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Katy Perry Rocks a Sweet Tooth

On a California Dreams tour stop, the singer keeps things light and sugary

June 18, 2011 12:55 PM ET
Katy Perry performs during her 'California Dreams' tour
Katy Perry performs during her 'California Dreams' tour
Kristian Dowling/PictureGroup

The scene last night at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, where Katy Perry was performing as part of her California Dreams World Tour, resembled not so much a pop concert as the largest bachelorette party in the world. Most of the overwhelmingly young, female crowd came in costume: blue wigs and cupcake bras, perilously short Daisy Dukes, light-up heart headbands.

But for all the precocious sexuality on display, Perry’s extravagant show was a celebration of another vice altogether: gluttony. Her show brought a whole new, rather literal meaning to the term "saccharin pop."

Photos: Katy Perry's Candy-Coated California Dreams Tour

Opening act Robyn managed to win over the indifferent crowd with her infectious synth-pop – and with a guest appearance by M.I.A. protégé Rye Rye. When Perry came out, the elaborate stage resembled a Candyland playing board brought to life. A rainbow-colored staircase with lollipop banisters dominated the center of the stage. Three video screens floated above the stage, framed by fluffy neon pink clouds. Perry’s five-piece band, dressed in all-white suits with pastel ties, played in front of a pair of pink, sugar-topped mountains.

A film played at intervals throughout the evening, tying the songs together with a rather loose narrative: Perry, on a cupcake-shopping expedition, falls for a hunky pastry chef named "Bakery Boy," while her beloved cat Kitty Purry wanders off into a perilous, candy-colored alternate universe.

For her opening number, "Teenage Dream," Perry – along with eight dancers and two back-up singers – took to the stage in a silver mini-dress festooned with spinning peppermint wheels. For the first 50 minutes of the night, Perry dazzled with a high-energy string of hits like "Waking Up in Vegas" and "I Kissed a Girl" – and countless costume changes.

Photos: Katy Perry's Best Looks

The show was a dizzying ode to childhood fantasy, a mish-mash of references to the Brothers Grimm, Alice in Wonderland, the Wizard of Oz and Rainbow Brite. But the onslaught of cutesy imagery was, at times, less then coherent: What was the purpose of the cartoonish link sausages and rib-eye steak dangling from the rafters during "Circle the Drain," Perry’s scornful song about a drug-addicted ex?

Perry’s slightly naughty image also made for some incongruent moments.  During an interlude between "Ur So Gay" and "Peacock," the singer – ever beholden to her sweet tooth – takes a bite from a giant, psychedelic brownie.  Many of the tweens in the audience seemed confused.

The manic pageantry wasn’t quite enough to rescue the middle 30 minutes of the show, when Perry turned to some of her more listless numbers. During "The One That Got Away," Perry hovered above the crowd atop a pink cloud. She may have looked like an anime heroine, but she sounded more like a moderately talented open-mic singer.

Photos: Katy Perry Strips Down for Rolling Stone

There was a conspicuous amount of filler. After riffing at length about the differences between New Jersey and Long Island, Perry played a lengthy acoustic medley of cover songs, including "Big Pimpin’" and "Friday." (The audience knew all the words to Rebecca Black’s YouTube hit.)  Happily, she eventually returned to the hits, first "Hot N Cold" – during which she quick-changed at least a half-dozen times – and then "Fireworks." (Yes, there were actual fireworks involved.)

For her first encore, Perry covered Whitney Houston’s "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," inviting a gaggle of lucky audience members onto the stage at the end of the number. "Hi…Hello…I love you!" she greeted them, sounding like an actress auditioning to play Snow White at Disney World.

Perry capped off the evening with her summer anthem, "California Gurls." Resplendent in an enormous silver bra shaped like Hershey’s Kisses, Perry danced provocatively with a line of Gingerbread men, dousing the squealing crowd with a whipped cream bazooka.  The lights came on and – just like that – the sugar rush was over. 

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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