Review: Katy Perry, Wells Fargo Arena, 12.2.17

The outrageously lavish world of pop music mega-stardom is a place where the idiom “more is better, and bigger is best” is alive and well. After all, one does not achieve this level of popularity by being demure and shy. In this neck of the woods, the loudest wins.

Period.

So as the final notes of “Firework” echoed throughout Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Saturday night, pop music sensation Katy Perry stood alone in the center of a King Kong-sized palm of a hand at the end of an enormous runway, waving to the crowd before disappearing into the labyrinth below. After delivering 19 songs and a dazzling visual display that would make both Walt Disney and Timothy Burton proud, Perry, it can safely be said, is the new queen of loud.

In her return to central Iowa for the first time since making an appearance in Des Moines in 2015 while stumping for then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Perry dazzled the crowd with ear candy, unleashing her hit-making machine that includes a resume of nine No. 1 hits, and three chart-topping albums. Oh yes, and then there were the eye-popping visuals and stage production.

Photo by Darren Tromblay

The 32-year-old pop music sensation wasted little time in giving the more than 11,000 concert-goers a taste of what was to come, descending onto the stage standing in the center of a futuristic-looking star during the set-opening “Witness” in support of her current album of the same title. From there, it was game on.

Perry bounded on top of, and around, a pair of 10-foot-tall golden dice for “Roulette” to set the stage for what was to become a buffet of larger-than-life stage props and video presentations set in, and flanking, a gargantuan eye that served as the centerpiece of the stage.

Dancers roamed the stage as “Lion King”-looking puppets during “Chained to the Rhythm.” Later, a giant lion’s head emerged from the center of the eye for “Roar.” “Swish Swish,” Perry’s 2017 noted collaboration with Nicki Minaj and thought to be a response to a Taylor Swift jab during the stars’ infamous social media feud of a couple of years ago, featured an egregiously oversized basketball hoop, basketballs (the size of those rubber, inflated exercise balls) and even an onstage invitation to an audience member for a shooting contest.

As Perry broke into “California Gurls,” the Left Shark, famous for its hilarious, lone-shark dance moves during Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl halftime show, made an appearance, and the electronic/hip-hop inspired “E.T.” featured a black-and-white-striped, oversized winged creature stalking a Venus fly-trapped adorned stage.

Seven giant orbs resembling multicolored planets hung from the arena rafters during the show, and later served as a backdrop when Perry donned an acoustic guitar for “Thinking of You” while seated atop an imaginary planet with Saturn-like rings. In an ingenius visual move, Perry then asked the audience to light up the arena with their cellphones to look like “stars,” and was lifted up and over the crowd and into the galaxy amongst the planets.

Photo by Darren Tromblay

Despite the visual backdrop, Perry remained the centerpiece of the show from start to finish, a testament to her ability to relate to both the young and old demographics who make up her concert audience. Although she is not a powerhouse vocalist, Perry is better than most, and her singing chops, groove-infused band and background singers — who actually played and sang instead of relying on canned music — provided enough substance to the proceedings to keep the adults engaged while the younger section of her audience were wowed by the surroundings.

The show’s only slight misstep came, ironically, when Perry brought her mother, Mary Hudson, on stage. In celebration of her parents’ 38th wedding anniversary that night, the two exchanged a hug and kiss before Mary was given the mic for some comedic relief. Well, sort of. “What do you call a bunch of John Deere tractors at an Iowa McDonald’s on a Saturday night?” she asked. “Prom!”

Ouch.

But after a couple of other quips, all was forgiven when Perry turned to the audience in “naughty girl” fashion as Mary was exiting stage left and whispered, “Now I have to sing this song that she doesn’t want me to sing. She’s going to church tomorrow, but I have to sing it because it put me on the map.” Instantly, all was right again with the audience as Perry launched into her 2008 mega-hit, “I Kissed A Girl.”

Say what you will about Perry. She’s kind of one part this, her stage show is sort of one part that, and the rest of her is one part everything in between. But whatever it is, the California-born daughter of two pastors manages to pull it off in spectacular fashion.

That’s what Queens of the Loud do.

Photo by Darren Tromblay

SETLIST
Witness
Roulette
Dark Horse
Chained to the Rhythm
Teenage Dream
Hot N Cold
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
California Gurls
I Kissed a Girl
Déjà Vu
Tsunami
E.T.
Bon Appétit
Thinking of You
Power
Part of Me
Swish Swish
Roar
Firework

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