Artifice is inherent to pop music, but you still need actual talent to pull it off. Katy Perry might not have said anything of much importance Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome, but her real trick was making you not care one bit.
Before a predictable sold-out mix of screaming preteen girls (and their surprisingly enthusiastic parents), Perry opened the “Prismatic” tour with her hit single “Roar,” rising from the depths of the stage enclosed in a cocoon of LED panels. The crowd dutifully provided their own roars as Perry led them in a triumphant sing-along, opening with a moment most artists would kill to close their sets with.
She used two songs from “Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection” — “Part of Me” and “Wide Awake” — to keep the momentum going. Then, in what would become a recurring theme, the show ground to a halt as Perry ducked away for a costume and set change.
Despite the unrelenting assault of seemingly disconnected imagery, Perry did her best to get things back on track quickly each time. What do ancient Egypt, butterflies, smiley faces and a “Cats” spoof have in common? Nothing, but it worked anyway.
Most of the music did, too, but “Dark Horse” and the atmospheric “Legendary Lovers,” off her 2013 album “Prism,” seemed suited better for the bass-heavy production than older material like Perry’s first hit, “I Kissed a Girl.” That guitar-driven song and a slowed-down version of her No. 1 hit “Hot N Cold” missed the mark, but Perry’s vocal talent was finally allowed to shine through on a beautiful, stripped-down version of “By the Grace of God.”
The 29-year-old, well known for her interaction with fans on Twitter, played the role of supportive big sister, bantering with the crowd like it was a sleepover and conveying a fun, if manic, energy. But this wasn’t a night for serious conversations and Perry was at her best when she let hits like her hook-laden summer jams “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls” do the talking.
For over two hours, Perry sang, danced, jumped rope, flew over the crowd, gave away pizza, took selfies with fans and yes, as she warned early on, sweated. It was that effort that earned her the respect of one father waiting in line for the restroom after her closing number, “Firework.”
“I don’t care who you are,” he said to no one in particular. “You might like her music or not, but that was one heck of a show.”
Canadian twins Tegan and Sara opened the show and likely earned a new generation of fans with a tight, polished collection of songs from their 2013 album “Heartthrob.”
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails