Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: A California ‘Dream’ for Thanksgiving – Los Angeles Loyolan.
It can be said that Nov. 22 is a significant date for me. Many Americans remember it as the fateful day in 1963 when our 35th President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. For me it’s memorable as my birthday. (I am currently running in second place behind “those born on Sept. 11” in the contest for most dubious birth date.) As of last week, I’ll remember Nov. 22 for an entirely different reason – it was the day I learned that Katy Perry puts on one hell of a show.
I was lucky enough to get four tickets to the final North American date of Perry’s California Dreams 2011 Tour, held at the Staples Center with opening act and LMU favorite Ellie Goulding. Since it was my birthday, as well as my last night before heading back home for Thanksgiving break, I thought the concert would be a fun way to celebrate. However, I can’t say I was expecting too much. Perry, known best for frothy pop jams like “California Gurls” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” isn’t exactly famous for a killer voice like Adele’s or incredible showmanship like Lady Gaga’s.
Turns out, you can never judge an artist before you see them live. Perry put on the show of a lifetime, simultaneously fun and energetic while never overwhelming. Throughout the set, she displayed an impeccable sense of showmanship and theatricality while backing it up with an impressive set of pipes. Whether she was changing outfits over 10 times during “Hot N Cold” while still keeping the melody or strumming her guitar or singing a contemplative “Thinking of You” on a cotton candy cloud hovering above her audience (it makes sense in context), Perry was constantly entertaining and never boring.
The whole show was tied together with a narrative about Perry and her cat, Kitty Purry, stumbling into the strange land of Candyfornia and attempting to find the hunky baker’s boy (again, totally makes sense in context). Perry used pre-taped bits for exposition and kept the story going throughout her performances. No matter how absurd the plot twist, such as being transformed into a cat, Perry committed herself to all the shenanigans and costume changes the story offered.
Perry wasted no time getting to her biggest hits, beginning with last year’s anthem “Teenage Dream” and quickly moving on to other total jams like “E.T.” and “Waking Up in Vegas.” It’s easy to forget exactly how prolific Perry has been in a very short career, but even the minor hits managed to launch the audience into sheer glee.
The show really took off, however, when Perry took it to a much slower place. Her performance of “Not Like the Movies,” an immensely personal song for me, was one of the best birthday gifts I could have received. She was understated and lilting in her tone throughout the entire performance and I’m not ashamed to admit I was moved to a few tears. New single “The One That Got Away” was performed in a similarly minimalistic fashion and was equally lovely.
Even more than her voice, it was Perry herself that was so damn impressive. Small gestures like going out into the audience and taking a picture with an audience participant onstage showed exactly how much she loves her fans. She doesn’t see them as an army of “little monsters” like a certain other pop star. She sees them as her equals.
Additionally surprising was Perry’s smart, funny rapport with her audience and her quick wit. The singer has a great sense of humor, which might explain why she’s been tapped to host a future episode of “Saturday Night Live.” Such comedic bits as describing how girls spy on their boyfriends (“Boys, we do go through your phones, and if we’re not doing that, then we’re going through your emails”) or lamenting the death of old social media sites (“Back in the days of MySpace, may it rest in peace”) were made all the funnier thanks to her impeccable sense of timing.
Goulding, the opening act who replaced the previously announced Jessie J, held her own with an acoustic set displaying her unique tone and incredible drumming skills. (Hire Goulding for your next party – she does her own percussion!) Her biggest hit, “Lights,” didn’t sound anywhere near as good live, but other songs like “The Writer” and her cover of “Your Song” were simply sublime.
The show was, start to finish, an absolute ball. Perry performed for two hours straight with no breaks except for costume changes, and she kept the energy up throughout. It was easy to tell it was her last show – she put her whole heart into it for her hometown crowd. As she performed her encore, “California Gurls,” the first song I heard when I came to Los Angeles for orientation the summer before freshman year, I realized that, without knowing it, Perry had become one of my favorite artists, someone whose songs are often very special to me. This show only solidified my love for her. It was truly the perfect birthday present.