UNIONDALE, New York — Teenage girls and the parents who support them turned out in droves for
Following a "Wizard of Oz"-meets-Candy Land video intro, which mirrored the set design of the stage, Perry got the party started with a surefire crowd-pleaser, "Teenage Dream," while wearing a dress that came complete with spinning pinwheels. "Welcome to the California Dreams Tour, where everything is so sweet," she cooed to the legions of screaming fans hanging on her every word. And there were plenty of words for them to latch onto: The singer stopped to talk to the audience at length many times during her near two-hour set.
But that was just one of the many charms Perry had in store. From a running gag about the woozy effects of a strange brownie she nibbled on before launching into a robust take on "Peacock" to her admission that when she is feeling low she turns to YouTube for "mama cat hugging baby cat" videos, Perry was all charm and nonstop energy.
The show stuck so impressively to its storyline about Perry's travels through Candy Land in pursuit of "the baker's boy" that it could almost be a jukebox Broadway musical in the vein of "Rock of Ages" or "Mama Mia." A human slot machine, an Elvis impersonator and headdress-wearing showgirls joined her onstage for "Waking Up in Vegas." She floated across the arena on a pink cotton-candy cloud while strumming a bedazzled guitar to "Thinking of You." But despite the theatrics, Perry was still at her best when playing with the audience.
At one point she sought out the "sexy boys" in the arena, and when she found a volunteer that struck her fancy, she called him to the stage — but not before making a diva demand: "If you come on stage, you leave that T-shirt right there." He did as she asked, and after giving her audience a few minutes to ogle the strapping young man (and not just the screaming girls; more than once, Perry gave her gay male fans a shout-out too), she rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek. When he requested more, she joked, "My husband [Russell Brand] just told me in my ear he's gonna come out here and kick your ass."
She then launched into a slowed-down, jazzy take on "I Kissed a Girl" that quickly shifted into the party jam we all know and love.
Unlike many of her dance-pop contemporaries (think Lady Gaga or Britney Spears), Perry left most of the dancing to her talented backup troupe, who were introduced individually during solos to popular candy-related songs like "Tootsie Roll" and "How Many Licks," while she prowled the stage. But her lack of heavy choreography might have been in the best interest of the show's biggest surprise: her voice. She sounded fantastic from start to finish. Not even the green, pink and purple laser show that accompanied "E.T." could obscure that fact that she sounds better than ever.
Her vocals were again showcased when she stripped down the pop bombast for a fun medley of covers — "The playlist for my life right now." So what is Perry listening to? "Only Girl in the World" by "My girl Ri-Ri"; "Big Pimpin' " by Jay-Z, during which she played a jewel-encrusted recorder; "Whip My Hair" by Willow Smith and, since it was the final day of the work week, Rebecca Black's "Friday." The audience ate it up.
Terrific show-opener Robyn, who had Perry's fans mimicking her freestyle dance moves despite the thankless task of opening for one of pop's biggest names, set the tone for the concert's final act, a dance-heavy medley of Perry's biggest hits (and one fantastic cover).
The songstress put on her signature blue wig to rile up the audience with the one-two punch of "Hot n Cold" and a take on Whitney Houston's classic "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)." During "Dance," Perry pulled no less than 20 fans onstage for an impromptu dance party. Before the final two fans would leave the stage, they asked for a picture and the pop star obliged, saying, "New Facebook picture!"
She encored with "California Gurls," but the show's banner moment came at its official end with "Firework." With every person in the arena on their feet, Perry said, "I wrote this song for anyone who ever needed a song. To help them, to lift them up." And then she did exactly that. The Coliseum shook as the crowd sang the ubiquitous hit along with her as pyro lit up the stage, raining down like a wall of sparklers.
It was colorful, triumphant and the perfect way to end a near-perfect pop show.
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