"How many of you are under the age of 10?" Tegan from indie-pop group Tegan and Sara asked the crowd last night at Gila River Arena.
Thousands of girls, including one super-shrieky one directly behind me, screamed in delight as their young age was recognized by a band they'd probably never heard of.
About an hour later, that girl, along with all her young peers, belted out lyrics like "sex on the beach" and "let's go all the way tonight" during the songs that have made Katy Perry an international superstar. Later, they danced along to her twerking dancers who writhed on each other's bodies, laughed as a cartoon cat smoked a cigarette on a giant screen, and watched gyrating mummies showing off T and A.
Of course, Perry's cheesy firework costume, glow-in-the-dark jump rope and fake golden horse were just childish enough to make sure she pandered to the kiddies in addition to playing sexy sultress. Since her most recent collection of songs isn't very deep anyway, it didn't matter if she was singing atop a giant ball of yarn or with a slime-green wig on. Perry may be a questionable role model, but she's a performer parents gladly brought their kids to. Maybe they were looking for an excuse to finally explain what "gin and juice" is, since the Snoop Dogg song played in the background of an animated video featuring felines who loved to party at the "Cateau Meowmeow" in Kittywood.
OK, Perry's show wasn't completely fluff. During the powerful "By the Grace of God" and the acoustic "The One That Got Away" and "Thinking of You," on which Perry played guitar, her vocals were powerful and playing ability evident.
The rest of the concert was unimaginative and sloppy, though. Perry should fire her creative director, since many parts seemed like complete rip-offs of Lady Gaga's ArtRave: The Artpop Ball, from the neon costumes, to the Fraggle Rock-inspired wigs, to a wannabe-artistic video that featured Perry in a straightjacket but couldn't come close to Gaga's innovation. Gaga kicked off her tour three days before Perry's Prismatic World Tour, so we'll assume Perry is the idea thief here.
Perry's tacky costumes and props, from a poo balloon to a bra featuring bright yellow smiley faces, distracted from the music and just seemed thrown together. The best part of her two-hour show may have been her 10 backup dancers. Sure, they sometimes had to don silly spider outfits, but some were actually skilled aerialists and gymnasts.
Alas, they were all part of Perry's grander scheme to simply make a buck off a spectacle, as her partnership with a well-known makeup brand was garishly sprinkled throughout the concert in various displays.
Perry's show had no clear point of view. She's not quite genuine or substance-filled enough for adults to take seriously, and she's too sexual and profanity-laced to be kid-friendly -- no matter how many selfies she took with audience members. It was pretty sad when she bragged about winning a reading contest as a Scottsdale first grader; she followed up the achievement with, "Now when I read a book, I fall asleep."
The entire show, during which Perry never acknowledged her openers, seemed like a giant display of adulation for Perry, which she lapped right up. It wasn't about the music -- it was about revering her and whatever colorful idea came into her head. She asked audience members if they loved her and thanked them for Tweeting compliments to her to keep her strong. Her crowd banter was just as superficial as the giant designer bag balloon that hovered over the audience during her banal current single "This Is How We Do."
It was disappointing but true when Tegan said, "Even though you're here to see Katy Perry and not me, I'm going to take you in," before the house lights lit up the nearly sold-out crowd. If only there were, Tegan. If only the young women in the audience were, indeed, there to see an act with thought-provoking lyrics and passion behind them, and without the need to hide behind manufactured pop hooks and gimmicks to feel successful.
Last night: Katy Perry at Gila River Arena, 9/26/2014
Personal Bias: I've seen Perry more than five times, beginning when she did had some charm as an opener on the Vans Warped Tour.
The Crowd: Maybe 90 percent female, ranging in age from 5-50, many wearing costumes. Leopard print, flower crowns and objects-pinned-to-chests were huge trends.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I feel like I'm seeing Lady Gaga's ArtRave for a second time," said my friend.
Random Notebook Dump: I didn't originally think Tegan and Sara fit as an opener for Perry, but I'm really appreciate of the set they put on.
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Roar Part of Me Wide Awake This Moment Love Me Dark Horse E.T. Legendary Lovers I Kissed a Girl Hot N Cold International Smile By the Grace of God The One That Got Away Thinking of You Walking on Air It Takes Two This Is How We Do Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) California Gurls
Encore: Birthday Firework
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