NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Katy Perry used to come to Music City as a young teen, flying across country from California to seek her dream of a music career.
She returned Friday night, all grown up, and what a sugar-spun spectacle she was during the opening week of the North American leg of her Prismatic World Tour. Perry was everything you'd want in a pop princess during her sold-out show at Bridgestone Arena, offering fans a growing catalog of hits, a neon menagerie of visual effects, props and aerobatics, and just the right amount of earnestness.
"This is the city that taught me how to write all these cool songs," Perry said.
As a teen, Perry initially tried to find her way as a Christian artist. Now, the 29-year-old singer uses anthemic songs with empowerment messages to mine the wide middle ground between Beyonce and Rihanna's adults-only cabaret and their popposites like Taylor Swift and One Direction, who make mom-friendly music that's not the least bit threatening.
Perry struck a balance between sexy and sweet in her two-hour set, which included nearly 20 songs and 10 wardrobe changes. There was the hero to KatyCats everywhere, the legion of young fans who follow the pop star breathlessly (the most kid-friendly moment of the night was a video interlude featuring anthropomorphized LOL cats doing adorable things).
And then there was the performer who's showing a more mature, diverse side as she grows up and grows into her own persona. That side appealed to the surprisingly large number of non-parental adults in the crowd, who appeared to outnumber the youngsters as they paired off on date night or roamed the arena in packs of three and four. These are the fans who will get the more adult moments of Perry's show — like the inflatable "floating suggestive emojis" whose adult content literally was over the heads of most kids in the crowd.
Along the way Perry showed a depth of variety and showmanship that was missing from previous tours. She rode a mechanical horse during "Dark Horse," danced with apple-bottomed mummies during "I Kissed a Girl," tipped her cap to Madonna with a "Vogue" interlude, floated above the crowd on a balloon swing during first encore "Birthday" and wore a swirling dress aflame with fireworks during show-stopper "Firework" — a moment that included three-dimensional projections and a fireworks display (What else?).
And then there were the costumes. Nine complete changes in all with a few minor changes on stage — from mini-dresses made of silver, yellow vinyl, lavender leather and plastic palm fronds predominated with a wig for every mood.
The elements might feel familiar to fans who regularly attend shows by today's top pop stars. Who doesn't fly over the crowd these days? And everyone's taking a cue from country music and playing to the back of the crowd — as Perry did sweetly during a sunflower-themed acoustic interlude midway through her set.
She keeps it fresh with her accessibility, though. She remains identifiable where others aim for aloof, something she reminded fans of when she unceremoniously smacked herself with her microphone during a quiet moment in the show.
"I just hit myself in the face with my own microphone," Perry said with a giggle. "If that's not a humbling move, I don't know what is."
Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.