Katy Perry - Staples Center - 11-22-11
Better Than...Playing a game of Candyland with 20,000 of your closest friends and Kobe Bryant.
When you look behind you and up from the floor in the front of the Staples Center, it's like looking into The Grand Canyon: alarmingly vast, seemingly endless and completely huge. When you look around you, however, things come into focus sharply.
The crowd on the floor is made up of 12 year olds with pink rubberbands in their braces and bows in their hair grinning and jumping up and down, grown women in electric blue wigs with flashing light up hearts atop their heads, balding industry suits with their silent pretty wives. Everyone is excited, but when the lights go down, the music turns off and the first bubblegum pink hints of Katy Perry can be detected on stage, everyone flies out of their seats, and starts screaming.
Katy Perry is petite, and very solid, with her famously perfect legs contained within iridescent nude tights with built-in knee pads.
What she wears on top will vary throughout the evening, from a sheath dotted with spinning peppermints to various glittery figure skating costumes to a candy cane Miss America gown.
The stage set up is whimsical, but lacks a certain magic that I had expected. The pink clouds surrounding the screens resemble intestines rather than cumulous, and some of the inexplicable props that will appear throughout include steaks suspended from the rafters.
None of this even matters, however, because the first thing I notice about the live Katy Perry experience is her voice. You can tell from her albums that Katy Perry is a legitimately strong, skilled singer. Like Beyonce or Kelly Clarkson, Perry got to the top at least partly because of her voice, rather than in spite of it.
I wasn't expecting for there to be so much more depth to her performance than can be heard on her albums. Her produced-into-submission singles have nothing on the ringing highs and rumbling lows that came out of Perry from the stage. I've always hated that moment of forced intimacy at pop shows where the performer sits on a stool and they dim the lights, but in this case I couldn't wait for it.
The show was structured around a narrative about Perry searching high and low for her Kitty, "Kitty Purry." She is lost in candyland, desperately searching, and encountering obstacles such as magic brownies and shirtless 20-something gentleman pulled from the crowd.
The banter was raunchy, with a few f-bombs giggled knowingly to the mostly pre-pubescent crowd, and a lot of "are you feeling sexy Los Angeles?" shouted smilingly from the stage. It seemed to go over wonderfully, with the kids screaming passionately that yes, they are feeling sexy, and their parents laughing heartily and elbowing one another, knowing that it's all flying over their kids heads.
Perry's demeanor throughout was cheerful, never robotic, but often cartoonish. The few moments where she was caught off guard, by the shirtless gentleman, for example, revealed a woman much more charming than her silly pop persona. Perry seemed genuine in these moments, and fun, like a real California girl who just happened to find herself riding on a swing made of two acrobatic dancers, over a crowd of her acolytes, while surrounded by glitter, candy and steak.
Let's get back to the steak for a second. So, I guess the idea is that the Candyland fantasy is a dream the real life Perry uses to escape her monotonous and terrible life cutting meat for a mean butcher. If you're a Perry devotee, you're familiar with this, so the steaks don't seem at all out of place (I guess).
I also thought they all just liked Perry's blue wig, but discovered later that it's the magical key to finding Kitty Purry. Go figure. All of these things are a part of the intimate world of Katy Perry fandom. I don't know if it has a name, like Bieber's "Beliebers" or Rihanna's "Navy," but definitely has a language, a style all it's own, and a lot of members. Perry seems aware of her place as a leader as well, sprinkling religious imagery throughout the performance. Perry being carried, Christ-like, by her dancers; Perry wearing shimmering gospel. It has no explanation.
At one point, towards the end, the beautiful British woman behind me looked to her husband and said, excitedly, "If it rains glitter, that would be cool." She had been sucked into the technicolor world, and glitter rain it did, just for her.
Personal Bias:I spent the better part of the summer almost causing accidents while singing "Teenage Dream" at the top of my lungs in my car.
The Crowd:People of all ages dressed as Katy Perry, cupcakes, and fairies, screaming.
Random Notebook Dump:"If I was a pop star and my fan base was 10 years old I'd make the dirtiest jokes too."
Set list below.
Waking Up in Vegas
You're So Gay
I Kissed A Girl
Circle the Drain
Who Am I Living For?
Not Like The Movies
The One That Got Away
Thinking of You
I Want Candy/Milkshake Medley
Hot N Cold
Last Friday Night
I Wanna Dance With Somebody
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