REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena
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REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena




Heading along to see Katy Perry last night as someone who has never been a fan or seen her live was always going to be an interesting proposition. I felt perhaps if nothing else it would allow me to pen a totally objective review.

If last nights Melbourne performance was anything to go by, Perry requesting Starley as her opening act for a handful of dates on the Australian leg of her Witness tour proved an enlightened choice. After ingratiating herself on Channel 10’s ’The Project’ last week, seems punters were keen to get down early and check her out. Despite being around on the scene since 2016, it’s still relatively early days for Starley and despite the bulk of her material being previously unheard by tonight’s audience (as her debut is still on its way), her bubbly enthusiasm and delight at tonight’s massive opportunity were obvious. The material for the most part has a sunny disposition and her voice bears more than a passing resemblance to Tracy Chapman… a point not lost on her as she deftly covered Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ late in her set… Stand out highlights were her new single ‘Love Is Love’ and set closer 2016 hit ‘Call on Me’ which had everyone pricking up their ears in recognition. Give it a little longer for the ear worms in these new songs to burrow in and I tip she’ll be mega.

REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena

The Katy Perry Marketing Department used the prime opportunity between sets to plug all manner of KP perfume, mascara and lipsticks to her captive demographic on screens at side of stage. An impromptu but very enthusiastic Mexican Wave entertained the rest of us until 9.20pm when the lights went down to shrieks of excitement.

Disclaimer: So as not to pepper this review with ***all*** of the show spoilers I’m only discuss the first third.

Seems these days a spectacular grand entrance is de rigeur and tonight was no exception… and what an entrance! KP flying through a giant eye astride a shining star performing the title track ‘Witness’…. Massive kudos to the set designers and lighting technicians… the effect was totally gob smacking. Perry had scarcely alighted on stage when lights went down momentarily and then it was straight into a banging version of ‘Roulette’ with visual stylings that could have been dreamed up by Cubby Broccoli… when the lights came back up, the performers were now dwarfed by a massive roulette wheel and giant pair of shiny dice – her troupe of gymnasts climbed and shimmied their way around, over, under, and through the hollow dots… super clever. And it just didn’t stop. The pace of the shiny new sets and costume changes never really slowed…every few songs it had morphed into something totally different. The audience were showered in red and black confetti… diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs at the end of ‘Roulette’. Then as if by magic from the base of the stage a series of elevating and descending columns appeared that Katy and dancers perform atop for ‘Dark Horse’ & ‘Chained To the Rhythm’. ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ also featured dancers all wearing one eyed television heads and two giant puppets of business men in the same get-up.

REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena

There is definitely nothing twee about Katy Perry this time around. Some clear brainstorming has gone down in the Katy camp to ensure this show is another giant step up from the last time she visited… almost a ‘coming of age’ show.

Some trippy pop art footage of a young Katy ran on the massive Eye backdrop while everyone else except the band left the stage to ready themselves for the next act of the show… entitled RETROSPECTIVE.

Her dancers reappeared in shiny pink and cyan space age outfits each adorned with yellow snooker ball type head dress. As they all moved in perfect syncopation along a giant geometric yellow rod, they proved a perfect counterpoint to Perry who was now dressed in a smart white check glittery suit. At the end of the song the lights went down and then in the darkness Katy removed her jacket to reveal a glowing LED bra! The words HOT / COLD / ON / OFF flash in time with the song… Super effective. Then it’s a quick sprint down to the B stage for a spunky version of ‘TGIF’ complete with more puppets… this time Giant Dancing Flamingos and a Katy cartwheel to finish it off.

REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena

’Cali Girls’ is KP’s opportunity to reintroduce the infamous ‘Left Shark’ for a bit of light hearted fun. He’s super goofy but comes in handy after she ambitiously ends the song with the splits and then can’t get back up again… He clowns around for a while and busts out some ‘Chopsticks’ on a giant Floor Piano. It’s entertaining for a while but eventually when his antics begin to wear a little thin and I sense the energy level lulling, Katy restarts the show with “so this was my very first big hit song… and I’d like to dedicate it to all the girls of Melbourne”… yep… it’s ’I Kissed a Girl’ which kicks the tempo up another notch. The staging for this is rather effective… a huge pair of red inflatable lips hang far above the stage… the dancers all wear lip styled headpieces with eyeballs that are very reminiscent of something that originated with American Avant Garde Art Collective ‘The Residents’. As the song progresses Katy is lifted up on invisible wires through the lips on an invisible trapeze where she is ‘delightfully consumed’.

We now enter ‘ACT 3: SEXUAL DISCOVERY” and while we’ve been distracted by a short animation of Katy floating mysteriously on a bed of roses, in the otherwise total darkness the stage has now been totally fitted out with giant thorned roses which then become props for Katy and a very talented male pole dancer to strut their stuff. At this point the show just ramps up the energy to a whole new level and the hits and the spectacles just keep coming…

For the rest of the show, you’ll just have to get along and see it for yourself!

REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena

With all the rapid fire dance routines and set changes, there are occasions when the hard-working stage crew, band and dancers can do with a breather and Katy obliges by taking the time to slow things down, go off-script and interact with the audience. To her credit, she makes it all seem like the most natural thing in the world, and her fans lap it up. Every little gesture and side glance is met with unbridled delight.

It is during these little impromptu chats that (consciously or unconsciously) a little more about KP is revealed. One in particular was very telling when she was thanking the crowd for the love affair that she has enjoyed with Australia. She said she was amazed and felt privileged that audiences had bought their tickets for this show eons ago and then waited so long for her: “I want to take a moment to say thank you because Australia, and particularly Melbourne has been a massive support for over 10 years to me and I feel like I’ve grown up with a lot of you… some of you were in your early teens and now you’re in your early twenties, you have a job now or have a family, bills. responsibilities but we’ve been in communication for 10 years…and I don’t want to be an entitled spoiled little pop star and think that this should just happen every time I show up so I do wanna say I appreciate your presence tonight.”

Whatever her attitude might have been on previous trips, she comes across as a pretty considered, more mature KP this time around. Witness, according to a few fans I speak to tonight, appears to be her most personal album and creating something like that is only really possible when you’ve taken the time to have a good hard look at yourself.

Let it be said now that the stagecraft on this production is really on another level entirely. Each chosen set nails the themes of the bracket of songs being showcased and the KP dance troupe are awesome. There’s a little bit of slapstick, some sleight of hand, some fantasy, some puppetry, some acrobatics but above all fantastic sound, lighting and importantly, sublime vocal performance from Katy. It all combines to make an unmissable evening of entertainment, no matter your age. As someone who had never seen a KP concert before, I was thoroughly entertained. Highly, highly recommended.

REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena
Photo credit: Harry Williams

Katy Perry’s setlist:

ACT 1: MANIFESTO
01 Show Intro/Witness (short)
02 Roulette
03 Dark Horse
04 Chained to the Rhythm

ACT 2: RETROSPECTIVE
05 Teenage Dream
06 Hot N Cold / TGIF
07 Cali Girls
08 I Kissed a Girl

ACT 3: SEXUAL DISCOVERY
09 Deja Vu
10 Tsunami
11 ET
12 Bon Appetit / WHYDFML (Janet Jackson Cover)

ACT 4: INTROSPECTIVE
(Music: 12.5 Interlude 4 / Mind Maze
13 Wide Awake
14 Into Me You See
15 Power

ACT 5: EMERGENCE
16 Part Of me
17 Swish Swish (w Nick)
18 Roar

ACT 6: ENCORE
19 Pendulum
20 Firework

For more photographs of Katy Perry, please go to our sister music website, GigBill.
REVIEW: Katy Perry @ Rod Laver Arena
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