Katy Perry’s concert is more than a show; it’s an infomercial for the brand

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I’ve always been a Katy Perry fan. Since she burst onto the scene with “I Kissed A Girl” I’ve been hooked. I was lucky enough to see her five years ago when she played the Memphis in May music festival right after the release of “One of the Boys”. Truth be told, I never expected for Katy to become the global superstar she has. She’s always been talented and game, but for a while she seemed poised to last for only a few years.

All those thoughts were put to rest after “Teenage Dream”, and certainly after seeing her again last night in Memphis at the Prismatic World Tour.

The Prismatic show is an incredible one. It’s full of an insane light display, even in the costumes, and an always energetic Katy. After a very delayed start–Katy was nearly an hour late getting on stage, which almost resulted in fan hysteria (I, for one, was not pleased)–the show began with a bang. Katy entered singing her biggest song to date, “Roar.” And from there it was hit after hit. It speaks entirely to how big Katy is now that she can begin her show with her most recent hit and still have 2 hours worth of music to perform with no fillers.

For all the criticism there is about Katy’s voice, I thought it was great last night. She never hit a bum note or sounded off-key. She had the support of some amazing back-up singers, and she never sounded very weak. This is pretty remarkable when she explains what she did the night before: “You might have heard…” she began cheekily. “I was at Ole Miss last night. I was really excited! I went to college. Soooo I chugged a few beers and then wound up stage diving off the bar and crowd surfing. I usually don’t drink before shows, but this was an exception!” If she was hungover or in pain, she didn’t show it. Despite the late start, everything about the show and Katy’s performance was pretty flawless.

To enjoy a Katy show, you can’t think about it too much or ask too many questions. For example when she enters the stage dressed as a pink cat and then segues into a strange “Cats”-like musical revival, you just have to go with it. This was probably my least favorite moment of the night. The costumes were great, but it was a bit lame. I think the point was to appeal to both kids and adults with the concept, but I felt like it could have been scrapped for something more in-line with the opening. (IE something involving lights, pretty costumes and Katy just looking fierce)

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The best part was undoubtably “Dark Horse.” This portion of the set began with Katy sitting on a puppeteer golden horse dressed as an Egyptian queen. The costume was probably the most extravagant and gorgeous of the night, as were the props. Keeping up the Egyptian theme, Katy led into “E.T.”. This was great fun, but I felt like “E.T.” made much more sense during the first set when the lights were most on display. Either way, it was a great portion of the show.

Halfway through the show, Katy came out wearing a multi-colored, pastel wig and a long flowing dress of the same colors. This was the acoustic portion of her show. Many reviews have said this is when Katy’s biggest weakness appeared: her voice. But, as I said earlier, I still think her voice was pretty great last night. “Unconditionally”, which she played on her acoustic guitar, was a highlight. Midway through this set Katy began talking in length about gardening, and I decided this was a great opportunity to go get food. Sorry, Katy.

Like most pop shows, Katy’s featured a great deal of remixes. It was fun to hear her spruce up some of her quieter anthems like “Part of Me”. I actually preferred the show remixes to the original songs. This is always a sign that the artist is putting on a great show.

Yet, for all of the incredible costumes, set designs and choreography, Katy Perry is a brand. This could not have been more well represented than Covergirl taking over the ENTIRE ARENA. The concert was literally product placement in real life for the company. You know how singers will sometimes try to sneakily put products in their videos to make more money? Well, this was the equivalent of it; only it was pretty tacky. Covergirl was the sponsor of the show, and let me tell you, you did not forget it. Every ten feet around the arena, a new Covergirl poster featuring Katy was plastered somewhere. Would you want a picture of you and your friends on top of a giant Katy Perry Birthday-inspired cupcake? Sure! Just remember that Covergirl is the sign being held at the top of the cake. How about you taking a picture with the Katy Perry cut-out? That is also designed by Covergirl; she’s wearing their make-up in the picture.

Oh and those 3-D glasses I wore at the end of Katy’s encore? Also designed by Covergirl. You can rip off a $1 off coupon too. Also let’s not forget that during “This Is How We Do” Covergirl eyeliner was one of the blow-up balooons touted around the arena.

Every artist has to have a sponsor, I understand that. Nearly every show I’ve been to (with the exception of Miley) has had some weird product they’re pushing. But NEVER BEFORE have I had a show throw the sponsor in my face so flagrantly. It was a little off-putting. And it also reminded me of why Katy is so successful.

In case you’re wondering how: It’s because she’s a businesswoman who listens to her team. Katy has multiple companies who want to work with her. She’s perky; she’s energetic. And she’s always game to be the girl’s girl who is a little weird. This is why her fanbase was so ridiculously broad. Fans as young as five were dressed as Katy. Plenty of twenty-somethings like me were also there. Katy appeals to everyone. She’s tongue-in-cheek enough that the Prismatic show is like a PG movie. “So let me get you in your birthday suit, it’s time to bring out the big balloons,” she sings; a true example of lyrics that will go entirely over kid’s heads, but will be a little coy for adults.

“Birthday”, for the record, should have been the finale. I was a bit surprised by how tame “Firework” was in comparison to “Birthday.” Balloons were released, confetti was unloaded and a huge birthday cake sprouted up in the center of the stage, complete with huge candles. Oddly, “Firework” ended with some crazy fire and us wearing our 3-D glasses which created a lovely Prism effect. Yet, it was not as big as I was expecting. If I had been the director, I would have switched the two songs.

Katy’s ideology is probably what best sets her as so successful: it’s a large branding of self-love. (Sidenote: we can attribute this to Lady Gaga who really began the trend. She’s still on it but, unlike Katy, she doesn’t take direction as well. Thus, Katy is the new queen of self-love) “I have a question!”, Katy yelled at one point during the night. “DO YOU LOVE YOURSELF?” Some girls by me looked at each other like they were shocked. “Good, because you’re the most important part.”

Katy’s speeches, much like Gaga’s speeches, all come back to her brand. She’s a positive performer who wants you to leave the arena smiling. The speeches were obviously scripted. At the root of it, Katy has a brand she wants to push. She wants you to find your love through her music. And, once the concert is over, she wants you to love her enough to buy all her products and use your Covergirl coupons.

A true businesswoman.

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