Better than . . . another Law and Order rerun.
Katy Perry likes to think of herself as one of us, a regular girl with some spirit who worked hard or got lucky, and isn't so far removed from her days as an unknown singer-songwriter at the Hotel Café. She referred back to that time more than once Friday at the first of three sold-out nights at the Nokia Theatre.
“I could spend so much time telling you how I was just like you,” she said, pointing into her crowd of cheering fans of young women and girls in blue wigs and cupcake bras. “I'm still like you.”
Whether the words were simple encouragement or a cheer for “gurl” power, they mostly rang true, even from a stage resplendent with giant cupcakes and candy canes, as she performed with her rock band and troupe of dancers, during two full hours that included multiple costume changes and acrobatics. The connection could be seen in the random party photos from real fans flashing on the big screens as Perry sang a euphoric “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” the kind of pure disposable pop that is never really ever disposed of.
She's a more traditional pop singer than many of her contemporaries, which means she's been versatile enough to work with both Kanye and Kenny G, as happy dancing across her epic Candyland set at Nokia as tumbling through the cosmos of her music video for “E.T.” With no apparent dysfunction — beyond a lunatic husband — she's a natural entertainer, a singer and comedienne. She swept across the stage in a lime-green gown and feather boa to pull up a shirtless male fan for a playful tease before abruptly casting him off.
“Girls! Ladies! Women! This song is for you, baby dolls,” she announced, and slipped into a sultry, smoky “I Kissed A Girl,” beginning like a torch song before shifting into the single's modern pop. She slid between the legs of her guitarist during his big solo, then collapsed and was carried away as her keyboardist played a sad café piano melody.
This week also marked the moment when she nearly matched Michael Jackson's record of five number one Hot 100 singles from the same album. (In her case Teenage Dream, in Jacko's case Bad.) Her songs on Friday were of course flooded with hooks, but she also rocked out in large doses. She could still do the Warped tour, if she ever needs a comeback.
A bit more on the cutting edge was support act Robyn, bouncing and twirling and punching the air in platinum hair and Dancercize gear, slowing down her synth-pop hooks for a heartbroken “Indestructible” (from last year's Body Talk album). She had two drummers and two keyboardists to form a living, breathing techno sound that was never cold or distant, and Perry's fans stayed on their feet through the short set.
But the true heroine of the evening was Perry. Near the end of the night, she was lifted into the air on a pink, cloud-shaped platform and carried to the rear of the theater, where a line of fans in T-shirts reading “K-A-T-Y P-E-R-R-Y” swayed arm-in-arm as she played a melancholy “Thinking of You” alone on acoustic guitar. That's a long way off from the Hotel Café by any measure, but for a chart-topping pop diva, she was refreshingly never far from reach.
Personal Bias: My weakness for hooks on electric guitars.
The Crowd: Women, ladies, moms, little girls, many in costume, dads and boyfriends. Outside, fans posed for cell phone snapshots in front of colorful banners for the concerts and lined up hungrily for the dozen different T-shirts on sale, along with the stylish hoodies (in pink or black), heart-shaped balloons, posters, lollipops, a peppermint-colored purse and Katy Perry Lip Balm ($10). As the show came to a close with explosions of pyro, foam and more, one tiny girl in a silver hat scrambled to collect the confetti falling to the floor.
Random notebook dump: Ticket prices were an affordable $34.50 or $49.50 (before fees). Compare that to the gouging you'll experience attempting to see Britney's latest roadshow ($96 to $346.50), a typical short-sighted money grab whether it's a pop diva or Neil Young, cheating the next generation of kids from the chance of becoming fans. Pop music shouldn't be a luxury item.
“Waking Up in Vegas”
“Ur So Gay”
“I Kissed A Girl”
“Circle the Drain”
“Who Am I Living For?”
“Not Like the Movies”
“Katy-Oke”: Rihanna's “Only Girl,” Jay-Z's “Big Pimpin',” Rebecca Black's “Friday” and Willow Smith's “Whip My Hair”
“Thinking of You”
“I Want Candy
“Hot N Cold”
“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody”