The fallback pop-diva personality used to be good-girl-gone-bad. But these days, you have to be a life-coach, too.
At least, that's the case for Katy Perry.
During her sold-out performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Wednesday night, the 26-year-old cleavage-loving teen-pop singer added an extra bit of intimacy to her set list, slipping a few feel-good moments into her roster of sleaze-boundary-testing megahits.
The first hour was all pop bombast, though. Beneath a stage-set of candy-colored clouds and cupcakes, Perry performed the buzz-bombs from last year's "Teenage Dream" and her 2008 breakout, "One of the Boys." Her bosom adorned with spinning pinwheels, she bounded across the stage alongside a five-piece band and a handful of backup dancers, singing '80s-worthy club-bangers about making out in jeeps and wearing skimpy clothes.
The audience — almost entirely young girls — screamed the shrill screams of teenage rapture. Their chaperones cringed. It wasn't just the noise, either. It's a teen-oriented concert that requires some permissive parents. Perry writes kids music with lyrics about adults acting like kids. "I smell like a mini-bar, DJ's passed out in the yard, Barbie's on the barbecue, is this a hicky or a bruise?" she sings on her newest single, "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)."
Onstage, the singer noshed on "magic brownies" and made groan-inducing double entendres ("I want to see your peacock"). "Does anyone else here party?" she asked a sea of giggling minors.
But Perry quickly shoved the smutty stuff aside. For the show's second stretch, she cooled things down, focusing on ballads. In the post-Twitter and YouTube world, it's important to provide a more intimate and interactive diva-experience. Seeking an Oprah moment, Perry performed a live-mixtape, an acoustic set of specially selected covers played at the lip of the stage. So, which songs are nearest and dearest to Perry's heart? Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin' " and Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair."
And she monologued a lot, talking up her favorite YouTube cat videos and genuflecting toward her fans. Near the end of the show, before playing her power ballad, "Firework," Perry stood onstage, wearing a rose-blossom-covered bathing suit, and levied the mother of all self-esteem steroids, "I believe in you."
For all the skin and silliness, Perry sells empowerment well. She has a strong voice and a buoyant stage presence. And when she stoops down from her weirdly John Waters-like lollipop-and-gingerbread fantasy world to lay down a compliment, you take it seriously.