Katy Perry at Target Center, 8/22/14
Target Center, Minneapolis
Friday, August 22, 2014
Katy Perry's hair blew in the wind. Her extravagant ball gown billowed, revealing royal blue leggings -- reminiscent of what a modern Marie Antoinette would wear if she were throwing a fireworks-themed fete. Fireworks lit up the pyramid-shaped screen behind Perry... and more importantly, real ones went off onstage as the pop star belted out her special-snowflake/self-empowerment ballad ("Firework," duh) during her last encore. It was incredible.
These fireworks were some of the coolest closers to a concert we've seen, but there were plenty of other spectacles to behold for the two hours Perry graced the stage. Perry brought her A-game to Minneapolis at the Target Center, with a healthy mix of throwbacks and new material to keep a sold-out crowd of 15,000 KatyCats singing along.
From the first moments she was onstage, Perry made a point of connecting with her fans, pointing and looking out into the audience at choice moments while she opened the concert with "Roar." And boy did she roar.
Let's take a moment right off the bat to recognize that Perry has hopped on the racially charged, twerk-a-thon bandwagon just like Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, and even Taylor Swift. "I Kissed a Girl" has always been a problematic song -- perpetuating the idea of two women kissing as a fleeting, naughty act. Lyrics like "I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter," were met with new meaning onstage as a group of faceless mummies (save for some oversized red lips) strutted out in platforms with boobs and booty aplenty.
In addition to the neon Mohawk-donning warriors from the opening set, these mummies added an unfortunate atmosphere to the show as the backup dancers worked their buxom bodies against each other only a couple songs after some blink-and-you'd-miss-it twerking during "Dark Horse." Are pop stars willfully ignoring the outcry against cultural appropriation? Do they not understand that while the spectacle of the show is a sight to behold, it's representations like these that can really take a fan out of the moment no matter how catchy the song or wowing the stage setup. "Does she not know how bad that looks?" said the fan seated next to us as the mummies flaunted their assets before "kissing" each other.
Perry began the Egyptian-themed portion of the evening with "Dark Horse" channeling her VMA-award winning video with a two-toned Cleopatra bob. She rose from the floor atop a literal dark horse that she whipped into submission. 3-D Geocities-style graphics zoomed by on the prism-shaped screen behind Perry during "E.T." and "Legendary Lovers" before pyrotechnics (and two guys flying in the air with fire-shooting guitars) closed out that part of the night during "I Kissed a Girl."
If KatyCats know anything about their idol, it is that the show must go on. The 2012
Perry-opaganda film documentary Katy Perry: Part of Me showed the pop star during one of the most difficult tours of her life -- dealing with a tough touring schedule, long days... and her divorce. Fans got a peek a the inner workings of Perry's California Gurls Tour and what led up to that technicolor dream onstage just as her life was crumbling beneath her. If you saw the movie, you couldn't help but think back to the documentary and her backstage pain when she began the quieter part of the show.
Perry broke things down in the middle of the evening with a three-song acoustic set that proved to be some of the most emotionally touching parts of the evening. She rose out of the stage looking part fairy godmother, part Lothlorien elf queen with a penchant for butterflies and pastel rainbow locks.
At the front of the stage, flanked by her backup singers (sunflowers), Perry launched into "By the Grace of God," telling the audience she wrote it when things weren't "all bubblegum and rainbow hair." And indeed, it's a depressing, heartbreaking song that wouldn't seem to have a place in the set for the thousands-strong crowd that just watched a bunch of dancers in catsuits "Vogue" a la Madonna.
One by one, cell phones lit up in the crowd, bobbing back and forth like LED fireflies while Perry poured out her soul in her sparkling butterfly gown and hooded cloak. Afterward, Perry took a while to banter with the crowd about Minnesota -- noting the last time she was here was during her California Gurls Tour three years ago. "We don't have seasons like y'all," she said about her home state of California. "We've seen snow on the internet." Then she called out Skateville, where she and opener Kacey Musgraves spent the night before, celebrating the latter's 26th birthday. "It is one of the most nostalgic mom and pop skating rinks... it's kind of like a time warp and I appreciate that."
Perry then segued into the next part of the concert (it had already been a couple minutes already) and talked about what was growing in her garden back home. Someone shouted "WEED" and she played it off: "I don't grow that! This is not that concert! Plus... it makes me paranoid and you don't wanna see my eyes get any bigger..." She took out a magic watering can and up from below stage rose a piping-hot (and now glitter-covered) Davanni's pepperoni pizza.
