When Katy Perry was last in town, it was July 2011 and she was in the middle of her confectionary California Dreams tour — a massive, nine-leg jaunt that kept her on the road for almost a full year. It was a dizzying Candyland-meets-Alice in Wonderland concept tour — replete with a silver, Hershey's Kiss-shaped bra, a candy cane staircase, a whipped cream bazooka and a plot line involving a "magic" brownie.
Tuesday night's stop at the MTS Centre was a less cohesive but no less stimulating affair, and it didn't make you want to brush your teeth afterward. Perry's mega-watt Prismatic tour — in support of her fourth studio album, 2013's Prism — sees her eschew the cutesy act for big-budget production. To be sure, the Prismatic stage set up is a freaking feat of engineering, from the mammoth triangle-shaped catwalk that extended just past the centre of the floor to the blockbuster light show to a giant folding prism. Perry's brand of arena bombast is next-level.
When the pop star herself emerged from the centre of that pyramid in a neon dress, she was met with an adoring roar (sorry) from the sold-out crowd of 14,000 (1,000 more than in 2011), which had a strong contingent of screaming, glitter-cheeked girls who looked like they were about to short-circuit with excitement. She opened with the empowerment anthem Roar, which contained a fun, glow-in-the-dark jump-rope routine. That segued into a hyped-up version of Part of Me and Wide Awake, during which Perry sang from a triangle-shaped platform suspended high in the air.
Well, "sang." It was quickly apparent that Perry was alternating between singing and lip syncing to a backing track; on both songs it almost sounded as if she was hitting every other word (ouch). Reasons for the reliance on a backing vocal track weren't clear. Her own choreography is usually no more involved or demanding than a beginner-level step aerobics class; she leaves the heavy-lifting to her estimable backup dancers. And when she did sing — like, really sing, during the early set highlight This Moment, for example — she sounded solid.
Still, the fans didn't care. When she re-emerged on a golden horse in full Cleopatra for the club jam Dark Horse, the crowd went nuts. It's easy to be skeptical of the sheer volume of spectacle; is there so much to look at because there needs to be? Still, Perry's an entertainer, to be sure — and when she sank her teeth into it, as on the Superbowl-level performance of I Kissed A Girl, she was dynamite.
She's got a sense of humour, too. In a section dubbed 'cat-toure,' she emerged — dressed as Kitty Purry, in a sparky pink cat costume — on a giant ball of purple yarn for a campy, Cats-inspired performance of Hot N Cold, one of the night's strongest vocal turns. For International Smile, Kitty Purry and her backup cats made full use of scratching-post set pieces. (They then strutted their stuff down the catwalk — get it? — to Madonna's Vogue. Pure camp.)
The mid-set acoustic performance of By The Grace of God was a highlight. Dressed like Glinda the Good Witch (but with rainbow locks), she sang her heart out. Really sang. And yes, it was beautiful.
She treated the audience to some charming stage-banter — she knows we're the Slurpee capital of the world, which elicited a big cheer — and then she gave away a pepperoni pizza to a young fan named Emily, who she brought up on stage. She picked up a sparkling guitar for a lovely rendition of The One That Got Away. "We love you, Katy!" a few little girls called out before she sang Unconditionally, huge butterfly kites soaring above her.
The energy was brought back up with a neon '90s dance party — DJed by a crazy winky face emoji — featuring Katy's backup dancers. Perry — in green hair and a smiley-face skirt and bra combo — was suspended above the crowd for Walking on Air. (It was no Pink.) The '90s force was strong; for It Takes Two, she donned a yin-yang dress with a towering skirt. This Is How We Do was firmly in this decade, featurng giant emoji balloons, an emoji video and Katy cruising around the stage in an inflatable pink convertible.
She saved her biggest hits for last, closing the main set with the high energy Teenage Dream and California Gurls before returning for not one, but two single-song encores. For Birthday, Perry brought up a birthday girl from the crowd to sit in a special throne perched on top of a cake-shaped double-tier platform while she floated over the crowd holding a bunch of balloons, confetti cannons blazing. She topped that with an explosive performance of Firework, requiring special 'prism-vision' glasses. The two-hour show ended, naturally, with a fireworks display.
Say what you will about Katy Perry. She knows how to put on a pop show.
Musgraves ready for primetime
This is the second time that Texan country star Kacey Musgraves has graced the stage at the MTS Centre this year; she opened for Lady Antebellum back in March. That she's able to open for both speaks to her versatility; she's also opened for Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss. Musgraves is still touring in support of 2013's Grammy-winning Same Trailer, Different Park — a juggernaut of a debut that announced the arrival of an exciting new voice in her genre.
Musgraves was great in March, and she was great Tuesday night. She finally looks comfortable on a big stage — even working the length of Perry's formidable catwalk. Her setlist drew primarily from Same Trailer — including the free-to-be-you-and-me anthem Follow Your Arrow, and the always stunning Merry Go 'Round— but she sprinkled in a few surprises, too, such as Miranda Lambert's Mama's Broken Heart, which Musgraves co-wrote. There were a few more "arena" gimmicks in this set, too; for a rock 'n' roll cover of Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made for Walkin,' she donned light-up cowboy boots.
The next time I write about this woman, I hope it's as a headliner. She's ready for primetime.