Katy Perry – Nottingham Capital FM Arena, Wednesday March 30
Even if you think you don’t know Katy Perry, you’ll probably have heard her somewhere – for over the past two and a half years, her biggest hits have been pretty much inescapable. They’re the sort of emphatically hooky pop monsters that lodge in your brain after a couple of plays, even if you’re only half-listening. You’ll have heard them blaring out of car windows, or leaking out of noisy bars, or soundtracking your fast food purchases.
But even if you do know something about Katy Perry, you wouldn’t have learnt much more about her by the end of last night’s witty, colourful, but somewhat over-scripted spectacle at the Capital FM Arena. As you’d expect, she played the part of the brash, fun-loving showgirl to a tee, but her stage persona never slipped for an instant, and it was hard to read much expression behind those amazing, cat-like eyes.
We did pick up a few little nuggets of personal information along the way, though. “I feel like I’m English now”, she told us. “You’ve adopted me.” Perhaps guided by the influence of her husband Russell Brand, Katy has developed a love of English food: bubble and squeak, and roast dinners with Yorkshire pudding, which she claims to eat every Sunday. (“I can hardly fit into my costumes!”)
“I have become a lover of football”, she squealed. “Anyone here from Nudding-ham County?” Whoops. A few scattered boos echoed around the hall. “Don’t you like your home town? What about Nudding-ham Forest?” Even louder boos. Bad move, Katy. But she was on safer territory when naming her favourite TV programmes: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and The Only Way Is Essex (“but I can’t understand what anyone is saying!”) drew roars of approval.
Billed as the “California Dreams” tour, the show was cleverly themed around a fairy tale concept, with heavy nods to The Wizard Of Oz and Alice In Wonderland. The live performances were interspersed with imaginatively shot film clips, which traced the journey of Katy and her cat (named “Kitty Purry” – feel free to groan) as they made their way through a dream-like fantasy world, on their way to the “Big City Baker’s Ball”.
The fairy tale theme was reflected in the stage set, which was adorned with giant lollipops and enormous cup cakes, and in the almost pantomime-like costumes worn by the players. As for Katy’s dazzling array of outfits, which transformed after almost every number as layers were either added or shed, you had to wonder whether she was chasing a place in the record books for the largest number of costume changes ever witnessed on a concert stage. During Hot N Cold alone, Katy worked her way through six different frocks, stepping in and out of makeshift changing rooms with a magician’s flair. Best of all was her opening ensemble, which coupled a scarlet, heart-shaped bustier top with a puffball skirt that was seemingly spun from pink candy floss.
Given that many of the songs – Waking Up In Vegas, Last Friday Night, I Kissed A Girl – are about over-indulging, losing control and behaving recklessly, the dream-like staging rendered them almost harmless, as if the over-the-top antics were only happening in the pages of a story book. At one point in the show, Katy was tempted by a huge chocolate brownie, wielded by a pair of mime artists. As it turned out, the brownie contained an extra “magic ingredient”, which cast a spell over the hapless innocent, causing her to see, say and do the strangest things. Not only did this provide a handy excuse for her more outrageous behaviour – it also had the effect of slapping a PG certificate on the more racy material, making this a show that even pre-teens could safely watch and enjoy.
The show climaxed with the “Big City Baker’s Ball” itself, during which a now blue-wigged Katy dragged excited audience members onto the stage for – appropriately enough – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). The anthemic Firework provided the emotional high-point of the night, and California Gurls formed the grand finale, as the beaming pop star – now in a skirt made entirely out of cupcakes, flanked by rows of dancing gingerbread men – hoofed and vamped at the front of the stage, lapping up our excitement with unabashed glee.
Katy Perry returns to the Arena on November 5th. If you’re a lover of high camp, glittering spectacle and noisy, catchy, brutally effective pop, you’d be daft to miss it.
Set list: Teenage Dream, Hummingbird Heartbeat, Waking Up In Vegas, Ur So Gay, Peacock, I Kissed A Girl, Circle The Drain, E.T., Who Am I Living For?, Pearl, Not Like The Movies, Only Girl (In the World), Big Pimpin’, Born This Way, Whip My Hair, Thinking Of You, Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground), Hot N Cold, Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Firework, California Gurls.