Katy Perry – review

Hammersmith Apollo, London

Katy Perry is strutting across the stage, a giant spray of feathers fanning out from her tiny backside, and she's singing, "I wanna see your peacock! Cock! Cock! I wanna see your peacock!" To the dismay, no doubt, of parents in the house, multitudes of very small fans are singing the lines back at her, and bobbing their heads peacockishly. This scene – the first of many mildly risque moments on the opening night of her UK tour – captures Perry's essence: a bit Barbara Windsor, a bit American cheerleader and, underneath, a lot hard-edged pop singer who's sold millions of records by moulding herself into the cheeky alternative to Rihanna and Lady Gaga.

Perry is the one who kissed a girl and liked it on her 2008 No 1 debut single; you could argue that she started as she meant to go on. Two multi-platinum albums down the line, she has the budget to take her vision of a pop gig to its Carry on Saucing extreme. Reflecting the "candyland" artwork of current album Teenage Dream, the stage is decorated with huge cupcakes and lollipops, and Perry herself is decorated in an array of Haribo-coloured basques, tutus and rah-rah skirts. "Let's eat some sweets until we get sick!" she orders.

What ensues is the visual embodiment of a sugar rush, punctuated by endless saucy "ooh!" moments. A dancer dressed as a Pierrot peeks under her skirt during Ur So Gay – whose title is sung by the audience with discomfiting glee – she exhorts boys to throw their shirts on stage on a reconfigured, jazzy version of I Kissed a Girl and she even plays, oo-er, a rhinestone-encrusted flute on a cover of Jay-Z's Big Pimpin'. Silly as hell? Yes – but also very funny.

Most of it probably goes over the crowd's heads, though. Nor are they old enough to suspect that the lavish, Day-Glo production is probably partially influenced by the more psychedelic aspects of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, with Perry as the questing heroine. Did Perry's reformed-hedonist husband, Russell Brand, have a hand in that side of things? If not, he's certainly responsible for her occasional lame attempts at an English accent.

But maybe there are no hidden lysergic messages. Maybe Perry is just a cheeky A-lister who has mastered the craft of entertaining the masses. Finishing up with "my favourite song", Firework, and California Gurls, she still looks fresh, and it's hard not to be glad she exists.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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