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Katy Perry brings sugar and spice to tour opener in Gwinnett

katy1

Photo: Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup

It takes a confident girl to pull off wearing a purple, green and black striped cat suit and ears, but Katy Perry is nothing if not self-assured.

If this “Teenage Dream” tour – which started in Europe in February and made its U.S. debut Tuesday night at the Gwinnett Center Arena – proves anything, it’s that Perry is a princess among her peers, a polished pop star who, on only her second tour, has mastered the art of spectacle.

Granted, her featherweight songs run the gamut from destined-for-decades-of-airplay (“Hot n Cold,” “Teenage Dream”) to already-forgettable (“E.T.,” “UR So Gay”), but the music isn’t what most people will be talking about.

Perry, with her inky Snow White hair and Zooey Deschanel eyes, looks like a Disney heroine, and her exuberant show, while a tad too scripted in places, is a perfect mold of her animated personality.

The story that frames the concert, played on a trio of video screens outlined in pink clouds, follows Perry through a trippy dream that sends her in search of her beloved Kitty Purry (yes, an animated cat) and the boy to steal her heart.

That dream unfolds onstage, with Perry rising from beneath the stage in a short dress dotted with spinning buttons mimicking peppermint candies to sing the fabulously lush title track of her latest album and cavort with her eight dancers.

The set is a hallucinogenic vision of a Candy Land board game plopped into the Island of Misfit Toys, an amusingly garish hodgepodge of pink frosted gumdrops and candy cane railing holding up a row of Skittles-colored stairs.

But much like Lady Gaga and Madonna before her, Perry is in the unenviable – or, perhaps very enviable for their bank accounts – position of being a married adult woman (she’s 26) whose core fan base is teen and pre-teen girls.

You can’t really blame her for selling a T-shirt emblazoned with “I Wanna See Your Pea Cock” or purring to a dancer dressed as a slot machine, “Can I pull your lever?” before kicking up her red heels to a rollicking version of “Waking Up in Vegas.” She’s an adult whose appeal lies in her cutesy sassiness.

But if you’re pushing glo-sticks at the merch tables and cotton candy in the aisles, should you also ask the crowd if they wish they had a beer in their hand or take the innuendo of “Peacock” an extra step by imitating the bird’s neck bob in a subtly suggestive manner?

Perry, though, has a ton of charisma, which more than compensates for her sometimes-shrill voice.

A couple of vocal highlights, though, came with “I Kissed a Girl,” which she began as a sultry jazz tune, smartly updating the song’s novelty aspect. But soon it kicked into its familiar form of football-stadium stomper, highlighted with some serrated guitar additions and a hugely impressive Springsteen-esque slide across the stage by Perry – in a gown and heels, no less.

Perry also radiated warmth on “Not Like the Movies,” a pretty – and gently perceptive – ballad sung wistfully while sitting on a swing with video of cartoon romances playing behind her on a white sheet.

And though the inexplicably popular but tuneless and hollow “E.T.” attracted one of the heartiest singalongs of the show, the most memorable segment of Perry’s rainbow romp came when she and three of her band members performed acoustically at the front of the stage.

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Photo: Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup

Not only was the medley of some of Perry’s favorite recent songs – Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World),” Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’,” Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” – a clever detour from her catalog, but it was the only point that Perry could veer from the pre-determined structure of the show.

The California girl talked about her attachment to the South given her father’s Memphis roots and inspired a roar when she quipped, “If I had to pick an In-N-Out Burger over the Chick-fil-A, I would not do it. I would pick the Chick-fil-A,” she said. (And anyone who has suffered through one of the California chain’s burgers knows what an easy choice that is).

Perry continued to joke that on her way to the tour’s next stop in Orlando, “Don’t think I’m not gonna hit up every Cracker Barrel and Waffle House.”

Her geniality continued to ooze when she strapped herself onto a “cotton candy cloud” that slowly brought her to the back of the arena, telling the sold out audience that, “I owe you because I never thought I’d play this arena in Atlanta,” before dedicating “Thinking of You” to them.

It wasn’t a perfect rendition, but it was a sincere one.

Fun Katy returned in a blue wig for a frisky version of “Hot n Cold,” which featured some truly cool quick-change magic onstage and a new infusion of energy from the singer.

Considering this worldwide tour roars through November, she’d better make a pit stop at that Waffle House to maintain her stamina.

Opening the show was Swedish pop star Robyn, a terminally underrated performer in the U.S. whose European-club music seemed lost on this Top 40-centric crowd.

