Pop megastar Katy Perry brought her Witness Tour to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Friday, and here is the moment-by-moment analysis City Pages readers depend on.
8:40 — Ten minutes to show time. On the floor, enthusiastic Katy Perry fans wear handmade t-shirts proclaiming their allegiance. Brightly colored wigs are dotted throughout. A Left Shark jumps up and down against the barricade.
Upstairs the crowd is now packed into their seats, a vast horseshoe of tweens on iPhones and their stoic chaperones. Hockey moms double-fist mixed drinks. Ignored, flanneled dads share the desperate expressions unique to atrophied men daydreaming about hockey moms and vasectomies.
8:45 — The crowd is growing more engaged. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” plays on the PA, inspiring a giant sing-along.
8:50 — The Xcel goes dark. Katy Perry’s backup band enters, looking only slightly less randomly assembled than the band Nathan Fielder recently put together to sneak smoke detectors past South American customs.
8:52 — The stage opens and Katy Perry is introduced to her screaming audience. She’s wearing a sparkly red dress and she asks St. Paul, “Are you ready Minneapolis?”
8:53 — The opening number is the meandering title track from Perry’s lackluster new album, Witness. Something huge rolls onto the stage. It’s a gigantic pair of golden dice with holes cut out of the digits that reveal the flitting hands of actors trapped inside.
St. Paul is now recognized too.
8:55 — Ms. Perry stands against the prop dice wall while the arms of unseen actors collapse tightly around her body. Something about this is unsettling.
An arena full of tweens scream full-throated cries of ecstatic tween release, oblivious to the fact that the arm of a backup dancer is very nearly putting Katy in a rear naked Keillor-hold.
8:57 — Confetti hearts explode from the stage rafter-ward. The first notes of “Dark Horse” rain down on the arena.
The lyrics to this song are like a Mad Lib created under the duress of Russian roulette. The dancing that accompanies it is, however, refined. Stuff is happening on stage and it’s fun.
9:02 — “Chained to the Rhythm” is introduced with a dancer on stilts whose head has been replaced with a television set. The TV is painted with static, overlaid behind a reflective eyeball.
9:06 — Perry exits the stage through a trap door. The massive screens around the arena play a montage of photographs that illustrate Katheryn Hudson’s transition from regular person to pop star Katy Perry. Here’s proof positive she’s just like you and me.
9:09 — The opening guitar plinks of “Teenage Dream” are introduced to hysterical shrieks. This is a flawless pop song.
9:10 — Perry’s second outfit of the night is a cartoonish, oversized leisure suit — an obvious homage to St. Paul recording legend MC Skat Kat. Keep the flame alive.
9:12 — An immense vertical platform drops from the ceiling. Perry and her dancers sit down on the structure before it’s lifted back into the air. It’s sort of like Lunch atop a Skyscraper. But more fabulous.
9:13 — Leisure jacket abandoned to reveal a halter top festooned with glowing LED lights. The words “HOT AND COLD” crawl across Ms. Perry’s chest. The crowd is asked if it would like to hear an “oldie,” reacts as if they had just been set on fire. Perry is handed an electric guitar and she shreds a bit while giant flamingo puppets wander the stage.
9:17 — Mega-hit celebration of underage blackout drinking “Last Friday Night” is tacked onto the end of “Hot and Cold.” Perry does a cartwheel on the catwalk.
9:19 — The streak of great big Katy Perry hits continues as the opening notes of “California Gurls” ring through the arena. Katy tells the crowd just how much she loves Minnesota. “Ha! Should I change the chorus to 'Minnesota girls?' You guys are fun!”
LOL, Katy. We seem like we’re fun because we’re at a Katy Perry concert. For the next four months we’ll all be clinging to our short endorphin supplies while binge-watching familiar sitcoms on Netflix. Get outta town with that stuff!
9:22 — Left Shark enters the stage for Snoop Dogg’s verse. This felt shark dances with especially primal, cold-blooded zeal to the Snoop line “Bikinis, zucchinis, martinis, [pause], no weenies!”
9:26 — There’s a break in the concert where Katy calls her real-life mom, who’s been Skyped into the arena’s PA. It’s cute. We’re all told to text our parents tomorrow morning. A heartwarming speech about the importance of familial bonds is delivered. It’s an incredibly wholesome moment.
9:28 — Homosexual-lifestyle-appropriating “I Kissed a Girl” is introduced as prop lips the size of a double-decker bus hang above the stage. Backup dancers grind all over each other.
9:39 — A few hookless Witness cuts have strolled by unremarkably.
9:41 — New outfit alert! Katy now seamlessly blends “scandalous dominatrix” with “medieval court jester.”
