It’s tough to pinpoint just what made Katy Perry’s Sunday-night show at the Bowl fall flat. Aesthetically speaking, the 24-year-old pop tart seemed to have it all going on-matching backup band, quirky stage setup, sequined bathing suit-yet somehow, somewhere, things went south.
Entering to a track of the Beach Boys’ 1965 hit “California Girls,” Perry appeared onstage and immediately squealed with glee at the sight before her. In her hometown, on the final night of her cross-country tour, she had sold out some 4,000 seats, and her fans-ranging from pint-sized tots to older gaggles of women-were ecstatic. But by midway through the set-opening “Fingerprints,” something just felt a little off.
Let it be known that Perry, unlike so many of her fellow Top 40 hit makers, does not sing to a backing track. In fact, the doe-eyed brunette spent most of Sunday night belting through her catalogue sans much help from her own backup singers. But standing alone in front of an at-capacity amphitheater, Perry’s voice came across more labored than joyous.
Upbeat cuts off Perry’s solo debut (“One of the Boys,” “Self Inflicted”) sadly failed to deliver anything close to the punch they possess in recorded form. Meanwhile, slower ballads like “Thinking of You” and “I’m Still Breathing” worked in their raw simplicity, allowing Perry to stand alone onstage with nothing more than an acoustic and a quelled desire to run around and gyrate.
Many postulate that it’s Perry’s unpredictable humor and in-your-face attitude that have thrust her to the top of the charts, but on Sunday night even the banter seemed forced. For an hour and a half she referenced and re-referenced her S.B. roots, shouting out to every school in the county just for the sake of reaction. At one point, she even backhandedly dubbed Goleta “poor.” But then again, who’s looking to Katy Perry for real estate advice?
When all was said and done, the night’s highlight proved to be Perry’s third sonic offering. For “Hot N Cold,” the singer pulled two young girls-one dressed like a banana, the other like a penguin-out from the pit to play backup dancers. On stage in front of thousands, Jackie the Penguin spun, moonwalked, and sprinklered her way into our hearts, consequently leaving Perry and her onesie out in the cold.