Katy Perry is the perfect Top 40 pop star because she understands the form’s chief rule: It should always appear to be fun. Countless hours of hard work and calculation surely go into her persona, but when she presents it live, you walk away with a renewed appreciation of both her talent and her character.
The proof was in the teenage screams at TD Garden on Friday, for the first of two sold-out shows there. They came often and at increasing volume:
“I love her!”
“That dress! Oh, my God, I love it!”
In a two-hour show that was generous and relaxed, Perry played her part with precision. She’s the ultimate cheerleader for the down-and-out, with muscular odes to self-empowerment (the opening “Roar” and “Part of Me,” also the name of a recent film that explains her appeal). The hitmaker was in full force, too, with a handful of radio catnip both new (“Dark Horse,” “Birthday”) and older (“I Kissed a Girl,” “California Gurls”).
Her real genius surfaced during an intimate set of ballads near the tip of a triangle-shaped catwalk. Under an illuminated canopy with a sunflower print, Perry held court with her flock, at one point bringing two young fans onstage, giving them a pepperoni pizza (from local chain the Upper Crust), and instructing them to share it (“with 14,000 people”). On guitar, she then led her band and two backup singers in an acoustic and affecting rendition of “The One That Got Away.”
Perry’s new tour, in support of last year’s “Prism,” is a juggernaut production full of whimsy and technical wizardry. Where her peers play up the raunch, Perry is more attuned to cutesy thrills (two words: cat videos). Her costumes and set design veered from Egyptian motifs (see a whip-wielding Perry as Cleopatra for “Dark Horse”) to Broadway pomp (with the cast of “Cats” prancing around her during “Hot N Cold,” reimagined as a slinky James Bond theme).
The sight gags alone were worth admission: Perry’s glow-in-the-dark jump-roping (in heels, no less), giant inflated props (a taco, champagne bottle, and the emoji pile of poo) during “This Is How We Do,” and fireworks that erupted onstage for the closing “Firework.”
During “Teenage Dream,” her effusive 2010 hit that will go down as a classic, a video montage of Perry in all her goofy glory played almost like a blooper reel. It reiterated the point Perry has worked so hard to achieve on her albums and in the spotlight: She’s a star, but she’s just like you.