American pop stars don’t venture to British shores all that often, and hardly ever to play tiny 250-capacity venues. We decided to check out the girl who, at the time of writing, has been at the top of the UK charts for 5 weeks with her single I Kissed A Girl.
Perry has an obvious gift for performance, and this evening’s show is anything but dull. She struts and slithers her way across the tiny stage, reaching her hands out into the front few rows of adoring fans who clamber to touch her, clapping and cheering at her every word or gesture. Her singing voice is initially weak, but before long she’s bawling out strident though heavily affected melodies, sounding like a female Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Backed by four white-T-shirted surfer dudes who flop, long-haired, over their instruments, most of her songs amount to little more than forgettable pop-punk-rock yet all of them send the crowd into a frenzy with their opening chords. The band leaves her to perform a solo acoustic version of the ballad Thinking Of You, and before long the raised lighters are out, the quiet punctured by cries of “we love you Katy!”. Vocally it is accomplished, but we begin to suspect she can only do ‘sassy’ or ‘schmaltzy’. The set ramps up to her final song, an electrifying version of I Kissed A Girl, for which the hairband comes off (thrown into the audience, cue desperate scrabbling on the floor) and the lightshow goes into overdrive.
Perry is full of energy and charisma but has a deeply unlikeable, sneering faux-rebelliousness to her stage persona. Her songs are full of strong but conflicting sentiments; she’s trying to cut men down to size one minute (“don’t be a baby” / “you’re not a man”), then, lo and behold! She’s in love; she’s “going down in flames for you”. Ur So Gay, in which she pokes fun at an effeminate ex-boyfriend, ends in her gesticulating that he hung himself as a result of her jibes. Almost as hilarious as the skit she uses to introduce I Kissed A Girl which has Katy pretending to swear at her mum on the phone. We’re not prudish - it’s just so cynically calculated - and we’re left despairing over the amount of hype surrounding an artist so essentially vacuous.
Katy Perry's album 'One Of The Boys' is released on 15th September.