SALT LAKE CITY — About a quarter of the way through Katy Perry’s two-hour concert on Friday night, the pop star quieted the crowd to a hush and asked if she could do something that was quintessentially Utah — call her mom.
Perry — who performed a mix of her classic hits and newer records at the Vivint Arena to a nearly sold-out crowd with plenty of props, fireworks and lights — dialed a massive flamingo pink phone and spoke with her mother about Thanksgiving and, of course, the Beehive State.
Her mom, Mary Perry, told her daughter that Utah's snow is the perfect mix of salt and snow.
"Did you know that the snow in Utah is scientifically proven to be the best in the world for skiing?" Mary Perry asked.
"My mom just called you the best!" Katy Perry exclaimed.
Not long after their conversation ended, Katy Perry, who told her mom she’d call her again at the next show on her "Witness: The Tour," picked a random young girl from the crowd to join her on stage and asked her to make a wish.
The girl, Lucy, wished to end world hunger. The answer floored Perry, who dropped her microphone and stumbled on the stage in a dramatic display for disbelief.
And then, closer to the end of the show, Perry scanned the crowd again, looking for one of the many dads in the audience. She found one (a man she called a "hot dad"), called him on stage and then together they played a game of one-on-one basketball, a demonstration that occurred after Perry performed her new hit single, “Swish Swish.”
These are just three examples of how Perry’s show relied heavily on tricks, glitz and glamour rather than her music or vocal performance. Throughout the night, videos played, an alien bug crawled its way across stage, and of course fireworks shot off at the end of the show. But rather than augmenting the music, these moments largely were the show.
During the concert, Perry, who’s been in the limelight for nearly a decade, rarely showed off her singing ability. Her set list mostly boomed from background speakers while the pop star danced and hyped up the crowd.
Occasionally she joined in on a song's lyrics, but oftentimes her voice was drowned out by her screaming "Katy Kat" fans, the background music or the Vivint Arena's acoustics, which often highlighted just the heavy bass.
There were moments, though, when Perry the singer did shine through. Her performance of “Thinking of You” from her first album, “One of the Boys,” — which she sang while sitting on top of a floating and glowing model of Saturn — harkened back to her days as a gospel singer, giving the audience an exceptional display of her vocal strength and range. But sadly it was one of the few times — along with her encore performance of her 2010 hit “Firework” — where you could actually hear Perry sing.
The show revealed a more mature version of the star who once rocked the nation with singles like “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream.”
Those attending Friday night expecting a bubblegum pop star in pink, yellow and blue were met with a horror show of red, black and silver. Instead of lollipops and cherries, attendees were treated to floating eyeballs, a sculpture hand and psychedelic videos and displays that often showcased and promoted the paranormal and astronomy.Comment on this story
Undoubtedly, Perry puts on a fun show. Fans of her earlier hits got their Perry fix, while newer fans experienced a fresh performances. But much of Perry’s entertainment comes from the smoke and mirrors — the displays, the dancing, the pyrotechnics, the stage mechanics and the connection to the crowd.
American pop music bred a hall-of-famer in Perry. Even at 33, nearly a decade after her first album dropped in 2008, she’s still traveling the country and capturing the hearts and minds of children, college students and adults.
But as her performance in Salt Lake City proved, her success is less about her stellar singing and more about her exceptional ability to entertain.