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Three Songs No Flash

"Fuck It: I Surrender": Aidan Moffat Reviews Katy Perry Live
Aidan Moffat , May 3rd, 2011 06:20

A few weeks back we had New Young Pony Club's Katy Perry tour diary. Now, Aidan Moffat goes to see the megastar in Glasgow and, despite initial reservations, he ends up "hands in the air, singing along... I might as well be a tweenage girl". Now there's an image

I'm getting increasingly bored by Katy Perry's California Dreams show, and we surely must be near the end. There's only so much more of this sub-Carry-On boy-toy burlesque I can take, and I think it's been about an hour now. Not even half a gallon of overpriced cider seems to ease the tedium, and I'm beginning to consider the benefits of an early exit. So far it's been exactly what I expected: plenty of costume changes during the filmed segues, lots of cheeky mugging and a great deal of catchy pop tunes filled with puerile innuendo. "Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock?" she sings – expertly, it must be said – before suggesting that the subject of the song stops being a 'be-otch'. And that sums up the Katy Perry conundrum: she seems to want to be the new face of Girl Power for the 21st Century, yet uses faintly misogynist language and writes songs that sound specifically written to appeal to the basest male instincts. The worst offender is her debut single 'I Kissed A Girl' (and she liked it!), the lipstick lesbian lads-mag fantasy posing as an empowering ode to sexual freedom. Which was, confusingly, on the same album as 'Ur So Gay', a hateful song in which Katy suggests that someone who doesn't eat meat and doesn't like penis should commit suicide. She's absolutely baffling.

Her debut single tonight is treated to a jazzy intro with Katy in seductive chanteuse mode, complete with long, sparkly gold dress. But trying to give the number some semblance of class only seems to highlight its tawdriness, so I use the song's running time to visit the gents. On my return, the show continues in much the same vein until the inevitable pop-star-breaks-it-down-and-gets-intimate section arrives, as the band huddle stage-left to form an acoustic trio. Katy informs us she'll perform four cover versions and if we can guess what they all are, she'll give us a kiss. How she plans to achieve this isn't clear – there's a lot of people in Glasgow's SECC tonight. I do love a bit of Name That Tune though, and hearing the opening riff of Jay-Z's 'Big Pimpin'' plucked out on an acoustic guitar makes me laugh surprisingly hard and dribble on my beard... and suddenly, in this tiny moment of release, the night takes a turn: maybe the cider's caught up with me, or maybe I've just been worn down to submission, but I'm watching Katy Perry sing an old Jay-Z song with a double bass player and I'm grinning wildly and starting to move in a vague rhythm. Fuck it: I surrender.

She finishes the covers then chooses a young girl from the audience to name those tunes. The girl succeeds, and Katy fulfils her pledge and gives the lucky lady that promised kiss. Next thing I know, she's back with the full band for 'Hot N Cold', and it's fucking astounding. I've always had a soft spot for that tune despite the awful words: "You change your mind like a girl changes clothes" is another one of those Katy conundrums that always annoyed me. But tonight, I don't care – because she takes that singularly silly line and puts it to tremendous use as she literally makes the evening magical. Every few bars, she stops as one of her minions pulls a screen around her for mere seconds, then it drops to reveal our heroine in a new outfit, like a consummate Debbie McGee. That's it, I'm sold: from boredom to besotted in the space of four bars. By the time she does recent single 'Firework' – the very reason I'm here tonight – I might as well be a tweenage girl; I'm actually, genuinely dancing. Hands in the air, singing along; I think I'm in love.

On any other night of the week, I'd probably tell you that I don't care for Katy's 'California Gurls', but tonight it sounds pretty beautiful. More girls from the audience are invited to dance onstage, the pyrotechnics are blasting out, and there's ticker tape in the air; it all makes sense. I'm sad to see the lights come up, and I'm sure I would have bought a t-shirt too if they came in Grown Man size and I hadn't already spent sixty quid on drink. So, from a dull, predictable start, we end with what has undoubtedly been one of the best half hours I've spent at a pop gig – but then again, I don't go to many of these things, so perhaps I'm not the best judge. But they say you should always leave your audience wanting more, and she's certainly achieved that.

Regardless of any uncomfortable feelings about her dubious lyrics and image, I can't deny she puts on an excellent show – or at least she does after an hour or so of light lap-dancing and lyrics that would embarrass the writers of Viz. I'm still no closer to understanding her – she jumps from vicious personal attacks to almost Buddhist levels of tolerance and acceptance in the space of a few songs – and, at the risk of sounding like a rather square parent, I certainly wouldn't want my imaginary daughter to aspire to be anything like her. But there's no denying the smile I'm wearing as I leave the SECC, and maybe one day I'll even download her Best Of. I just wish she'd put more thought into what she says and how she says it.

Aidan Moffat's new album with Bill Wells, Everything's Getting Older is released next Monday, May 8th

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