Katy Perry’s “Witness: The Tour” arrived at the KFC Yum Center with more moving parts than a carnival midway and the same general attitude: Take a break, have some fun, maybe don’t worry so much.
Like her contemporaries on the pop scene – Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, etc. – Perry is always selling herself, but her version of personal branding feels less intrusive and more like a 6-week-old puppy starved for attention.
Her show Monday night was a non-stop blur of explosive lights, video, huge puppets, dancers, giant basketball goals, confetti and robot Venus flytraps. It wasn’t subtle but that was part of its charm, and the calculation behind it in no way subtracted from the escapism it provided for Perry’s young fan base.
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Perry has spent much of this year in a flame war with Swift, which feels a lot like Ginger and Mary Ann going at it, and Team Katy is the only choice. The last time Swift came through town, her entire show was exhaustively focused on her and her alone; it was a celebration of all things Taylor so extreme that it felt like an indoctrination.
Perry’s over-the-top approach on “Witness: The Tour” feels almost naive in comparison, even though the outrageous stage design and wildly expensive set pieces are clearly a bid to make sure she stays popular and relevant.
But they also work as pure entertainment and Perry remains very fan-friendly, including when she called a dad onstage to play giant basketball and a young girl, Jayla, to make a wish.
Perry: “What do you wish?”
Jayla: “For my daddy and sister to be safe.”
Perry: “Are they OK?”
Jayla: “They live in New Jersey.”
Musically, the show was less successful. Perry’s new songs from her “Witness” album don’t have the sharpness or pop exuberance of her older material, instead just kind of sliding into a generic beat-per-minute muddle.
But even though the new songs didn’t click, the visual spectacle was more than enough. And when the spectacle was paired with “California Gurls” or “Teenage Dream,” all was right with the world.
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Noah Cyrus, the youngest singing Cyrus, opened the show with a set that showed off a big voice, some decent pop songs, and very little idea of how a performer owns the stage.
Cyrus, 17, instead treated everything like she was the headliner at a hypersexual middle school talent show, alternating between bouncing and grinding, which is what happens when learning your job on the fly. Her dad, Billy Ray, joined her for a version of his hit, “Achy Breaky Heart.”
Reporter Jeffrey Lee Puckett can be reached at 502-582-4160 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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