Before Katy Perry’s barnstorming, hit-heavy show at London’s O2 Arena last night, the big screen carried adverts for her “Prism-Vision” glasses, “experience-enhancing” 3D-style spectacles that promise to help the audience “see everything better.”
Available at the merch stand for £5 ($8) on top of a typical £55 ($92) ticket price, there didn’t seem to be many takers amongst the over-excited, tutu-clad tweens that constitute much of Perry’s U.K. audience. But then Perry’s Prismatic World Tour experience needs little enhancing: it’s already a show to damage retinas and blow minds.
The set list was laden with tracks from latest album Prism and its predecessor Teenage Dream, but it was the production that really set this show apart from the other pop superstar tours rolling into arenas around the globe. Starting boldly with “Roar,” neon-clad backing dancers dressed as Roman centurions flew through the air before Perry, clad in glow-in-the-dark mini-skirt, crop top and hair extensions, emerged from under the stage in a pyramid and engaged in a pneumatic dance routine on the stage’s moving sidewalks. It was like a cross between a hardcore gym class, a rave and the climactic scenes of Gladiator – and that was just the first song.
Perry’s show is not so much a visual feast, but more like the visual equivalent of binge-eating. Divided into seven separate set-pieces, featuring every production gimmick in the book and cramming in almost as many costume changes as songs, it’s like one of those blockbuster movies that you really need to see more than once in order to take everything in.
After “Part of Me” and “Wide Awake” had kept up the opening audio-visual barrage, Perry promised the audience an evening of “sweating, smiling and singing along” and she was certainly true to her word.
So were her set designers. The Egyptian-style staging for “Dark Horse” saw Perry enter on a giant mechanical horse. “Birthday” saw her literally “bring out the big balloons” – and fly across the arena on them. And for the final encore of “Firework,” the arena filled with pyrotechnics. With word-for-word interpretations like that, it was probably a relief to the many parents in the crowd that her single-entendre anthem “Peacock” was confined to a largely instrumental video interlude. But then, bar the twerking, Rubenesque Egyptian mummies on a punked-up “I Kissed a Girl,” Perry seemed happy to cede most of the raunchy antics to Miley Cyrus.
Everything else, however, was up for grabs. After the Egyptian section (also featuring Perry dangling from a diamond-shaped trapeze during “E.T.”), a cat-themed segment saw Perry emerge on a giant ball of wool in a pink catsuit, singing a jazz version of “Hot ‘n Cold,” before mashing up a cover of Madonna’s “Vogue” with her own “International Smile.” Even the stripped back acoustic portion of the show – featuring Perry cheerfully drinking a pint of London Pride ale, chatting openly about how she’s “been through some crap in my life” and strumming awkwardly at an acoustic guitar on a Taylor Swift-esque “The One That Got Away” – managed to feature giant butterflies flapping around a garden-themed set.
That was a rare moment for Perry to show off her surprisingly strong voice and let her music breathe, before she changed into a smiley-face bra top and charged through breathless rave versions of “Walking on Air” and “This Is How We Do,” while huge inflatables – including one that resembled a giant turd – floated around the arena.
For the finale, she pumped out “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” before final encores of “Birthday” – featuring that flying sequence and Perry basically giving a lapdance to a male audience member she’d hauled up onstage – and “Firework.” Here, “Prism-Vision” at last kicked in, its spectacular kaleidoscopic effects a final visual wafer-thin mint on top of a seven-course banquet blowout.
Perry’s U.K. tour concludes tonight with a final night of four at the O2, before moving on to the U.S. (starting at Raleigh PNC Arena June 22nd). Loud, garish, camp and never less than uproariously entertaining, it’s a show designed to conquer the planet. And, on last night’s form, you don’t need “Prism-Vision” to see that it’s likely to succeed.
“Part of Me”
“I Kissed a Girl”
“Hot ‘n Cold”
“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)