Looking like a jittery aerobics teacher in a spandex body suit and clunky sneakers that never were anything less than a blur, Robyn suffered from a horribly muddy sound mix.

The lyrics to “Dancing On My Own” and “Indestructible” were indistinguishable amid the snaky, whizzing synthesizers and rhythms provided by a pair of drummers –  a shame, because her smooth dance-pop is delectable on record.

But even in its groggy presentation, it was impossible not to feel the infectious touch buried in her music.

Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle

32 comments Add your comment

Truett Cathey

June 8th, 2011
6:45 am

I’ve got a chicken buscuit with Katy’s name on it !

NATIVESON71

June 8th, 2011
7:23 am

the tone of this article is absurd. why so hostile towards ‘pop music.’ lol
I am sure the tweens and teens had fun…see it from their point of view and I bet you would too.

joe

June 8th, 2011
7:58 am

Wow, that’s a long review for a flash-in-the-pan artist short on talent! AJC, why don’t accomplished artists get this much attention when they come to town? They only get a few photos with captions.

Chris

June 8th, 2011
8:15 am

Joe, you are so dead on.

DJB

June 8th, 2011
8:16 am

@NATIVESON71 Totally agree. She has said multiple times in interviews she wanted to make a pure pop album. And, that is what she is singing in her show. Sorry I missed her show. I think she’s ten times more talented than the other person who has yet to sing live yet people pay megabucks for her concerts.

Stephanie

June 8th, 2011
8:25 am

It was a fun show. I am used to going to pure rock shows where there is no real staging and certainly no elaborate costumes and dancing and I thought it was a LOT of fun. It was entertaining throughout, even when I didn’t know the songs.

She knows what her fans want and she plays to it. What more can you ask for?

Director

June 8th, 2011
8:42 am

I see movies in her future …

John

June 8th, 2011
8:57 am

I heard that Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Eminen were going to do a show together……the Lady Katy & Shady Tour!

matt

June 8th, 2011
8:57 am

she looks egyptian

JT

June 8th, 2011
9:02 am

Hey AJC, where’s your blog for “Redneck Games put Georgia on the map”?

Rebecca

June 8th, 2011
9:13 am

I took my tween daughter & we had a great time! I didn’t think Katy would be able to pull off live vocals but she did and she was good. She was beautiful! I thought she showed some great talent. My kid screamed her head off!!!

Rich

June 8th, 2011
9:15 am

The show was fun, keyword fun. Great? No. Good? Yes.

Robyn was the highlight and her short set (in comparison to the warm-up DJ) was a bit disappointing.

I had my fill of “cotton candy pop concerts” for a while.

Trujillo

June 8th, 2011
10:07 am

her featherweight songs run the gamut from destined-for-decades-of-airplay (“Hot n Cold,” “Teenage Dream”)

Really? Really? You Can’t Be Serious? Are You Kidding Me? You Sure About That? Wanna Bet? I Don’t Think So. Not Gonna Happen. Get Real. SUICIDAL FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!

Kat

June 8th, 2011
10:08 am

I think the difference is that most readers have been to one of the “accomplished artists” shows and have a pretty good idea of what takes place, how they sound, what they sing, and how they look. On the other hand, Katy is still fairly new on the scene and to GA, so the AJC is giving us a fuller picture of what happened.

I think it’s a great review, and makes me think that I should have gone to see the cotton candy party.

Eric

June 8th, 2011
10:22 am

I saw Robyn at the Buckhead Theater last summer or spring and she sounded great. I didn’t go to the concert for fear of what you described, a sound system not adequately tuned to the opening act and a crowd not supportive.

Too bad it was a muddy mix for the sound, if they did the same sound she had at the Buckhead Theater she would have won more fans.

?

June 8th, 2011
10:24 am

dtanner

June 8th, 2011
11:25 am

who’s katy perry?

SH

June 8th, 2011
11:39 am

The concert last night was entertaining. And last I knew, that is what they are supposed to be, fun and entertaining. Katy showed that she can really blow unlike some artist who cannot sing live.

For those who are not fans, why get so bent out of shape over someone you don’t know or are not a fan of. You don’t like her, so why waste 5 minutes of your life writing a review over a concert you didn’t see.

I just don’t like negativity.

Thomas B

June 8th, 2011
12:22 pm

Boo for hating on Robyn.

New KP fan.

