Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011 | 5:05 p.m.
Upon arriving at Saturday night’s installment of Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour at Mandalay Bay Events Center, concertgoers were informed that the performance would be taped for an upcoming film or TV program. With the pop sensation’s numerous ties (both musical and personal) to Las Vegas, it was fitting that Perry would film her concert special here. The tour is in support of her third studio album, “Teenage Dream,” which was recorded at the Studio at the Palms.
Although British pop star Jessie J was scheduled as the night’s introductory act, it was British indie songstress Ellie Goulding who ended up being Perry’s opener. She performed a short set of tracks, including the U.K. smash hit “Starry Eyed.” In between Goulding and Perry’s anticipated entrance, DJ Skeet Skeet provided entertainment. Playing a set of high-energy dance and Top 40 music, he often left the DJ booth to interact with the crowd. Throughout his set, two giant monitors on each side of the stage displayed fan tweets containing the night’s official hash tag #lasvegasdreams.
The mass of Perry enthusiasts was an eclectic crowd, although it was overwhelmingly female. Many were wearing blue wigs in ode to Perry’s “Teenage Dream” video. Several concertgoers donned full, homemade duplicates of the pop idol’s music video costumes, and others were wearing brightly colored and bedazzled outfits, the kind Perry has become known for when walking the red carpet.
Soon the lights dimmed, and a video featuring Perry appeared on the two monitors. The audience quickly learned that throughout the evening, they’d be sharing Perry’s vividly imaginative California Dream complete with a colorful Candyland-esque set (with lollipops and icing-topped mountains) and a story (via multimedia video on the stage’s gigantic screens) reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss classic.
Perry kicked off the show with “Teenage Dream,” one of five hits off the Grammy-nominated album of the same name. Clearly a favorite among concertgoers, the majority of the sold-out audience was already on its feet, screaming the lyrics while Perry jubilantly bounced around the stage. “We’re definitely going to party tonight! Are you ready to party?” asked Perry, responding to her fanatically excited supporters.
Though the tour was intended to promote her most recent album, Perry didn’t ignore the tracks that landed her on the music map. “I Kissed a Girl,” “Ur So Gay,” “Thinking of You,” and “Hot N Cold,” from the singer’s second album (in which she broke from the previous gospel sound of her self-titled album), were sprinkled in between her more recent works. The set included a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” in which she invited a number of her costumed concertgoers to dance onstage with her.
And, of course, Perry couldn’t play a show in the Entertainment Capital of the World without performing her hit “Waking Up in Vegas.” The song was complemented by a number of production elements often seen on the Boulevard -- a human slot machine, an Elvis impersonator, showgirls of the “Jubilee!” aesthetic and a magician and his assistant joined Perry onstage.
Las Vegas remained central to the night’s theme, as Perry often interacted with the crowd to ask questions of the Sin City nature. “Is anyone going out to the Strip, or is that old news now?” asked Perry, following the question with a nostalgic anecdote about her numerous road trips to the city from her nearby Southern California home. The audience also learned that Perry’s 90-year-old grandmother has lived in Las Vegas for more than 50 years. Perry invited her onstage for “Firework,” lovably exclaiming that she was “the original firework.”
Perry commanded the stage, dancing all over the set, performing fun dance routines with her bedazzled backup dancers and entertaining with funny, personal stories and hilarious (sometimes risque) jokes. She even made it out to the end of the expansive events center, floating midair on a cotton candy cloud to the far side of the venue. From the floor point-of-view, it appeared as if Perry was performing during the entire show, and the songs she included effectively showcased the range of her vocal abilities, with the acoustic tracks sounding delicately beautiful.
With a roar of applause that continued to grow in decibels, Perry returned to the stage to conclude the concert with an encore performance of “California Gurls.” Fake snow and confetti fell onto the audience, while the curtain slowly fell on Perry and cast -- after the singer had extensively thanked the audience for their support. And after 2 hours of experiencing Perry’s Golden Coast fantasy, it was easy to see that the crowd wanted more of her California Dream.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tom Donoghue for his fabulous photo gallery of Perry’s concert.