Yes, I went to see Katy Perry at Madison Square Garden. I took Hannah and Charlotte, the nieces. They brought their pal, Leah. They are all 14 years old, the exact age to which Katy Perry, 29, directs her show. Did they love it? You betcha. Did all the teens (mostly girls) in MSG scream through the show, sing a long, Snapchat it, Instagram it, video it, buy up lots of merchandise? Indeed.
I liked it, too. Katy has a great voice, and she’s a beautiful, athletic girl. Her songs don’t feel as manufactured as those of others in her peer group. Her show was far less contrived than Taylor Swift’s, for example. The production values are high, but they aren’t overwhelming. Kudos to whoever makes the costumes and the videos.
Further applause for her “band”– I don’t really know what’s going on, and it’s better not to ask. The show is programmed tightly. The band does play in some instances. There is a lot of pre-recording, but not of Katy’s voice. She’s a belter, with a clear strong vibrato. Like Lady Gaga, she is singing. You can tell she likes to sing, which is nice.
The show is G rated, with Katy as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Knowing who the audience is, the performer leaves sex at home– even when she sings “I Kissed a Girl.” The songs are mostly anthems. She opens with the best one, “Roar,” and samples her way through her three albums until a triple-hit play at the end of two hours with “Teenage Dream,” “Birthday,” and “Fireworks.” The end is so good you want to buy her CDs, and a lot of t shirts.
There is a long soft middle. If you’re the adult chaperone, you can snooze or get a drink. This starts with “International Smile,” where suddenly Katy’s singing Madonna’s “Vogue.” Things get a little fuzzy here. “By Grace of God” is a bland ballad without much of a melody. Stripped down, “The One That Got Away” saves the section, and then “Unconditionally” wraps it up. There’s also some unexplained (and unnecessary) disco music
Katy is dressed like Glinda the Good Witch during this section, with cotton candy hair and a big white gown. She plays a little guitar. She tells the girls in the audience essentially to dream big, and live the dream, and everything will work out. (What’s she going to say to 14 year olds? “I’ve already been divorced from an addict, and I couldn’t commit to a roving eye Guitar Man”? TMI.)
The show is incredibly colorful, upbeat, and produced within an inch of its life. Katy is indefatigable. At least twice, she flies in a harness across MSG. Mick Jagger and Tina Turner have come close, but they’ve never done that. I’ve never been so impressed. She does one song in a giant black and white Ying and Yang costume that Julie Taymor would admire. Did I mention it rotates while she’s singing? Come on!
Toward the end of the show, huge radio controlled balloons, in the form of a hand bag, a taco box, and a Cover Girl lipstick (they’re the sponsor) also float through the air from one end of the arena to the other. Elaborate narrative and animated videos are projected brilliantly on a very clever simple stage piece that’s a folding triangle made to suggest a prism. Again, the set is a winner. I wish I could play you the cat videos. They’re great.
This was the 10th date on a long tour that runs through October. When it’s over, Katy’s going to need at least a weekend in an isolation tank. But for now, she looks like she’s loving it, the audience is wild for her, and she actually offers a well designed $5 bracelet at the merch table.
For the first six months of 2014, Katy Perry is far and away the best selling pop artist in the US. She is America’s Sweetheart. And we really needed one.
PS Capital Cities opened the show. They played “Safe and Sound,” their magnificent one off hit, a couple of times. They could have played it 10 times, it’s so catchy. Katy also featured a guy named Ferras, a sort of Elton John wannabe who has a lot of potential but a really bad hairstyle. Remember, Elton worked his way into Captain Fantastic from “Your Song.” He didn’t start there.