9:43 — Here are some “E.T.” #FACTS. Did you know that this song was the record fifth single from Teenage Dream to reach #1 in America? Or that it became the first chart topper in modern Billboard history to contain the lyric “Tell me what’s next? Alien sex!”?
9:47 — A huge inflatable Venus flytrap accompanies the cringe-inducing Witness single, “Bon Appetit.”
Observation: Many Katy Perry’s hits blush with entendre’s and flirt with silly sexual metaphors, and it’s usually harmless fun. So why does "Bon Appetit" fail in spite of its winning pedigree?
This song is so overstuffed with inane, half-baked innuendo that it takes all the fun out of the cunnilingus it’s tiptoeing around. These lyrics would be better suited as answers to the imagined Family Feud category, “What’s a pick-up line that would forever ostracize you from intimacy?”
9:51 — Another costume break. Interstitial ambient music plays while a gymnast in a sparkly leotard poses atop a glowing mirrored globe for three minutes.
9:54 — Katy Perry emerges in a silver bodysuit atop a platform in the shape of Saturn that floats over the stage. (Just picture something ludicrous.) Katy Perry strums an acoustic guitar absent her backing band. Unseen hydraulics push Perry’s floating planet over the crowd. No excess has been spared for this tour.
9:57 — The song Perry plays while floating over the audience is “Thinking of You” a weepy stripped-down ditty from her first album. In this spare setting Katy Perry “the vocalist” shines. The best part of the show thus far.
10:02 — A glowing star-lantern gently falls from the ceiling and meets Perry as her floating Saturn returns to the stage. Perry explains that all her wishes have come true and asks the crowd if anyone out there would like to join her on stage to make a wish of their own. The audience is challenged to “go absurd if you have a wish.”
10:03 — Thousands of tweens — who have yet to realize how pulverizing unrequited expectations can be — go “absurd.”
10:04 — Katy flips the script on absurd tweens by honoring a fully-grown, non-tween woman named Kelsey with a wish. The solemn cry of a tot is heard echoing from the upper deck.
10:06 — Kelsey is onstage. Tears are shed, dreams exposed. Katy Perry inspires us all with a speech and the whole thing is cute and sweet without drifting too far into the saccharine. This part of the show is so pure and innocent I almost forgot that Perry just recently sang a song that favorably compared her vagina to a cut of beef.
10:12 — As we all wipe the tears from our eyes the concert resumes. Our motley backing band returns to the stage.
10:13 — Perry introduces a new cut from Witness that she says is about “taking the power back.” She tells us she “had to go through some crap to come out stronger” and implies that this song is the product of genuine soul-searching.
10:14 — Not to nitpick, but this “taking the power back” song sounds conspicuously like a cautionary tale about the heartache commonly associated with human saltine-cracker John Mayer. That guy is gluten-free pizza crust personified.
10:18 — Set break. Left Shark is briefly honored on screen.
10:20 — Katy’s new outfit screams, “Erotica-era Madonna designs a spacesuit for Mega Man” — but with a dash of IKEA flatware.
10:21— The stage opens for another ostentatious set piece: a towering, glowing basketball hoop. Perry sits on its rim. The song is “Swish, Swish,” a track many listeners have mistakenly interpreted as a dig at Taylor Swift when in fact it’s an uninspired metaphor-salad that self-immolates before it can throw shade at anyone. It’s a turkey, no two ways about it.
10:26 — Another volunteer is requested. Plush basketballs are brought on stage. A middle-aged man is plucked from the audience to compete in a shoot-off against internationally famous pop star Katy Perry. Why the hell not?
10:32 — There are six mini-trampolines on stage.
10:34 — The end is nigh. Those in attendance are thanked and reminded once more of their greatness. We are told that we have rocked.
“Umm, does anyone want to roar with me?”
The tweens and the tween-adjacent quickly reach a unanimous consensus.
10:40 — “Roar” was incredible. A perfect pop song. Dissenting opinions are invalid.
10:41 — The Xcel lights go down. We are all blown a kiss goodnight.
10:43 — Encore. Katy Perry emerges from a giant animatronic hand at center stage.
Katy tells us that baby, we are all fireworks before leading an a capella sing-along of her biggest hit’s enormous chorus.
10:45 — Confetti cannons in place of actual fireworks as the final chorus approaches.
10:46 — Spoke too soon. There are, no shit, actual fireworks. No stone unturned.
10:47 — Tweens resume iPhone gazing.
Click here to see photos of Katy at Xcel
Critic’s bias: Katy Perry is fucking awesome.
Overheard in the crowd: “I don’t think it’s cool for you to smoke weed in here. There are little kids everywhere.”
Chained to the Rhythm
Hot N Cold
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
I Kissed a Girl
Thinking of You (acoustic)
Part of Me