Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Citi – Katy Perry performs onstage for Citi Sound Vault at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on Sept. 10, 2018 in Los Angeles.
After closing out her Witness: The Tour trek that began in Sept. 2017 and just wrapped up last month in New Zealand, Katy Perry shrunk the arena-sized show behind her fifth studio album Witness for an intimate one-off evening as part of Citi Sound Vault Program at the Theater at the Ace Hotel.
Keeping the energy at full throttle for the hour-and-a-half show on Monday night (Sept. 10), the singer ran through a barrage of hits without skipping a beat, trimming down the number of Witness cuts that dotted the tour’s set list for a more muscular, backwards-facing performance. Clad in a body-hugging leopard-print suit accented by frilly shoulders and self-described “slime green” hair, the 33-year-old was all goof and glory, delivering a genuinely fun set—one that a pop superstar of her caliber could phone in at this point in her career, but instead maintains a loose, joyous air without sacrificing spectacle.
Perry set off the evening with the buoyant “Hey Hey Hey,” a non-single cut from Witness and one of three performed songs from the album (the other two were “Swish Swish” and an ‘80s-inspired rework of “Chained to the Rhythm”).
“What’s good L.A.?” she said at the beginning of the show. “The Ace is a great place to see people who maybe don’t want to go out to the arena. Like, you can smell me. You can see my tonsils. I still have my tonsils. This, is intimate. And even during soundcheck, I forgot how much I love it. I love being close to the people. I love seeing your irises. All of this is to say, two songs in, has re-inspired me to remember my teenage dream.”
Her Hot 100-topping single “Teenage Dream” followed, as did cuts like “E.T.” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” from her blockbuster 2010 album Teenage Dream. “California Gurls,” her collab with Snoop Dogg, was the first of three instances where she brought superfans on stage to take over for the rap verses. Those moments were undoubtedly the highlight of the evening, when Perry relinquished the mic to lucky Katycats who burned through Juicy J and Nicki Minaj’s verses on “Dark Horse” and “Swish Swish,” respectively. (Of the latter, Perry had earlier grabbed a wig off the fan’s head, shouting, “I snatched your wig!”) It felt like a professional karaoke session, one where the master of ceremonies showed enough humility to share the spotlight with others.
The hits rolled forth—“Roar,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “Part of Me,” “The One That Got Away”—each altered slightly to fit a new musical palette. (“All killer, no filler!” she joked.) But it was when she shed the theatrics and strapped on an acoustic guitar that the night had deeper meaning.
“This next song I love so much because I have gone through a lot of transformation emotionally and spiritually this year,” she said prior to diving into a cover of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us.” “I’ve been trying to doing the work: for my spiritual self, for my mental self, for my overall well-being. If anyone else can tell, the music industry is going through something very strange. And I think young people are really in a struggle with online services and ideas of what they should be and what their life should be about.
— Sade (@katy_cat_surrah) 11 сентября 2018 г.
“For me,” she continued, “I believe in a higher power bigger than myself. I believe in God. I don’t know if it’s the same God you believe in, but she’s incredible. If you haven’t gone on a spiritual journey yet and you’re just still on the surface of trying to grind, have to hustle, get that Lambo, skrt, let me tell you: people that think you’re happy when you have money, have never had money. So it’s not about getting things. It’s about connecting with God, it’s about connecting with nature… This year, I saw the God in every single one of us, and how every single individual is enough and worthy and can do whatever they put their mind to. I don’t care where you come from. It’s about where you’re going to.”
It was an uplifting sentiment, one that rang out by night’s end, when she concluded with an uplifting rendition of “Firework.” (One attendee waved a plastic bag near the stage during the first verse.) It was a fitting homecoming for Perry who, after all these years, still makes it look easy.