The last time Katy Perry played London the stage was decorated with pink candy floss and giant lollipops, a sickly odour of sweets was pumped around the venue and her outfits included a frock made of cupcakes. But the sugar rush has led to a crash. Two years later our fairytale American heroine has made the unwelcome discovery that her Prince Charming was actually a dastardly English rake. Nothing can cause the scales to fall from a girl’s eyes like marriage to Russell Brand.
Perry’s show at the Roundhouse was devoid of sweetness. Instead she channelled her anger at her comedian ex-husband Brand into a fast-paced and highly entertaining spectacle. It made for an intriguingly symmetrical ending to the star-laden iTunes festival, which began a month ago with Perry’s A-list peer Lady Gaga crafting her own self-empowerment message out of revelations of childhood trauma and insecurities.
Gaga and Perry are at a similar phase of their careers. Both have albums coming out this autumn; both face the challenge of developing a more adult stage persona as they approach their 30s. On the basis of Monday’s show, Perry – second only to Justin Bieber in terms of Twitter followers, with 44m to her name; Gaga has 40m – is the more likely to succeed.
She opened with a song from the forthcoming Prism. “Walking on Air” restyled the singer from bubblegum pop star into full-voiced dance-pop diva – wind machines set to maximum, Perry doing her best not to invest lyrics about a night of sensational sex with her usual end-of-pier sauciness. It was a game effort but not completely convincing, unlike the superb transformation of her 2008 teen-pop hit “I Kissed a Girl”, tonight rendered as fierce electropop, sung by Perry in a dark Elvira-style bodysuit: no more primary colours.
New song “Dark Horse” successfully introduced a novel note of futuristic R&B to her music; then came the Brand kiss-off “Part of Me” – Perry marching to the front of the stage in time to a vibrant beat and raising her finger (“You can keep your diamond ring”) in front of a thicket of camera phones.
The piano ballad “By the Grace of God” switched to vulnerability, a mode at which the forceful-voiced Perry sounded less comfortable. But there was no gainsaying the vibrancy of the finale, her recent number one “Roar” – a magnificent self-affirmation anthem, performed in a boxing ring and ending with Perry surrounded by her gang of backing dancers, a fantasy of a certain long-haired funnyman lying prostrate at her feet.