Katy Perry at the Xcel Energy Center, 08/23/11

Katy Perry
August 23, 2011
Xcel Energy Center

"I hope you have a sweet tooth. Otherwise, this show probably won't be your thing," effervescent songstress Katy Perry told the frenzied audience, halfway through her sold-out California Dreams show in St. Paul Tuesday night. And oh, how right she was. 

If you had an aversion to anything saccharine coming into this performance, you probably were left with a sour case of sensory overload by the end. But for those that came to have a good time and dance the evening away to the euphoric smash-hits that Perry was offering, this show was a cotton candy-covered dream that left everyone on an absolute sugar high.

On a stage that was a slice of Candyland come to life, Perry and her dapper, white-suited 5-piece backing band (along with two back-up singers and a myriad of dancers) took the nearly 15,000 fans on a journey into the gushy center of her songs (as well as on a search for her cat, Kitty Purry, who Katy was continuously looking for in a Tim Burton-esque video montage that played during her costume changes). And while some of her songs and banter were decidedly salacious (especially considering just how many young girls were there), they were all treated with such a bubbly sweetness by the 26-year-old pop starlet, who confidently owned the big stage with her uninhibited personality and buoyant charm.

Perry, who just recently equaled Michael Jackson as the only other artist in music history to garner five consecutive Number One singles from one album, was clearly making up for lost time throughout her jubilant performance, repeatedly apologizing for having to cancel her show here in July while also telling the crowd that at least "they had more time to work on their awesome outfits." And what a wildly diverse crowd it was, with many colorfully dressed young kids there for their first concert ever, standing side-by-side with wildly dressed adults that were dancing as much as they were. It all made for a totally fun, carefree vibe that was only elevated by Perry's spirited pop songs.

The show started with a celebratory rendition of "Teenage Dream," the joyful title track to her chart-topping album, which got everyone dancing immediately. And, other than an acoustic cover-song segment (dubbed Katy-oke) that stretched on for far too long, that high-energy didn't really let up throughout the two-hour+ performance. And her big hits were all there (of course), wisely spread throughout the performance to make up for any lapse in momentum. 

But some of the bits seemed a bit adult-themed for her mostly young audience (in addition to the mature subject matter of her songs themselves), like her BFF Slot Machine, who she jokingly referred to as a slut many times before doing a rousing version of "Waking Up In Vegas." And she took a bite out of a hallucinogenic brownie after "Ur So Gay," alluding to the fact that the brownies were from California and, *wink-wink* "must be homemade." But perhaps those were just racy bits meant as inside jokes for the parents who brought their hyped-up daughters to the show, for there were plenty of bells and whistles on the massive, candy-covered stage meant to distract or enthrall the younger audience. 

​"I Kissed A Girl" was given a sultry, lounge-act treatment at the start, before Perry unleashed the wild rhythms of the chorus, while "E.T." featured a futuristic laser-light show that only enhanced the songs celestial appeal. A touching version of "Not Like The Movies" featured Katy on a flower-covered swing that rose high above the stage while numerous images of cartoon love affairs played on the screen behind her. Call me sappy, but it was one of my favorite moments of the night.

The aforementioned Katy-oke segment ruined a bit of the momentum of the set, ultiamtely stretching on for far too long, while featuring mostly cringe-worthy covers of "Only Girl (In The World)," "Big Pimpin,'" "Friday," and "Whip My Hair." But after that slight detour, Perry ascended above the crowd on a cotton candy cloud to deliver an acoustic version of "Thinking Of You," which showed off her guitar skills as she floated throughout the arena, and got the show back on track.


The closing batch of songs were all massive, certifiable hits, as "Hot N Cold" got everyone bouncing around again, and featured a remarkable seven (yes, SEVEN) onstage dress changes by Katy. The song also filled the screens behind the stage with spiraling Pop Art images, featuring the stylish works of Lichtenstein and Warhol to catch the eye of us art lovers in the audience. "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" also proved to be a hit with the crowd, as everyone sang and danced along without a care for school or work tomorrow. A plushy, life-size version of Kitty Purry came on stage to dance with Katy during her cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," which finished with Perry inviting up a bunch of lucky fans to emphatically dance along with her as the song drew to a close.

"Firework" finished the main set with a figurative and literal bang, as spirals of fireworks and streams of sparks went off behind the stage as the arena turned into one big party. It was a prodigious spectacle of both sight and sound, and proved to be impossible to resist. I was truly wowed, as was everyone else in the adoring audience. After a brief encore break in order for Katy to change outfits one last time (I counted 17 costume changes for her throughout the performance), there was only one song that could sufficiently close down the show, and Perry gave us all what we were craving. She delivered a thoroughly entertaining version of "California Gurls" that featured her sporting a Hershey Kiss-shaped bra while shooting off whipped-cream cannons into the crowd as a string of Gingerbread Men danced behind her. Yeah, it was as wild as it sounds. It was the perfect ending to a pop confection that only Katy Perry could dream up.

Critic's Bias: I've never been into the music of Katy Perry, but I certainly was for this evening.

The Crowd: Packed to the rafters with enthusiastic California Dreamers of all ages.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I've been looking at candy all night. I need a dessert."

Random Notebook Dump: I was truly moved by all of the young kids who screamed after Katy asked, "Who is at their first concert here tonight?" I hope all those youthful boys and girls end up having a lifelong love affair with music just like I do.

For more photos: See our full Katy Perry and Natalia Kills slideshow by Tony Nelson.


Teenage Dream

Hummingbird Heart

Waking Up In Vegas

Ur So Gay


I Kissed A Girl

Circle The Drain



Who Am I Living For?


Not Like The Movies


   Only Girl (In The World)(Rihanna)

   Big Pimpin' (Jay-Z)

   Friday (Rebecca Black)

   Whip My Hair (Willow Smith)


Thinking Of You

I Want Candy/Milkshake/How Many Licks/Tootsie Roll--Back-up Dancers Dance Off During Katy's Costume Change

Hot N Cold

Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston)


California Gurls (Encore)


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