Photo by Gretchen Bachrodt
“I have a lot on my plate,” Katy Perry told Rolling Stone in their cover story this past summer. “Things can get monotonous. Sometimes it gets overwhelming. A lot of people want things from you. But it’s fine! It’s called trade-offs. You have this dream, and then the dream becomes reality, and what comes along with it is you run a company. It’s the fine print of the dream that you didn’t know was there.”
Truth: The 30-year-old singer-songwriter from Santa Barbara, CA, is a professional. There’s no argument about it. She thinks methodically and she executes accordingly. It’s not like she has a choice; after all, she’s in the midst of her third world tour, which spans 130 dates over four legs that will take the Katy Perry brand across North America, Europe, and Oceania. What started this past May won’t wrap up, technically, until next March.
If you’ve seen “The Prismatic World Tour”, which runs about two hours and features over 20 performances, then you understand how much of a colossal undertaking that really is for Perry. She doesn’t just sing each night; she dances, she swings midair, she performs a medley of acoustic songs, she pops in and out of trap doors, she serenades a lucky birthday gal atop a titan-sized cake, she changes into about a dozen complicated wardrobes, she straddles a giant Egyptian horse, she hands out hot local pizza to hungry fans — I could keep going for another four paragraphs.
Similar to the late King and the still-truckin’ Queen of Pop — Michael Jackson and Madonna, respectively — Perry creates an unforgettable event for her legions of fans. One that isn’t just a concert, but a Hollywood blockbuster production, complete with an army of directors, choreographers, designers, managers, booking agents, promoters, photographers, roadies, etc., who all lead, coordinate, push, and pull the dozens of musicians and dancers required to make this happen.
As such, the ensuing tour continues to dazzle tens of thousands in every major market across the globe. The majority of her shows have sold out, having topped the Billboard Hot Tours charts back in September with $31 million in ticket sales from 21 of the tour’s North American concerts that occurred in a two-month span beginning on July 15. Critically, she’s been just as successful, garnering positive reviews from Rolling Stone, Billboard, and The Village Voice, the last of which called her Madison Square Garden performance “Better Than: Every other multimillion-dollar concert I’ve seen.”
To her credit, Perry also enhances the event by creating offline activations with her sponsor, CoverGirl, who supplied each arena with 3D glasses for the “Firework” closer and cardboard cutouts that fans could pose next to as they waited for Capital Cities to get off stage. In an age where icons seem so tangible thanks to the glut of social networks (Perry retweets her fans religiously), the icon makes it her main prerogative to embrace her fanbase while performing, whether it’s taking selfies as she struts by, speaking to them one-on-one between songs, or, as previously mentioned, making their birthday wish come true in the craziest way possible.
When I caught her sold-out performance at Chicago’s United Center this past August, I was floored by how accessible she was to her adoring fans. Admittedly, I criticized her for being “less like Craig Finn and more like Sally Field,” but I’m also a cynical son of a bitch, and this is a show that has no room for cynicism. It’s a bombastic yet earnest attempt at capturing the chummy, feel-good nature of everything Katy Perry represents, and while it’s over-the-top at times, that’s also the point.
Katy Perry’s one of a few ringleaders carrying the torch for a genre that continues to outgrow itself by the month. And with the help of many, many friends, she’s coming out on top, not with a smirk and a wink like her peer Miley Cyrus, but with a grin and a running bear hug. Who in their right mind wants to turn away from that?