Tegan and Sara open for Katy Perry’s “Prismatic” tour

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Tegan and Sara celebrated their 34th birthday in a very interesting way. After having performed on stages for 19 years (!!!), they spent last Friday night introducing themselves to new fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As the opening act for Katy Perry on her Prismatic World Tour, Tegan told the crowd they were, in fact, twin sisters and joked they were turning 16. Considering their smaller frames do suggest a younger age than they really are, it was likely some of the fans in the crowd might have believed them, and maybe even might think they’ve discovered a new act.

Festival D'ete De Quebec

Performing songs from their 2013 album Heartthrob, including singles “Closer” and “I Was a Fool,” it was definitely a very different kind of gig for Tegan and Sara, who have explicitly set out for this new kind of career, which is to say a more mainstream and a more lucrative one. Tegan and Sara fans who prefer previous albums or perhaps just hoped to hear a specific beloved song from So Jealous or The Con would have probably not appreciated the hefty price tag that comes with the ticket to Katy Perry’s tour. It’s not that Tegan and Sara didn’t command the sold out crowd—because they did. Instead the intimacy of the stage banter and confessional style of song sharing and storytelling was missing (Sara didn’t say much at all, letting Tegan introduce them), replaced with dedications of songs to Katy Perry and her fans for being so kind and welcoming as well as a performance of their song from The Lego Movie, “Everything is Awesome.”

Festival D'ete De Quebec

The Katy Perry crowd is significantly different from a typical Tegan and Sara concert. First, there are a lot of young children with their parents. Second, it really didn’t feel as queer as I thought it’d might. I kind of expected Lady Gaga levels of LGBT representation, but I didn’t see that as much as I did teen and twentysomething women in colorful KP-inspired wigs. That is not to say these women aren’t queer, just that as much as the LGBT community can sometimes cling to Katy as an ally and champion, it wasn’t as apparent as when I went to a recent Robyn show.

Katy Perry "The Prismatic World Tour" - New York City

The moms with kids contingent were likely very happy with Katy Perry’s stage show. There wasn’t anything hyper-risque; instead there’s a lot of cat imagery (for Katy’s Katy Kat fanbase) and colorful Candyland-esque fantastical elements. There’s also a lot of touches from her music videos, like the Egyptian-theme from “Dark Horse” which stretched into her performance of “I Kissed a Girl.” Introducing the song as the one that put her on the map, Katy went through the motions of the tune, which seemed to bore her as she ran around the stage being chased by mummified dancers with oversized butts and breasts, perhaps to overemphasize they are female. Katy ends the song by “escaping” from them and animated zombie hands down through a hole in the stage.

Besides that weird staging of the song that truly, for better or worse, made her a household name, Katy Perry is a little odd when she’s speaking with her audience. She asked them if they still liked her, despite the fact there are “younger, prettier” stars out there now, even pretending to hide until she heard enough praise to show her face again. She shared that it was weird to be playing Staples because she “used to just play the Hotel Cafe,” which is a small but cool venue in Hollywood where tons of great artists have performed and is not at all a disappointing place to play.

Katy Perry "The Prismatic World Tour" - New York City

Katy Perry is clearly a success, with thousands of people buying into her every night. Before she went on stage, ads for her CoverGirl campaign, two perfumes and line of jewelry at Claire’s streamed on large screens. She represents a slightly edgy but still very safe pop star that moms can approve as long as she’s not actually kissing any girls in front of them and their children. I was happy to see that she did not perform her early single “Ur So Gay,” a song she will still perform live and sometimes dedicate to ex-boyfriends. And as someone who went into Katy’s show not a huge fan in the first place, I thought she did a fine job singing her hit songs. She has all of the high-price elements in place—3-D glasses helped the special Prismatic effects really pop—and she’s a fair dancer, but what Katy is really selling is her image, and there are tons of young women who want to be in her likeness.

Katy Perry "The Prismatic World Tour" - New York City

It’s hard to say if Tegan and Sara can truly benefit from that kind of crowd, although I’d love to think that they are connecting with some of them that may have never heard or seen artists like them performing on such a large stage. It’s just hard to think that they could find the same kind of relationship with them that they truly offer when you see them at a less corporate-sponsored kind of show. When Katy Perry is on stage lamenting that she “used to have to borrow 20 dollars from a friend to buy some Subway,” she’s a little out of touch with the fans in the audience who probably spent a good, hard-earned $150 on tickets to see her. In her attempts to make fans feel like she’s “just one of us,” she instead reminds the crowd that she’s got millions behind her, and more on the way. If Tegan and Sara want a piece of that pie, I don’t fault them—I just hope they don’t lose the ability to do what they’ve always done so well: Connect.

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