Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 2, 2015)
Compared to 2010’s Teenage Dream, Katy Perry’s 2013 album Prism sold about a million fewer copies in the US, and it also boasted many fewer hit singles. While Dream cranked out five number ones – and another number three - Prism generated two numbers ones and zero other top 10s. That’s still very good, of course, but on the surface, these figures leave one with the impression that Perry’s popularity went downhill over the span between albums.
However, sales don’t tell the whole story, and the success of Perry’s 2014 “Prismatic World Tour” offers a different impression. Perry sold oodles of tickets and played multiple dates at large arenas in many cities. Whatever Perry’s sales may have been, the tour indicated that she remained a top attraction.
For a look at this show, we go to the aptly-titled Prismatic World Tour Blu-ray. Recorded in December 2014 at Sydney’s Allphones Arena, the show highlights the Prism album. This means 12 of the show’s 23 songs come from that release: “Roar”, “Legendary Lovers”, “Unconditionally”, “Walking On Air”, “Dark Horse”, “This Is How We Do”, “International Smile”, “Love Me”, “This Moment”, “Birthday”, “It Takes Two” and “By the Grace of God”.
In 2012, Perry offered a deluxe edition of her prior album called Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection, and it included two then-new songs not found on the 2010 version: “Wide Awake” and “Part of Me”. The original 2010 Dream brings us “ET”, “Last Friday Night (TGIF)”, “Teenage Dream”, “California Gurls”, “The One That Got Away” and “Firework”. Finally, 2008’s One of the Boys boasts “I Kissed a Girl”, “Thinking of You” and “Hot and Cold”.
Note that the Blu-ray omits the concert’s “Megamix Dance Party” that took place between “Unconditionally” and “Walking On Air”. This featured a DJ who played some 90s dance tunes as well as live performances from Perry’s backing singers. I suspect it got the boot partly due to recording rights, but it’s also possible those involved just thought viewers didn’t want to watch eight minutes or so of non-Katy content.
As a 48-year-old heterosexual male, I probably don’t seem like the right person to review a Katy Perry program. However, appearances can deceive, as I’m really a pretty big fan, one who took in six Perry concerts during the summer of 2014.
Not that such a stint is unusual for me, as I go to a lot of concerts, and it’s not a big deal for me to see an artist six times in one year. Heck, in the months prior to the 2014 Perry tour, I went to 11 Gaga concerts, so six over two months isn’t out of the ordinary for me. That said, I wouldn’t go to one show – much less six – if I didn’t dig Perry, gender/age expectations be damned.
While not as good as Gaga’s “ArtPop Ball” tour, I did enjoy those six Perry shows, as she puts on a pretty dynamic performance with a whole lot to look at along the way – maybe a little too much, some might think. Prismatic offers something of a kitchen sink approach.
Broken into seven segments, Perry changes costumes often and creates a semi-bewildering melange of influences and themes. Maybe there’s some underlying message or story being told here, but if so, I’ll be darned if I can figure out what it is. The show feels like a broad array of visual concepts tossed together without much real logic.
And that’s fine, as I don’t expect a concert to deliver a concrete narrative. If an artist does attempt such a journey, that’s fine, but it’s not necessary.
Whatever purpose Perry intends with all the themes and influences, Prismatic offers a whole lot of visual stimulation – and I don’t just mean Perry herself, who remains as gorgeous and sexy as ever. With all those costumes and sets and gewgaws, Prismatic keeps things dynamic in a visual sense, and that allows the show to remain interesting.
Perry certainly seems game to give her all to entertain the audience. She’s not the world’s most natural dancer, but she does fine, and she places herself in all sorts of fun situations. Perry rides a fake equine for “Dark Horse”, takes flight over the middle of the arena for “Walking On Air” and “balloons” all over the venue for “Birthday”.
Musically, Prismatic does fine for itself as well. Perry’s vocals can be a little erratic, but they’re mostly positive, and she sports tight musical accompaniment. I think others have superior bands – Gaga’s adds more to the music – but Perry’s group plays the songs well and gives them pizzazz when necessary.
It helps that Perry rearranges a lot of the songs to make them different than their studio versions. “ET” and especially “I Kissed a Girl” get a more rock-oriented vibe, while “Hot and Cold” comes with a jazzy cabaret vibe. Most of the tracks remain moderately faithful when compared to the recordings, but they still show variations and the live takes add spark.
In terms of the setlist, obviously it heavily favors Prism, so how much one enjoys Prismatic will depend on one’s fondness for that album. Before I saw the concert in 2014, I admit I wasn’t wild about Prism. I thought Teenage Dream offered nearly perfect pop, whereas Prism seemed more ponderous and draggy.
Hearing the Prism songs live made me more fond of them. The concert didn’t work miracles - Teenage Dream remains my go-to Perry album – but the Prism tracks work fine in the live setting. Maybe the visual elements spice them up enough to make them seem more inviting – whatever the reason, the Prism numbers function well.
That said, I would’ve liked a little more balance. While I admire Perry’s willingness to favor the newest album, it’s a shame she ignored so many of her earlier tracks. Honestly, she doesn’t even really play “Last Friday Night”, as that song shows up as a quick snippet during “This Is How We Do” – who abandons a number one single like that? Madonna has a deep enough catalog to do that, but Perry doesn’t. Minor setlist gripes aside, Prismatic moves well and gives us a generally positive collection of songs.
Given how many times I saw the 2014 tour in person, I think I can evaluate how well the Blu-ray reproduces the show. No concert video will ever surpass the real thing, but Prismatic does pretty well for itself, as it offers fairly solid coverage of the performance.
That’s tough for most concert videos to do, but in this case, it becomes even more complicated given all the visual variety on display. With so much on-stage activity, the director greets a challenge, as it’s next to impossible to provide the Blu-ray viewer the whole package.
I expected lots of compromises with Prismatic, but director Russell Thomas covers the concert in a surprisingly effective manner. Happily, Prismatic avoids visual gimmicks, as it opts for a fairly traditional presentation.
We don’t get rapid-fire cutting or unnecessary affectations, so the show sticks with the action as it transpired on the stage. Thomas keeps crowd shots to a reasonable level and manages to present the concert in a satisfying manner. Often when I view concert videos for shows I saw, I feel frustrated by shot selection, but that doesn’t occur here.
Actually, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Prismatic. Given that I saw it six times in 2014, I thought I’d be a bit bored by a video version – as I mentioned earlier, concert films never compete with actual live performances, so I thought this might leave me a bit cold.
Happily, that’s not the case. Instead, Prismatic recaptures my memories of the concerts and lets me enjoy it in its own right. Prismatic offers a fine representation of an exciting tour.