Katy Perry at Barclay’s NYC, July 25, 2014
The kick against Katy Perry is she can sell a song but she can’t sell a dance track and the get kick against last year’s eagerly anticipated follow up to Teenage Dreams, Prism, was that there were too many dance vamps and not enough pop songs. But if that’s the case why am I here for my second show in three weeks?
I like Katy Perry live, I like the way she presents herself to tween girls and their mothers, “Do you love yourself?” Katy asked early yesterday evening at the Brooklyn stop of her never ending Prismatic tour. “Good, that’s what counts most”. If you slot Perry as the older sister with middle Lady Gaga the weirdo, and kid Taylor Swift the overachiever, Perry has a sureness of touch and an implied girl power and she is the most directly existing in a real moment.
On July 9th I saw Katy for the THIRD time at Madison Square Garden from the furthest row possible and I wrote this “After a not bad opening of “Roar”, a song I preferred on stage than the recorded take, followed as always by fair takes on “Part Of Me” and “Wide Awake” before a bit of rabble rousing, another song and a loooong break where the stage was changed from a Prism to an Egyptian motif, all the better to bat Katy’s eyelashes and thrown in somewhat epic “E. T.’ and “Dark Horse” and the minor league “Legendary Lovers” before she stripped the stage bare for “I Kissed A Girl” which never seems able to capture the feigned sauciness of the first kiss. And that’s the first half hour.” But I left during the acoustic portion due to prior commitments called work the next day.
This time it was a Friday and while I was also in the last row at Barclay Center, I was also to the side of the stage which made me closer though I couldn’t see the close circuit TV and I didn’t get the 3D glasses. Funnily enough I got a message from On Stage Magazine‘s Larry Philpot during the show and he is friends with the tour manager, who just happens to be world traveling acclaimed photographer Harry Sandler of Harry Sandler Productions. Harry was gracious enough to send us these exclusive pictures illustrating this story, so maybe I could have bought better tickets but it didn’t happen so OK. Obviously, the difference between what the the tour manager is seeing and what I am seeing couldn’t be larger and these pictures support the view that the view might matter. However, what I am seeing is a truer expression of the pop artistry at work here.
And it is Katy’s job to make proximity not matter and of all the Arena shows out there, she does a fine job in splitting the difference between intimacy and a large scale Las Vegas show. All dancing, all singing, but also all emotion and all seven years at the top of the charts into two hours of implied closeness, social networking closeness, and fun, “If you don’t wanna singalong then now is the time for you to leave”.” Katy threatened us early on but her heart is in the digging out from personal sorrows to roar again on “By The Grace Of God”: I didn’t buy into the track on Prism, but it was a heartfelt big time ballad live on stage Friday night, it seemed to dig deeper than the torchy “The One That Got Away”. The two songs were less a breather and more a deepening, a sort of admission to the passing of time, of the way life changes and remains the same. If a “Katy Kat” (the name of her uber-fans) was 13 when One Of The Boys was released, she is 20 years old today. as older sisters go, Katy is ahead of her fans by just that much, suddenly daisy dukes and bikini tops are not enough.
Fun can be complicated but Katy keeps the huge production values, Prisms, and Egyptian Pyramids and inflatable cars, thrilling enough for the tribulations of touring to be something which seems to be peeking from the rear view window. Remember the scene of her crying in her dressing room during “Katy Perry: Part of Me”, to a certain degree, it feels as though this is like a subtext in the show, there is something oddly sad about the young woman. A little… isolated?
I wrote this in 2011 about the California Dreaming gig: “Katy’s show was a special effects heavy pop music,party for teen girl:, a little dirty, a little sexy. Dressed as a “Peacock” Katy puns with the best of them, flirting with a guy audience member, she pretends her husband is coming, eating a hash brownie, she performs “I Kissed A Girl”, “Circle the Drain” and “E.T.” while pretending to be stoned. And besides a “Who Am I Waiting For” that goes on for several years, it is well paced, thrill packed, with good dances, strong songs, excellent version of “Hot N Cold” and “TGIF” and a trip on a pink cloud so people in the cheap seats can actually get close.”
In retrospect, the show was a trip to true love and the Prismatic Tour concert was about what happens when you get there and there isn’t there any more. Katy’s sorrow is great for her art form, it is great for girls in the post-Frozen era where tweens still want to be Princesses but they don’t want to come with the added baggage of a Prince. The Katy story line fits in so well, she went off in search of a Prince and found herself instead. The question not answered is, who is Katy? We’ve all read the stories and wonder and really all big stars are Britney Spears screaming at a store clerk “I’m not who you think I am, I’m not that person”. I am not by any stretch of the lexicon suggesting pity the privilege, pity has nothing to do with it. What is fascinating is what constitutes fame and who you are on the other side. Touring for years in an isolated bubble of fame, the incredible pressure of following up a hit album with a hit album, the crazies, the fans, the need to be on always, it is a whole world of pressure that cocoons you and separates you. I have, on rare occasion, found myself the center of attention, and it makes me nauseous, celebrityhood is like one of those be careful of what you wish parts of life. It is proven that people who win the lottery, after the initial euphoria, return to the same emotional disposition they had before they won. That is the problem for Katy, she is who she was only now she is being watched. It is one thing to marry a sexaholic nutcase, it is quite another to do it with the world snapping selfies of you. Katy has attempted with various degrees of success to be both what she was and what she is. To unravel the strong big sister and share the scars though if you blink you’ll miss them. At the start of the show, the “Roar” followed two songs later “Wide Awake” suggests all of this with a minimum of fuss along with the big production values.
But what about the concert, you ask? I wrote about the concert a couple of weeks ago and won’t repeat it here. I will complain loudly about two bad moves, “Hot N Cold” is one of Katy’s earliest pop hits and it is a masterstroke of love and irrationality and didn’t need the slow fuse jazz take it got. “TGIF Last Friday Night” is way way way too good to be placed in the middle of “This Is How We Do It”. Everything else was as good or improved on the recorded version. “Roar”, Legendary Lovers” (a revelation to me), “Teenage Dream”, “California Gurls” were all fabulous. Prism has already spawned three hit songs and the hits to deep album cuts is very impressive in this show.
I went back and saw Katy again because I wanted to know how it ended, how she pulled herself out of her depression and I guess I didn’t get that, like Kanye west’s recent tour it felt like it was hidden in front of me. So I sat back and enjoyed the show and I recommend you do the same.
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