Katy Perry Super Bowl half time show review – epic, lung-busting kitsch

The singer emerged on a giant tiger, danced with people dressed as sharks – and narrowly avoided being upstaged by Missy Elliott

Missy in action: why Missy Elliott needs to get her freak on again

As anyone who saw Madonna carried into the arena by a platoon of Roman centurions three years ago will have realised, the halftime show at the Super Bowl is no place for understatement. Yet Katy Perry’s grand entrance redefines the term kitsch. She emerges standing on the back of a giant puppet tiger which advances across the stadium, red eyes flashing, while Perry shakes its enormous golden reins while belting out Roar, clad in a Jeremy Scott outfit constructed of tongues of vinyl flame. It’s The Hunger Games as reimagined by the producers of Strictly Come Dancing.

The opening sets the tone for high-octane show notable for its surreal camp as for its tunes. Over 12 minutes, Perry manages to squeeze in four costume changes, nine songs (including three by Missy Elliott), and two backing dancers dressed as cuddly sharks, during an interlude in which the stage seems to turn into a cross between Club Tropicana and the hill from Tellytubbies. Perry’s sturdily-constructed pop tunes are whipped up into a hectic megamix, each number the excuse for ever more outlandish staging.

Last year’s Dark Horse sees silver-clad centaurs prance across a stage which appears to turn into a 3D chess board. Lenny Kravitz suddenly appears to give I Kissed a Girl a lung-busting, pyro-assisted rock makeover as Perry sinks to her knees and whips her hair around. Then come California Gurls and Teenage Dream, assisted by dancers dressed as palm trees, beach balls and those sharks. When Justin Timberlake joined the Flaming Lips on Top of the Pops dressed as a dolphin it was a psychedelic joke – now, gloriously, it’s mainstream entertainment.

Missy Elliott and Katy Perry play the Super Bowl.
Missy Elliott and Katy Perry play the Super Bowl. Photograph: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Missy Elliott doesn’t exactly strike a note of sobriety, but she does stop the show disappearing down the rabbit hole. Wearing a startling, waist-length hair weave, her salvo of Get Ur Freak on, Work it and Lose Control almost steal the slot from under Perry’s nose: almost 15 years since they were released, these songs still sound like the future. The only way Perry can top it is by reappearing in a star-spangled silver outfit and flying around the stadium on a platform which seems to be propelled by a giant sparkler-shooting star. So naturally she does, inevitably while singing Firework. It’s a wildly over-the-top ending for a show that didn’t know the meaning of “too much”, but which somehow never overwhelmed its star.


Alex Needham

The GuardianTramp

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