Review: Katy Perry brings top-level performance to the Yum Center

Contributing Music CriticAugust 17, 2014 

LOUISVILLE -- In any debate over who is currently the biggest pop star in the world, Katy Perry should always come out on top ... if you go by the numbers. Others may be more polarizing and provocative (Miley Cyrus), artistically gifted (Lady Gaga) or capable of shifting culture at a moment's notice (Beyonce).

But if you go by albums sold, No. 1 hits and overall commercial success, Perry has them all beat with room to spare.

Here's another number that doesn't lie: 16,000. That's approximately how many fans were in the capacity crowd at the KFC Yum! Center Saturday night to bear witness to Perry's Prismatic Tour. It was a two-hour, hit-filled extravaganza that was a colorful, playful and precise display of pop pageantry only reaffirming the artist's massive appeal.

From the opening bell -- or in this case, BOOM -- Perry had this all-ages audience in a frenzy. She emerged from a giant pyramid in a light-up dress as she opened with her huge hit “Roar.” Its percussive beat was given an arena-sized injection and there was the visual flair of equally illuminated dancers and acrobats decked out in futuristic tribal gear and spears. She followed that up with a few more hit singles (“Part of Me” and a techno version of “Wide Awake”), which allowed Perry to both ascend on an elevated platform and walk a large, triangular thrust that took her almost the entire length of the arena floor.

Perry and company would later don Egyptian garb for her trap-rap smash “Dark Horse,” “E.T.” and the Bhangra-infused “Legendary Lovers.” The star and her crew went full feline for a another portion, with Internet meme cats on the triangle screen, dancers in “Cats”-inspired costumes and Perry singing a cabaret version of “Hot N Cold” in a pink cat outfit on a giant ball of yarn. Some of her Gen X and Gen Y fans got a blast of nostalgia during a “Club MTV”-themed break filled with '90s dance hits that led into her throwback homage to the era's house music, “Walking On Air.”

The almost old-school, Madonna-esque ambition of the massive show would be enough to keep people engaged throughout. But Perry's vocal ability and winning personality provided some of her concert's most memorable moments.

Her voice was occasionally drowned out by the backing track (probably to give her a breather during significant portions of choreography), but it was powerful and crystal clear during a more intimate chunk of songs with her backing band that showcased Perry's singer-songwriter side. With rainbow hair and a sparkly hooded white cloak, she performed some of her most vulnerable tracks like “By The Grace of God” and “Unconditionally” that hinted at the deeper artist beneath her Technicolor pin-up image.

While she spent a lot of time speaking to the crowd as a motivational speaker, promoting self-love and positivity, she also used those opportunities at the mike to put on a bit of a charm offensive. She confessed she was sick the last time she played Louisville, took selfies with fans and gave away a bucket of KFC to three guys dressed in her outfit from last year's MTV Video Music Awards.

Perry played more than a few songs off of “Prism,” her most introspective, personal and sometimes spiritual third album. Those were the few times the concert's energy lost a little steam. But she played every last one of her hits, including much of her multi-platinum smash “Teenage Dream” and “I Kissed A Girl,” the song that Perry exclaimed "put her on the map."

She knew most of her fans came there for a good time, and she delivered that thoroughly in the set's latter portion and encore. It was a serving of sugary silliness, featuring giant floats of champagne bottles and tacos, blasts of confetti and Perry both riding around the stage in a blow-up Cadillac and floating throughout the arena hooked to a set of giant balloons. After closing with “Firework” to a smattering of pyrotechnics, Perry proved why she was a pop star in the first place: She had something for just about everybody.

Even though it may not have seemed like a good fit on paper, the opening set by country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves, who recently collaborated with Perry on an episode of CMT's “Crossroads,” proved to be an unexpectedly effective way to ease the audience into Perry's big production. With a set of simple neon cacti and a pair of light-up cowboy boots, Musgraves played much of her Grammy-winning album “Same Trailer Different Park,” including her biggest hits “Merry Go 'Round,” “Follow Your Arrow” and “Blowin' Smoke,” along with a nice cover of Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'.”

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