June 8th, 2011
12:30 pm

As a woman in her 40’s I brought my 9 year old daughter (who dressed up like her) who adores music and loves to be entertained. She got the best of both worlds last night! Katy has an amazing voice! She hits the low sultry notes and high ones were just as easily reached…The costume changes, and the set designs had me thinking I took my daughter to Vegas to see a show. I sure hope Katy felt the love of all her fans last night as she opened her US tour with ATLANTA! Thinking we might have to hit the TN show just to make sure we really liked it as much as we did!

Amber

June 8th, 2011
1:12 pm

Honestly there is a difference between being a singer and an entertainer. Anyone can go to a studio and make a hit song sound amazing, but only a few can actually sing it live and entertain while doing it. Not only did she sing it live, and did amazing might I add, she also entertained the heck out of her fans. Every fan had an amazing time last night I bet. I went and had a blast, and I thought the whole movie/dream thing was different and a great way to start the show. It kept the fans thinking “what’s gonna happen next?”. So I say to Katy Perry keep doing what you are doing because it’s definitely working for you. Why change that?!?!

amand

June 8th, 2011
3:58 pm

i’m in my 40’s and i went with friends. we had so much fun! fun for all ages! she was awesome! i’ve been to a lot of show, heard lots of voices, and i must say, she was one of the best!!

Lauren

June 8th, 2011
4:08 pm

Was the girl fan on stage with all of the bags and broken camera staged?

Ash

June 8th, 2011
5:05 pm

This review is a little… rigid. Lighten up. The arena was full of cotton candy clouds and the smell of sugar for goodness’ sake. Katy played to her audience. I’m not a fan of Top 40 radio, but I had a fantastic time and thought the production was fun. Unlike some pop concerts, this was money well spent, and all things considered, it was an inexpensive concert. For a pop artist, she has a solid voice. It’s not fair to compare her to the legends and divas because that’s not her style.
And to the haters, is it not obvious why I show like this gets coverage? She’s sold out every show on the North American leg of her tour. As much as I love independent artists, there’s a reason why they don’t get coverage like this.

Christine

June 8th, 2011
11:38 pm

I was at this concert and was very surprised at Katy Perry’s abilities as a singer and performer. Her songs that are popular on the radio don’t do justice to her amazing singing talents. She really did a great job of pulling the audience into this performance and left us all wanting more. Even my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed this concert and now we both have a huge crush on her. I can honestly say that now, I am a Katy Perry fan.

Tine

June 9th, 2011
1:46 am

Lauren
June 8th, 2011
4:08 pm

“Was the girl fan on stage with all of the bags and broken camera staged?”

No :) she’s a KatyCat from Katy’s forum and was randomly picked to go on stage during that song. I’m sososo happy for her, as she’s been waiting for this for a loooong time. She got the bags at a pre party for the show, which is why she had all that stuff with her, haha.

Nerd Ferguson

June 9th, 2011
8:03 am

OMG! Robyn was aweseome! …as was Katy, of course.

Robert

June 9th, 2011
11:33 am

I was there in the midst of all the teeny boppers with their parents. I took my daughter and she had a great time. I’m sure the haters didn’t go to the show. I thought it was fun and reasonably priced for the great seats we had. Katy played for a long while. I enjoyed the acoustic set. They did need to turn up her mic which I think they did. The instruments were too loud at first. Robyn was pretty cool. She should have played longer instead of the dj. He was on the stage too long. Ended up sapping the energy from the crowd

Gianna

June 9th, 2011
2:17 pm

I saw Katy Perry Tuesday and I really enjoyed myself! The younger kids had fun listening to the songs while the teens and adults enjoyed the songs and the jokes! The air smelled of candy and Katy had the crowed on their feet for pretty much most of the show. She interacted with the audience which is something that other artists don’t do as often. There even was a little dance number the back-up singers and dancers had while their names flashed on the three video boards. The energy was fun and upbeat.
All and all, the concert was was a definite and enjoyable see!!

Katy Perry’s Tour Opener | PULSE

June 10th, 2011
5:45 pm

[...] ears. The Teenage Dream tour started off in Europe in February and finally made its debut in the U.S. at the Gwinnett Center Arena. Americans are thrilled to have this popular teen star making the rounds through different cities. [...]

bretzky

June 10th, 2011
7:32 pm

“suffered through an In and Out burger” ?!?!?!?!

that is my kind of suffering!

Melissa Ruggieri

June 11th, 2011
6:53 pm

An In N Out burger can only wish it were a Fatburger!