There was a time when Katy Perry was a Christian rock-singing teenager from a God-fearing Californian family by the name of Hudson. But pop, like religion, is all about personal transformation. Thus the Katy Hudson not many of us met on her devout debut album in 2001 turned into the Katy Perry of “I Kissed a Girl” fame in 2008, singing the church-unfriendly lyrics “I kissed a girl and I liked it” to worldwide acclaim. The road to the charts – and Russell Brand’s heart – is paved with rude intentions.
Forbidden pleasures are the theme for Perry’s California Dreams world tour. At the Apollo, the stage set looked like it had been designed by a five-year-old girl with the instruction to let her imagination run riot. A cloud of pink candyfloss hovered overhead, outsized lollipops sprouted out of a multicoloured staircase made of candy canes and two large cupcakes stood at either side of the wings. A cloying odour filled the air. Perhaps it was Perry’s new fragrance, Purr. If so, it must make you smell like a sweet factory.
The show, as per Perry’s larger-than-life personality, was loud, colourful, theatrical and entertaining. Clearly influenced by Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, it was premised around a camp tale of the singer searching for her lost cat in an Alice in Wonderland world of wicked butchers and buff gingerbread men. The story didn’t add up to much but it gave Perry the excuse to devise a succession of striking routines.
Opening song “Teenage Dream”, title track of her latest album, found her in a fluffy pink tutu, looking like Wonder Woman had spun around and turned into a stick of candyfloss by mistake. “I Kissed a Girl” began in the style of a torch song before speeding up into a stridently sung rocker. A preposterously innuendo-laden number called “Peacock” was dignified by clever choreography with large feather fans. The finale found her in a costume made of cupcakes performing the good-time anthem “California Gurls” with dancing gingerbread men: modern dance-pop meets old-fashioned panto.
The only misstep came with the Alanis Morissette-channelling, profanity-laden break-up track “Circle the Drain”, which struck an awkward, adult note amid the froth. I’m certainly not advocating she return to Christian rock, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be one of the parents charged with unpacking the meaning of “I’m your lover, not your f****** mother” as they headed home with their daughter.