Katy Perry - Staples Center - 11-22-11
Better Than...Playing a game of Candyland with 20,000 of your closest friends and Kobe Bryant.
When you look behind you and up from the floor in the front of the Staples Center, it's like looking into The Grand Canyon: alarmingly vast, seemingly endless and completely huge. When you look around you, however, things come into focus sharply.
The crowd on the floor is made up of 12 year olds with pink rubberbands in their braces and bows in their hair grinning and jumping up and down, grown women in electric blue wigs with flashing light up hearts atop their heads, balding industry suits with their silent pretty wives. Everyone is excited, but when the lights go down, the music turns off and the first bubblegum pink hints of Katy Perry can be detected on stage, everyone flies out of their seats, and starts screaming.
What she wears on top will vary throughout the evening, from a sheath dotted with spinning peppermints to various glittery figure skating costumes to a candy cane Miss America gown.
The stage set up is whimsical, but lacks a certain magic that I had expected. The pink clouds surrounding the screens resemble intestines rather than cumulous, and some of the inexplicable props that will appear throughout include steaks suspended from the rafters.
None of this even matters, however, because the first thing I notice about the live Katy Perry experience is her voice. You can tell from her albums that Katy Perry is a legitimately strong, skilled singer. Like Beyonce or Kelly Clarkson, Perry got to the top at least partly because of her voice, rather than in spite of it.
I wasn't expecting for there to be so much more depth to her performance than can be heard on her albums. Her produced-into-submission singles have nothing on the ringing highs and rumbling lows that came out of Perry from the stage. I've always hated that moment of forced intimacy at pop shows where the performer sits on a stool and they dim the lights, but in this case I couldn't wait for it.
The show was structured around a narrative about Perry searching high and low for her Kitty, "Kitty Purry." She is lost in candyland, desperately searching, and encountering obstacles such as magic brownies and shirtless 20-something gentleman pulled from the crowd.
The banter was raunchy, with a few f-bombs giggled knowingly to the mostly pre-pubescent crowd, and a lot of "are you feeling sexy Los Angeles?" shouted smilingly from the stage. It seemed to go over wonderfully, with the kids screaming passionately that yes, they are feeling sexy, and their parents laughing heartily and elbowing one another, knowing that it's all flying over their kids heads.
Perry's demeanor throughout was cheerful, never robotic, but often cartoonish. The few moments where she was caught off guard, by the shirtless gentleman, for example, revealed a woman much more charming than her silly pop persona. Perry seemed genuine in these moments, and fun, like a real California girl who just happened to find herself riding on a swing made of two acrobatic dancers, over a crowd of her acolytes, while surrounded by glitter, candy and steak.