Did you ever have the feeling that you were the only 40-year-old heterosexual man at a rave-themed pep rally for seventh grade girls? On the occasion of Katy Perry's "The Prismatic World Tour," the Honda Center was filled with 14,000 of the like (by Perry's count). The only bad vibes came from a tattooed man wearing a Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt — arguably the only other older straight guy (not counting the daddy chaperons) — who was ejected prior to the concert for throwing punches at a couple of effeminate men. But whereas violence was not tolerated inside the stadium, the stadium itself was surrounded by a dozen or so religious protesters bearing fancy signs of intolerance towards homosexuality.
This was likely in response to the first single of Perry's [herself, the daughter of two Pentecostal pastors], "I Kissed a Girl," which was released in 2008 and reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100. Now, multiple hits, successful tours, acting roles, product endorsements, and millions of dollars later, Perry demonstrated that she knows how to put on a great show.
Apart from the numerous, tutu and corset-wearing, painted "Katy Kats," the venue was lined with cardboard Katy Perry Covergirl display ads. In between the two opening acts, Ferras and Tegan & Sara, the large monitors on either side of the stage played commercials for the various products that Perry endorses — the Covergirl ads promoting her "#instaglam" make-up collection.
The opening acts presented a varietal progression of pop music. Ferras was the fashion disaster that emerged from a blender; he had a great voice, but his appearance and R&B vocal showboating made me laugh out loud [which additionally alerted my fellow audience members that there was something different about me]. Tegan and Sara were much more pleasing to the eye and the ear. The two twins bridged their catchy pop songs with subtle and self-deprecatory humor. Both opening acts lavished praise upon Perry, but the winning comment came from Sara: "This is a question I like to ask at all of the concerts on this tour [dramatic pause], 'Are you looking forward to seeing Katy Perry?'" The response was affirmative.[
From the moment Perry's show began, decadence filled the arena. Upon the stage sat a multi-tiered triangular screen, which displayed very impressive designs, animations, and film montages throughout the evening. On either side of the stage was a runway that featured a conveyor belt. The runways extended into the arena and met to create a mini-stage about 200 feet from the main stage. Both stages had elevator traps so that Perry could descend and re-emerge throughout the evening (as per the necessity of any of her half-dozen or so costume changes). Egyptian pyramids were a prominent image motif; however, during the opening number, "Roar," her dancers were dressed like Road Warrior-inspired Aztecs in the world of Tron.
The conceptual cornucopia of the Prismatic show, indeed, represented many colors from the spectrum. Perry's set ranged from the heartfelt, acoustic ballad "By the Grace of God," to "I Kissed a Girl," for which she was accompanied, onstage, by five extremely large-breasted and large-bootied mummies. Suspension wires were used throughout the show for various purposes, including hoisting a diamond-shaped jungle gym bedecked with aerial acrobats. Giant, Pink Floydian, inflatable balloons (including a Katy Taco [yes, you read that correctly], a smiley face, and a Covergirl make-up accessory) were paraded around the auditorium at one point as Perry and her dancers "drove" around the stage in a large, inflatable convertible. One of the films projected onto the center screen featured animated and live cats going through the motions of life in Beverly Hills (shopping, drinking coffee, attending a yoga class). Following this, Perry and her dancers appeared dressed as cats on a stage set with human-size cat trees; this number concluded with a parody of Jennifer Beals's iconic water-soaking shot from Flashdance, wherein Perry pulled a lever to pour a large bowl of milk [actually confetti] onto herself. During another interlude moment of the show, a mash-up of dance music was played as all of the screens flashed the words "Dance Cam" and displayed video images of numerous attendees dancing.
The show lasted a solid two hours. Perry sang for about an hour and a half, and the remaining half hour was a mixture of musical interludes (while Perry changed outfits) and Disney-like crowd participation. Her interactions ranged from talking about the weather to inviting little girls onstage [both were 9, I believe], whereupon she got one of them to admit that Katy Perry was her favorite musician and gave her a ring with half a butterfly (Perry promised to always wear the ring with the other half [I wonder how many of these she has]); the other girl, who was celebrating her birthday, was seated on a birthday cake throne while Perry floated around the auditorium, suspended by prop balloons, and serenaded her with "Birthday."
While comments like, "At this moment, we are all breathing the same air," and partly canned musical backdrops may be considered detractors to some, there is no question that Perry put much energy, imagination, style, and money into this tour. And while numerous homages and motifs adapted from other artists may seem too familiar, Perry's ability to synthesize them into her own brand is testament that she is not just a marketing concept; she is a great artist.