She told the crowd she was now gluten-free and "What is gluten, anyway?" and decided to give the pie away to some folks dressed up like human-sized pizzas. They leaped onstage and immediately had their phones out and recording. "Can we like... have a moment?" Perry asked and they reluctantly put their phones away when she noted that there would be a bunch of videos of the event anyways... but slowly one of those phones crept back out. She finally -- and somewhat reluctantly -- took a selfie with them before sending them on their way before the next song.
"This is for all the pizzas that got away." That was a lot of buildup for a very thin segue into "The One that Got Away," followed up by a lot of audience love ("I wanna stay together forever!") ahead of "Unconditionally."
Then Perry descended below the stage for yet another costume change -- this time with green pigtail buns, peace-sign capri leggings, and a yellow smiley-face bra -- and she ended up looking like a Joe Boxer model circa 1999. Late in this last part of the show, Perry's latest (and honestly, not her greatest) "This is How We Do" came up, and with it popped a bunch of oversized, inflatable emoji (a taco, a purse, and even that poo-shaped one) that floated above the crowd. Perry meanwhile was drifting through the audience on the main floor in an inflatable car herself (thanks to treadmills built into the stage). It was the candy-colored, SoCal throwback to her previous tour, showing that's still what she does best.
In the end, there should be just as much said about Perry's stage presence, what she wore, what color her hair was for God's sake, as there is to say about her actual singing. If she'd faltered during any of her songs, you can bet we'd be breaking that down now... but she's on the pop diva level where she performs her hits night after night and nails 'em all -- even the re-workings of tried-and-true hits like "Last Friday Night." The reason fans flock 15,000 to an arena to see her is for that stuff you can't get via MP3 or YouTube.
Perry connected with people in the crowd, used a balloon swing to get closer to the folks higher up, took their fan letters, grasped their hands, and serenaded them. She held hands with a green-haired girl in the pit, and after Perry left, you could see the girl in shock, like she was about to cry. Perry let out a primal yelp during "Wide Awake," and asked the crowd, "ARE YOU?" to which the crowd responded in kind. During the last encore brought a birthday boy up to the stage for a mostly demure lap dance during "Birthday."
Last Friday night, we spent two hours with Katy Perry, and while we might not have danced on table tops or took too many shots... we're wishing we could do it all again this week.
Critic's bias: I'll admit it took me a long time to drink the Katy Kool Aid (having been turned off by some of her earlier stuff) -- and I certainly don't agree with some of her choices for songs and videos ("Part of Me," anyone?) or her lackadasical, pop star approach to cultural appropriation. I'm still hyper-critical of her Asian stereotype-packed, Memoirs of a Geisha-steeped performance of "Unconditionally" at the 2013 AMAs.
But hell if I can't recognize that she's talented, hard-working, catchy, and fun. And like Miley, Taylor, and Gaga -- Perry's occasional missteps are facilitating discourse and helping music listeners be more discerning about what exactly they're listening to and watching.
The crowd: Everyone from tweens to twenty-somethings, some moms, and even a few of the cutest under-five-years-old KatyCats in blue wigs and tutus. There was also a guy whose wife I thought dragged him along... until I realized they switched seats so he could be closer and dance hard. Rock on, guy.
The crowd itself was a sight to behold, filled with fans waving signs like "Pizza = Spirit Animal," "I love you Katy!" and even one with a slice of 'za and "#selfie?" that lit up. There's something to be said for the amount of people watching the concert not with their own eyes, but through the vantage of their phones. The coveted concert selfie seemed to be first and foremost among the most ardent of KatyCats in the pit... and Perry herself seemed a little weary of her fans' FOMO requests for selfies and documentation of being so close to greatness (like those pizza kids unable to soak up the moment without their phones recording every moment).
Overheard in the crowd: A couple twenty-somethings spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out if they could make it to her Fargo show the next night, too. "We could do it!" "It's so far, though..."
Random notebook dump: Opener Kacey Musgraves seemed to be a good choice for Perry to take along on this tour -- pretty much the smaller pop-country embodiment of Perry herself, give or take a few years. While Musgraves seemed to take a few songs to warm up to the crowd, her cover of "These Boots Were Made for Walking" was on point... right down to her light-up cowboy boots. She closed with "Follow Your Arrow" and "My House," which seemed to be when Musgraves and her band of light-up suit-donning dudes were at their best.
Also, re: Katy Perry's triangle stage set-up... Illuminati, much?
Part of Me
I Kissed a Girl
Hot N Cold
By the Grace of God
The One that Got Away
Megamix Dance Party
Walking On Air
This Is How We Do
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