Katy Perry, Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
Brett Anderson, Club Academy, Manchester
Who is Katy Perry? And do we really care?
Sunday 16 October 2011
She's a strange one, Katy Perry. But not quite strange enough.
In an already crowded marketplace for pop divas, carving out a unique selling point isn't easy. Gaga's already flying the freak flag. Ke$ha's inherited the skanky trash throne vacated by Aguilera, and Miley Cyrus has the parentally approved Disney-pop angle sewn up. Perry chooses the only remaining option: a little bit from each. Her shtick is the Conflicted Christian – the good girl with an edge of bad, and a smattering of mild controversy.
The California Dreams tour is a twee baby-doll nightmare, from the Wizard of Oz/Alice-inspired film interludes to the dress made of revolving lollipop heads to the marshmallow cloud on which Perry floats over our heads. Candy pink is the signature colour. You feel your teeth starting to decay just looking at it.
The goody-two-shoes flavour kicks in with song one, line one: "You think I'm pretty without any make-up", and the sick bucket is also needed for the next number, "Hummingbird Heart", in which she coos, "You make me feel like I'm losing my virginity/ The first time, every time when you touch me". The "Like a Virgin" steal isn't accidental, although Perry's closer to the spirit of Madonna's "True Blue" era.
The naughtiness in what she describes as a "PG13 show" manifests itself with the scene in which she eats a giant hash brownie and pretends to be stoned, the sledgehammer pun "I wanna see your pea ... cock-cock-cock", and ye olde "I've got a little English in me, every other night of the week". (No wonder Russell Brand had to ask the failed gospel starlet to marry him: Perry must be the first girl ever to tell him "Not yet".) And the manufactured controversy, meanwhile, is represented by the vile, reactionary "UR So Gay" and the fauxmosexual "I Kissed a Girl".
But it's never long before Katy's Christian values kick in again. There's some Sheffield-specific banter about United and Wednesday, Arctic Monkeys and, er, Billy Elliot, delivered in a truly terrible British accent. There are some astonishing trapeze artists. And there are a load of pop-rock songs in an Eighties Belinda/Benatar style. But strip away the sub-Ciccone conflict between spirituality and sexiness, and we're left with commendable 1950s curves and a powerful but characterless voice. In 10 years, we'll look back and wonder what the almost-interesting Katy Perry was all about.
Is it silk or is it sweat? Three songs in, and Brett Anderson's shiny back is prompting conjecture. But it doesn't last long. It's sweat, all right.
Last time I saw Anderson on a stage, he was at Brixton Academy with Suede, playing two of the most extraordinary shows of the year. But there's always a danger, when a singer rejoins the band that made them famous, that trying to keep their solo career running in parallel will feel a little after the Lord Mayor's show.
But the experience of a revitalised Suede has clearly fed into Brett's solo career. With tracks such as the stomping Stooges-style "Thin Men Dancing" and such lyrics as "Give me your brittle heart and your ashtray eyes/ I'll give you carpet burns and a slanted life ...", the material from the Dark Rainbows album feels electrified in comparison with previous releases. Ultra-Brett is back. Handsome as Tony Curtis, monitor-mounting, rafter-hanging, a mic lead slung around his neck like a boa, bashing a tambourine and giving it some caveman, he's all teeth and nostrils, a Spitting Image puppet of his pop star self.
By the end, one Mancunian lady's brash heckle of "Get your shirt off!" is redundant: it's barely hanging on by one button anyway.
Simon Price sees Glen Campbell on his final round-up before he hangs up his rhinestones for good
Nu-folkie Laura Marling continues her tour of Britain's cathedrals with shows at Guildford (Mon); Gloucester (Tue); Norwich (Wed); York Minster (Fri) and Sheffield (Sat). Meanwhile, legendary indie pioneer and psychonaut Julian Cope plays Concorde 2, Brighton (Tue); Komedia, Bath (Wed) and the Fire Station, Bournemouth (Thu).
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