Katy Perry | California | Review | Pics

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Katy Perry :: 08.13.11-08.14.11 :: Santa Barbara Bowl :: Santa Barbara, CA

The huge gallery for this show is directly below the review!

Katy Perry @ SB Bowl 2011 by L. Paul Mann
Mega pop princess Katy Perry came home to Santa Barbara to play two sold out shows at the Santa Barbara Bowl. It was no accident that the venue was the smallest on her current massive national tour. Fueled by the enormous success of her second album, Teenage Dream, which is the first pop album to produce five chart topping hit songs since Michael Jackson's Thriller, the pop singer brought her enormous set to the little amphitheatre for the biggest show the Bowl has ever seen. The former local resident, (from Goleta specifically), has maintained strong ties to the community where she grew up. The local crowd consisted of a diverse age demographic, made up largely of young teen, preteen and girls as young as toddlers, but also well represented by young adults and parents.

The show was an almost insidious, paradoxical mix of a childhood fairytale world and an overt sexual performance full of innuendo, sort of like Pee Wee Herman doing a show on Viagra. The show unfolded as a massive cartoon fairytale, featuring a giant 3-paneled 3D video background telling a fantasy story starring Katy and a cast of cartoon creatures. Periodically she would emerge in real life and play a song roughly related to the storyline. In addition to the massive props onstage, extravagant lighting and special effects, an army of dancers, and an impressive backing rock ensemble created an overwhelming rock spectacle, rivaling the biggest classic rock shows like Pink Floyd's original Wall tour.

Katy Perry @ SB Bowl 2011 by L. Paul Mann
For “Waking Up In Vegas,” dancers dressed as showgirls, a human slot machine and Elvis Presley emerged. Perry showered the crowd with Katy Perry coins at the end of the song. Innuendo went out the window for her risqué performance of “Peacock,” where she sings, “I want your peacock, cock,” draped in feathers worn by dancers dressed as peacocks. She strutted about the stage in a skimpy costume complete with tail feathers as two male trapeze artists performed high above. Then, Perry was joined by two boys she picked from the audience, “Santa Barbara boys” Jake and Jimmy, who Perry sneaked kisses to, then got pecks on the cheek from before she sang “I Kissed a Girl.” She had one of the boys strip off his shirt, looking a bit like The Situation from Jersey Shore. As young girls screamed and danced to the catchy song, two female dancers mimed a make-out session while Perry disappeared offstage for one of her endless costume changes.

Halfway into the show, Perry paused to play an acoustic set at the edge of the stage, which extended into the audience, reminiscent to a similar set-up Shakira had at the Bowl last year. Flanked by two acoustic guitar players and a couple of back up singers sitting on stools, she played a set that she dubbed Katyoke. She spent an extended amount of time reminiscing about her youth in Santa Barbara and all the places she used to frequent. Her long diatribe included memories of a concert where she recalled playing guitar and singing for change or sometimes an avocado or her favorite Santa Barbara pistachios as a 13-year-old at the local farmers market, sneaking into the Bowl without paying for her second-ever concert to see Radiohead, and hanging out on Del Playa Drive out by UCSB, even though she never went to college. The local establishment to benefit most from her shout-outs was probably the trendy little retro nightclub Wild Cat Lounge. The nightclub, voted the hottest dance club in Santa Barbara for the last decade, has become her favorite local watering hole. She actually kept her word and ended up there on Sunday night after the show. The karaoke segment featured Perry singing some of her favorite covers with acoustic accompaniment: Rihanna’s“Only Girl (In the World),” Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’,” Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” and, a big hit with the youngest people in the crowd, Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. The acoustic set closed with Perry’s own “Thinking of You,” which started with her alone with a sparkly acoustic guitar and some amazing heart-shaped foam puffs that floated up to the heavens.

Katy Perry @ SB Bowl 2011 by L. Paul Mann
Then the show exploded back to life with ever more fantastic special effects. For the hit song “Hot N Cold,” Perry wore her trademark blue wig and changed dresses as if by magic. For “Pearl,” Perry wore a sparkly silver dress and was raised 35-feet on a platform in the middle of the stage while acrobats twirled high above her. For “Not Like The Movies,” she sat on a swing with flower-decorated ropes that was raised up in front of a movie screen showing cartoons. The concert had a storyline based on Perry’s attempt to find her purple cat Kitty Purry, with campy movie clips keeping the story moving. Things got even more surreal after she took a bite from a magic brownie from the naughty mimes who danced during “Ur So Gay.” This led to Perry dressed as (or transformed into?) a cat for “Circle the Drain” and the biggest laser light show ever witnessed at the Bowl for “E.T.” She ended up falling in love with the Baker’s Boy, who sold her a cupcake.

By the final two songs - Perry's uplifting “Firework” and the disco party anthem “California Gurls,” for which Perry wore her Hershey’s Kisses top and was joined by dancing gingerbread men - there was so much going on in the venue it was hard comprehend the whole event. From the back of the venue, giant beach balls were launched around the crowd, and Perry sprayed the people in front with a set of high powered soapsuds guns, drenching many in the crowd.

Katy Perry may not have the best voice in rock, sometimes singing off-key or cracking her voice, and she will never threaten Shakira with her limited white girl dancing skills, but it is great to see a pop star giving everything she has to bring to the stage, imperfections and all, instead of a Britney Spears mime experience. Perry has come a long way in her confidence and stage presence since her last show in Santa Barbara a few years ago. She has also evolved light years from the little high school girl with blonde, straight hair in a plain white Easter dress performing religious songs on Easter Sunday at the courthouse sunken gardens for thousands of locals, including her ordained parents, over a decade ago. Santa Barbara now has to share their hometown hero, who has become the biggest selling pop star since Michael Jackson in his heyday.

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[Published on: 8/26/11]

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