1 of 2
Photos by Julia LeConte.
2 of 2
KATY PERRY at the Air Canada Centre, Friday, July 18. Rating: NNN
I love pop divas. I will un-ironically love Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Rihanna all day long. But even as a person who loves pop divas, I don't quite get Katy Perry. Like most top 40 acts, I enjoy some of her songs (Roar, I Kissed A Girl), and don't care for others (California Gurls, Dark Horse). But who would pick innocuous Katy Perry over Gaga? Or Beyoncé? Or Miley Cyrus? Or Justin Bieber? Making Katy Perry your favourite is like making regular chips your favourite.
But she was playing not one, not two, but three ACC shows this weekend. And I wondered - *Carrie Bradshaw column-writing voice* - who exactly is a Katy Perry fan?
Well, they are called KatyCats (the worst!) and they are a very young, and quite wholesome bunch. They were as excited for Katy Perry at the age of 13-ish as I was the first time I saw Britney Spears at the age of 27-ish. Being amid their enthusiasm was infectious, and all my over-thinking of the current state of pop fandom dissipated at 9:15 pm when their idol appeared in the first of many sparkly, colourful confections - a two-piece human disco ball top and skirt combo with rainbow braid ponytail - singing the simple but still genuinely feminist anthem, Roar.
The first half of the concert was pretty awesome, actually.
Sure, Katy Perry is like the celebrity half of a Dancing With The Stars couple, or a modern day Britney: she's dancing just fine, but mostly the pros are dancing around her, doing the heavy lifting. That said, there was something very Khaleesi about the way she commanded the stage, male-slave-type backup dancers trailing along behind her in all their futuristic neon glory. That "I AM WOMAN!" theme continued when she changed into a Cleopatra outfit and rode out on a giant moving horse - powered by a few of her unsullieds - for Dark Horse, E.T. and Kissed A Girl.
Quite powerful, badass, exemplary stuff for 15,000 tweens and their parents, right? Right. So it was such a shame that every time she spoke, it was in a mushy-gushy baby voice, like she was addressing a new puppy. "This show is going to be awesome. Could you guys just be here with me for the next two hours? Promise? If you're here in this moment, it could be the best moment of your life! So be here with meeeee!!!!!!"
Did Katy Perry have a past in children's television hosting, I wondered. Because this was more Loonnette from Big Comfy Couch than it was Madonna. I get that this is in some respects a kids' show. But there is a lot to be said for talking to teenagers like the young, smart, capable women they are.
But then, there were other moments when Katy Perry seemed like the cool, funny person you'd want to be friends with. For instance, after a very, very long costume change (each of them felt extremely lengthy, even with entertaining videos), a bunch of jellicle cats came onstage for a couple of numbers and pranced around human-sized versions of those furry cat-scratching-post jungle gyms.
Unfortunately, in this hilarious CATS-inspired segment, Perry's hit tune Hot N Cold got a jazz club raz-ma-schmaz treatment, which sucked because when I remembered she had that song I wanted to hear it properly. Also, it was often - and especially on this song - hard to hear Perry's vocals, drowned out by her seven-piece band and/or the ACC's sound system. When you could hear it, her live singing was pretty good - although she did get a lot of help from backing tracks.
Her acoustic mini set, delivered in a floral full-length dress and elvish cape, sparkly, natch - was the weakest section, given that her faux self-deprecation "OMG! *buries head* What if I don't live up to your dreams and expectations?" and patronizing banter went on far too long and was exceptionally saccharine - "It's like we're hanging out in my bedroom and trying on each other's clothes!" Plus, her slower "fan-favourite" cuts - By The Grace Of God, Unconditionally - are just not great. Unlike her peers, Katy Perry's back catalogue lacks soul.
But she doesn't lack spectacle. Holy cow, man. Yes, one could argue that all the bells and whistles on Perry's show - the Cirque du Soleil side show that was basically happening at all times, the impressive prism-shaped staging (kinda reminiscent of Kanye's Yeezus Tour mountain) - are necessary when the songs are cookie-cutter, manufactured pop. But one could also probably not give a fuck if one was a KatyCat. Maybe it's just the eye glitter, but Perry is pretty dazzling to behold. She's got moxie, or something. For her encore, she swung across the ACC in a cartoon-print unitard on a bunch of balloons to her Birthday song. It was rad. She did her job as idol. To her fans, Perry was the KatyCat's meow.