RALEIGH -- Katy Perry wants it all, critical respect and dance-club credibility to go with massive popularity. But most of all, she seems to want dessert.
Tuesday night brought Perry's "California Dreams" roadshow to the RBC Center, and it was a confectionary affair all the way around. The stage was done up with lots of pinks and pastels, and the show's overall vibe was something like "Alice in Wonderland" crossed with "The Wizard of Oz" -- except the road to redemption was the Candyland board game rather than a yellow brick road, and the promised land was out in the land of "California Gurls" rather than Kansas. The show also had elements of Cirque du Soleil, princess fairy tales, super-hero fantasies and, of course, cupcakes.
"I wanna hear you scream if you love caaaaandy," Perry cooed early on. "It's gonna be a sweet night."
Massive-spectacle pop-diva tours are nothing new, of course, and Perry is following a well-traveled course charted by Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera and good ol' Madonna, among many others. But she has her own spin on it with a good-girl-next-door-gone-bad image, plus the candy obsession. That's not surprising, given that Perry's most recent album came with a candy-scented compact-disc booklet.
In keeping with her dance-cred aspirations, Perry tried to turn the RBC Center into a disco with her opening acts. DJ Skeet Skeet was up first, spinning a half-hour of high-energy dance mixes. Then came Swedish dance-pop singer Robyn, who somehow danced despite wearing impossible shoes with four-inch-thick soles.
As for Perry, she initially appeared in red shoes reminiscent of Dorthy Gale. The show opened with a film clip noting that she had "dreams covered in sugar, candy and cream," setting up an elaborate storyline that seemed to involve Perry chasing her cat through a surreal landscape (and also becoming feline herself at one point).
Naturally, there were costume-changes -- lots and lots of costume changes. Perry variously came across as a wide-eyed ingenue, super-hero, Playboy bunny and lounge singer, running through a dizzying array of outfits. That hit a quite-funny peak toward the end of the show during "Hot N Cold," a sleight-of-outfit demonstration that had Perry making a series of how'd-she-do-that onstage costume changes. Just for good measure, she came out for the encore with a prominent feature of her anatomy done up like two Hershey's kisses.
The performance was a shade too cutesy at times and it did feel overly long at two hours, padded out with a bit more yackety-yack than necessary. The unplugged covers of current hits went on longer than it needed to, with a few too many aw-shucks "Southern" references, and the selections were hardly revelatory. Rebecca Black's "Friday" still sucks even if played on acoustic guitars, just in case you were wondering.
With all the dancing, lasers and pyrotechnics swirling around, there were times when music seemed secondary. Perry's voice wasn't bad, although she warbled mightily off-pitch during the opening "Teenage Dream." But when she just sat and sang on "Not Like the Movies," it was quite good.
Other highlights included "Hummingbird Heartbeat," "Pearl" and "Californina Gurls" because, let's face it, catchy's catchy. So eat dessert first -- the future is uncertain.
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