Katy Perry brought her Prismatic World Tour to a sold-out Palace of Auburn Hills Monday night, and it was a lot to take in: emojis, balloons, LOL cats, flowers, pizzas, acrobatics, Egyptians and, oh yes, prisms all played a role in the eye-popping production.
It was a marked improvement over her last outing, 2011’s California Dreams tour, during which Perry was still finding her footing as an arena artist. But a second half speedbump dulled the momentum of the concert and proved the 29-year-old still has some work to do in crafting a master class pop extravaganza.
Perry was on a roll early on, ruling over a diamond-shaped stage that took up most of the surface area of the arena floor. While not a trained dancer, Perry hit her steps and kept up with the demanding choreography in an admirable fashion.
She boldly opened with “Roar,” her monster hit from last year’s “Prism” album, that could have acted as a show-closer. Dressed in a top and skirt lined with glowing neon lights, Perry emerged from the inside of a prism, her dancers dressed like neon Aztec warriors. It wasn’t quite clear what was happening — had Perry upset the natives of this neon territory? — but when they all pulled out glow-in-the-dark jump ropes and broke into a choreographed routine (with Perry jumping rope in high heels, no less) it was clear that random fun would be the name of the game for the evening.
And that random fun continued: During “Dark Horse,” which also came early in the show (and kicked off the Egyptian-themed portion of the evening), Perry rode a model of a horse around the stage; “I Kissed a Girl” showcased a handful of twerking mummies with comically oversized rear ends. “Hot N Cold,” meanwhile, was like a bizarro production of “Cats,” with Perry and her dancers vamping to a brassy, jazzed-up version of the song, while “International Smile” extended the cat theme and saw Perry and her dancers climbing around on oversized pieces of cat furniture.
“Pretty good for a Monday night, huh?” Perry asked the audience. And it was: The show was goofy and carefree and was all treated like a big shoulder shrug.
But then came the night’s acoustic portion, which slowed things to a halt and sucked the energy out of the room. Perry, who is not a great speaker off the cuff, talked to the audience about gardening, which was as dull as it sounds, and then invited a fan on stage during a long bit involving a free pizza.
She then got sincere, and it didn’t wear well: “Can I just say thank you for still liking me?” she said, in an almost apologetic tone. Perhaps the era of super-confident pop stars is over, and maybe Perry was seeking to inject a little humility into the familiar audience-performer relationship. But she should own her place in the pop pantheon and defend her ground. You can’t go from “Roar,” which is all about self-empowerment and self-entitlement, to meekly thanking fans for still paying attention.
(And while we’re at it, we as a society need to collectively figure out this whole selfie issue, because when performers stop shows cold in their tracks to take pics with fans, everyone but the owner of that phone loses.)
The show came back to life at the end, but it was a slow go rebuilding the momentum it had early on. She had hits on her side, and she rolled out a string of them — “Teenage Dream,” “California Gurls,” “Birthday” and “Firework” — all in succession. During “Firework,” she instructed fans to put on pairs of glasses that reflected prisms of light, and the effect was like staring into the sun while wearing a pair of 3-D glasses. It created an explosion of color that was like a lo-fi version of Coldplay’s light-up wristband trick from its last tour.
Bursts of flames and actual fireworks closed the show, but a few more fireworks in the middle of the concert would have saved it from stumbling toward its finish. The concert, which ran slightly over the two-hour mark, could have also benefited from a trim; the outing would have been a leaner, tighter and more satisfying show at 100 minutes.
Up-and-coming country singer Kacey Musgraves opened the concert, a more interesting choice on paper than in execution. Musgraves is a sharp writer and a strong talent but her songs — downbeat tales of small town America — don’t lend themselves to arena presentations in the warm-up spot for a major pop act.