confusion over where the "Jersey" fans actually hailed from would continue throughout the evening) and Italian (he was Israeli), and also from the way one of his hands lingered around his crotch. Actually, come to think of it, these two would make a great comedy team; or at least, whatever awkward banter they had on offer would be better than "I Kissed A Girl," which was up next and during which Katy, even in her brownie-addled state, was demure enough to leave the girl-on-girl duties to a pair of her female dancers. ("At least one of them looks kinda butch," noted SOTC pal Chris Weingarten, who I'd lured into being my partner in viewing. True!)
The long stretch of Teenage Dream album tracks that followed was punctuated by a laser-laced performance of the maddening and very lyrically creepy "E.T." (the words were helpfully projected above the stage to remind the audience of just how ick-inducing they were); costumes for her dancers that looked like they were on loan from a musical adaptation of Delicatessen and huge slabs of meat hanging over the stage; and a song called "Not Like The Movies" that childishly holds up the Hollywood ideal of romantic love as the paradigm for romantic relatonships everywhere, which should be quite the addition to her set list should her marriage with Russell Brand suffer the same fate as Arthur's box-office receipts.