Katy Perry "California Dreams" Tour XL Center, Hartford, CT November 15, 2011
Review & Photos by Jeremy Spencer
She's the hottest pop star on the planet, racking up #1 hits and wrapping up an outrageously successful concert trip, the "California Dreams" tour that stopped at Hartford's XL Center on Tuesday, November 15th. Katy Perry already passed through here once, at Mohegan Sun Arena in June, and this show was sandwiched between her European swing and a handful more shows, including the following night in NYC and ending in LA. In a time when a top pop queen is expected to pull off a spectacular show, Katy Perry delivered in grand fashion. We saw her in incredible outfits and showstopping production numbers, imaginative stage design and a well-produced video to tie one segment to the next.
Katy opened with the title track of her smash album "Teenage Dream" along with "Hummingbird Heartbeat" from that disc, wearing a sparkling white dress covered with peppermints.
Katy slowed down to say hello, then she was off to "Waking Up In Las Vegas" with it's catchy refrain ("shut up and put your money where your mouth is"), an exciting dance number with feather-topped showgirls and an Elvis. Her dance team is excellent and showed great versatility throughout the show on a stage that was a fantasy land of candy dreams.
After a clip of the accompaning video, with Katy as an Alice-in-Wonderland encountering various trippy adventures, she was in a frilly, blue tulle dress and tiara with her male dancers as mimes for her first hit, "UR So Gay." Playing along with the video story, Katy eats a magic brownie and it makes her "feel really sexy now!" She dropped her prom dress, revealing an iridescent leotard, and strutted through "Peacock," a show-stopping production number with her and the dancers sporting brightly-colored peacock feathers.
Perry's playfully provocative persona is perfect for those who like it naughty but nice. By way of getting to her breakout hit, "I Kissed A Girl," she said she's always liked Connecticut but "I've never kissed a Hartford boy." She requested a volunteer (old enough, but not too old, she stipulated) to be the first to take off his shirt. One young man was shirtless and stageside in a snap but Katy had her eye on a hunk a few rows back and invited him on stage. Trying to act cool, he hestitated and she wasn't having any of that. She said never mind and brought up the eager guy instead. "You snooze you lose!" she snapped with a laugh but also clearly mouthed "WTF?" at macho guy as the audience roared. "I like a boy who's confident but not too confident." Now on stage next to Perry, the first guy, Marty, is a bit more intimidated by the situation, after all. "Are you nervous?" she cooed. "You're a very nervous boy, Marty."
Katy laid a serious kiss on Marty that literally staggered him. She pretended to hear an offstage whisper and said "He said my husband is here tonight to surprise me -- I'm in SO much trouble!" which sent Marty running off and the crowd hooting.
In a glittering, floor-length lime green gown and silver hosiery, she began "I Kissed A Girl" as a cabaret chanteuse in a jazzy arrangement far different than the hit version. Then she kicked it back into high gear, prowling the stage as a predator and sliding across the stage on her knees.
She's at the top of the recording industry and this show proves that Katy is a top performer, as well.
The blistering guitar intro signaled my personal Perry favorite "Circle The Drain" where she performed a dark dance in a black sequin catsuit complete with ears and tail, the stage awash in devil-red light. "I'll be your lover / not your f**king mother," she snarls in the catchy chorus. This rocking tune was much like her opening act, Ellie Goulding, a British singer who's already hot in her native Britain and ready to break out here. Her set was so powerful, we wrote a separate review.
Katy (in catsuit, left, and getting carried away by her dancers) in "Circle The Drain."
"E.T." her robot-beat riff on inplanetary and interspecies hookups (recorded with Kanye) was next, its booming bass and kick-drums making it even more powerful live. She changed pace with "Who Am I Living For?" in a curious number with the dancers and intertwining ropes that didn't help the dreary number. It's a likely suspect to be dropped when her next mega-album and tour hits.
I admit I was dreading the slow section but Katy made it -- what else? -- fabulous. For "Pearl," her dancers sheathed her in a huge, silver sequined cloak and she was elevated atop a giant pedestal as an acrobatic aeriel show went on around her. This majestic staging made one of her lesser songs a magic moment.
"Not Like The Movies" was another ballad given a torchy production, with Katy singing from a swing made of roses, high above the stage with a long train fanned out below.
While "Not Like The Movies" showed off her church-trained pipes, "The One That Got Away" was an acoustic number with her band (not introduced, but if my information is correct) Patrick Matera on lead guitar, Korel on guitar, Josh Morequ on bass and drummer Adam Marcello. What is a great song and video sort of laid an egg here. Who wants to see KP unplugged? Her vocal gifts carried the number and setting it up as an acoustic piece was not a bad idea, it just slowed things down.
The acoustic theme worked better with her next song, "Thinking Of You." "I want to get closer to you!" she exclaimed, climbing aboard her "flying cotton-candy cloud" that took her high over the crowd, playing a glittering, candy-striped guitar and singing to every corner of the XL Center. She did most of the song at the back of the house, for those fans who weren't as fortunate to have as good a seat as some others. It was an intimate moment for everyone in the arena, to get a little closer to her, as she said.
"Thinking Of You"
With Katy offstage to prep for the sizzling final four songs, the dancers took over with a medley of sweet-themed covers, "I Want Candy," Kelis' "Milkshake," and "Tootsie Roll." Each got a moment in the spotlight with signature moves and his or her name on the big screen.
In the video, Katy is told, "to find a love that's true, you must wear the wig that's blue." She reappeared on stage with the Marge Simpson-hued locks in her album-cover bob. For the frenzied "Hot N Cold," her second big hit, a story of a lover who can't make up their mind (an amen, anyone?), she dazzled with a quick-change routine in which she transformed into about ten different jaw-drapping outfits in mere moments, ending in a shower of confetti.
"Hot N Cold"
A party broke out with her latest hit, "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" with its rifle beat and reckless spirit. Katy was scorching hot in a white swimsuit covered with candy dots to sing Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," in which she brought some in the crowd up on stage with her and the dancers. Tackling Whitney is not for the meek but Katy pulled it off.
It was getting late. "I say we lock the doors and order pizza!" she suggested, to much delight. This was to be the end, however, but it was a (literally) explosive finale with another recent hit, which she called her favorite, "Firework," a thrilling dance piece complete with pyrotechnics.
Katy Perry and dancers end with a bang with the explosive "Firework."
With the crowd screaming for more, Katy and the dancers rose up on a lift from under the stage for an encore of "California Gurls." Katy wore a metallic bra with tassels and matching bootee shorts. The arena was filled with giant beachballs during this paen to West Coast living and it all wound up with Perry shooting the audience with a water cannon that looked like a giant peppermint stick and danced with a chorus line of gingerbread men.
This concert had everything the wild, wacky world of Katy Perry could imagine and delivered solid, worth-every-penny entertainment.
And, btw, for all the expense this extravaganza must have required, the ticket price was surprisingly affordable. Perry put a solid exclamation point at the end of this remarkable arc of recent success. The show, with its many looks, moods and set pieces, stayed cohesive with the wacky video storyline and sets and costumes of candy and confections. With five #1's from "Teenage Dream," that disc is surely exhausted of further hits and after more than 120 concerts, Perry must be exhausted, too. I'm anxious to see what will be next for this amazing artist.
Lots of women and girls dressed a la Katy, including this quartet of Connecticut hotties
British singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding opened for Katy. Read our review of her set in our Reviews section.