Published on theMusic.com.au, Jul 2018
Photo by Linda Dunjey
The only problem with pulling out all the stops with a global arena tour is you might struggle to one-up yourself next time.
Given the insanely detailed props, costumes and overall production Katy Perry rolled out during her 2014 Prismatic World Tour, it was interesting to see just how the pop superstar planned on kicking things up a notch for Witness: The Tour.
As expected, the new album brought with it a slightly more bizarre aesthetic, with punters welcomed to their seats by an eye looking around the room on the massive eye-shaped screen behind the stage. A distorted video of Perry flickered on the massive screen while her backing band and dancers flooded the stage to create a wall of noise that sat somewhere between a warped news theme and a Star Wars score.
The screen parted and Perry flew in on an object that resembled something from a tacky sci-fi film, yelling the verse of Witness like she was summoning an army before two massive dice appeared for Roulette.
Fireworks burst from the end of the runway and her futuristic gold outfit was illuminated by stage lights as she dished out quirky choreographed dance moves.
“I’m only going to give you what you give me, Perth!” Perry yelled, leading into Dark Horse. “Some of you only came to hear this song, so if this is your song, let me hear you sing!”
And sing they did, while Perry became Chained To The Rhythm, channelling a peculiar energy as two giant, lanky figures wandered the stage and backing dancers donned television masks with menacing eyes plastered on them.
After the evening’s first wardrobe change, the scene was set for what you’d expect from a cheesy ’90s music video for Teenage Dream.
“I’m not like all the other pop stars,” Perry said, ending a nonsensical jetlag-driven rant that included a terrible attempt at an Australian accent and headstand, all the while sporting a small LED screen across her chest displaying the title of Hot N Cold.
Equipped with a pink guitar and dancing between giant flamingos, Perry proved the over-the-top stage design didn’t hinder the execution or reception of classic hits like Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), although perhaps grinding up against a dancer wearing a plush shark outfit in California Gurls was slightly unnecessary. “Left Shark” then proceeded to dance atop a giant piano to the tune of Chopsticks. It was all too much for a Tuesday night.
Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her first hit single, a giant pair of lips hovered above the stage for I Kissed A Girl, the start of which was given a jarring electro-pop makeover before the band decided to “take it back to the original” in all of its pop glory.
Perry may have wound up suspended from the ceiling during the song, but it was guitarist Devon Eisenbarger shredding centre stage to a whirlwind beat from drummer Tony Royster Jr. that took the track to an epic finish.
Royster Jr. kept the spotlight, working a tight beat around funky bass lines from Josh Moreau before Perry reappeared from another costume change, this time casually dancing about giant roses scattered around the stage to Déjà Vu and Tsunami, both holding a more controlled and calm pace and relying on electronic elements and big harmonies.
“Do you believe in aliens, Perth?” Perry asked, and just when things had seemed to cool a little, a weird E.T. like mantis crawled out and awkwardly (and terrifyingly) strutted around the stage before the singer paid tribute to Janet Jackson in Bon Appétit.
The night’s highlight came in the form of a more subdued moment, as Perry – dressed head-to-toe in silver sequins – floated around the arena sitting on a model of Saturn, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing Wide Awake.
“Is it okay if I come down to Earth?” she asked, descending from the ceiling and other planets scattered around the room.
After showering longtime fans and unwilling parent attendees in praise for their support, things got more intimate for ballad Into Me You See, proving yet again Perry didn’t need all the big production elements to leave a mark; the music and some earnest crowd interaction went a lot further than the sensory overload that had taken precedence throughout most other songs.
The next hit on the setlist, Power, found a happy medium between the two, allowing Perry’s voice to take focus, while the production complimented the band.
Welcoming fans to an 8-bit overload and Pac Man-themed rendition of Part Of Me – another hit given an electro-pop makeover – Perry had one final burst of sporty energy to deliver, offering up another puntastic prop for Swish Swish as she sat atop a giant basketball hood for its bass-heavy verse.
It set the scene for a game of basketball with a punter named Wade, the “raddest dad” who didn’t even want a post-victory selfie when Perry offered.
The room lit up for megahit Roar and the energy from the dancers was infectious as they bounced around the stage to its uplifting chorus.
Perry then sailed above the audience on a broken clock to a giant hand at the end of the runway during Pendulum, which was complimented nicely by the soaring chorus of finale Firework, a combination that truly highlighted the transformation of the artist since the release of Witness.