Katy Perry Wraps Round-the-Clock YouTube Stream With Intimate L.A. Concert

Katy Perry performs on Saturday Night Live on May 20, 2017
Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Katy Perry performs on Saturday Night Live on May 20, 2017.

Katy Perry has been going back to school with her new album Witness -- at least, that's what her time in the Big Brother-style house she locked herself in over the past 72 hours seems to have suggested.

In there, she's subjected herself to several conversations and activities (including a one-hour Viceland therapy session on Friday and a very intense and fiery dinner discussion featuring the likes of Caitlyn Jenner, Amanda Seales and Yung Skeeter on Sunday night) that focuses her rhetoric on remorse for past cultural appropriation gaffes, asking questions about subjects she's too privileged to be fully informed upon and trying in general to expand her mind. It's rubbed many a culture vulture the wrong way, particularly as Witness's initial launch via lead single "Chained to the Rhythm" came with such a sure-headed future intent for "Purposeful Pop" (Perry's words back in February). On the flip side, when you remember that the 32-year-old is a high school dropout with no Bachelor's degree who's been living in the spotlight for a decade, it's perhaps an idea to allow her some room to be inquisitive. Her focus on seeking answers and being self-effacing about her own shortcomings is commendable. It's certainly not malicious like some of the harsher write-ups she's received.

Given the educational theme of fourth album Witness -- released Friday -- it's apt that upon leaving her secret L.A.-based compound at the end of this 72-hour-plus stint, she immediately gets in a van, drives to a nearby high school (the Ramon C. Cortines High School for Performing Arts, to be precise) and puts on a live-streamed 45-minute performance for 1,000 fans and competition winners, in collaboration with YouTube -- her partners for this entire grand experiment. Outside on a grassy knoll, fans wait on the ground and up in the bleachers for their superstar, who's performing Stateside for the first time since her appearance at the One Love Manchester concert on June 4. She appears in a shiny silver catsuit after days of exposing herself to the world looking super casual and homey, just in case you temporarily forgot that she's one of the world's foremost rock stars.

"Yes!!!" she enthuses, with a sense of relief to be finally liberated from her self-imposed four walls. "I know a lot of you have been seeing some of my dance moves and they look a lot like your mom's but that's OK!" With a five-piece band and two backup singers, she opens with a broken-down version of that first single "Chained to the Rhythm." As she sings "so comfortable we living in a bubble, bubble," you recall just how uncomfortable this album rollout has been, with a constantly chattering Internet willing the record to fail. Nobody can really accuse Perry of resting on her laurels after everything she's exposed herself to, particularly in the past almost four days, staring down the lens (literally) of some of her biggest mistakes over the years, trying to muddle through them while under the microscope, showing others why it's important to do so right now. In 2017, compassion and communication are the classes on Perry's curriculum.

The audience here, of course, aren't too concerned about the naysayers. Extra jazzed to be getting a sneak preview of what we might come to expect of the Witness Tour later this year, they are living for the moment, jumping up and down and screaming every lyric already. Launching into her second number "Hey, Hey, Hey" while relieving herself of a self-inflicted "wedgie," Perry sings, "I bounce back like a pro, 'cause I'm so resilient" with a look of total defiance. "Thank you to the people who have been riding with me, for being a witness," she says to the crowd and viewers at home. "I can't wait to be a witness for you."

Two new songs down, Perry wastes no time in returning to the hits from Teenage Dream, her 2010 masterpiece and the record-breaking rod that Perry made for her own back. Kicking the trip down memory lane off with that album's title track, she runs into the bleachers and sings it among her KatyCat superfans. For "Firework," she sashays part of her sparkly outfit around, twirling around the stage. She asks, "Is it too early to get nasty?" before transitioning into "Dark Horse," pivoting and ducking like a boxer in her ring. "E.T." is prefaced by stadium-rock guitars and an invitation for the audience to put their hands in the air. Throughout, her voice is peerless and unwavering.

"This is a team effort and you're my team," she tells the crowd, looking genuinely grateful. "I'm your girl. You put me here."

During a season where many global pop stars are aiming for authentic intimacy during the early stages of their album releases (see Lorde playing the tiny Pappy & Harriet's pre-Coachella, or Lady Gaga's Dive Bar Tour), Perry too has the natural knack to make everyone gathered here feel like they're in the clutches of her hands as she wraps her lungs around every word with pure conviction. Performing new ballad "Save as Draft," she offers the line "take a deep breath" and puts her head into the front row -- "take it in with me," she tells them, opening her mouth up for air. All debates and controversy aside, Perry's performances undoubtedly come from the gut, and Witness could be her gutsiest era yet. What comes from the gut isn't always articulated impeccably, but it gives its proprietor a sense of liberty, and that freedom is infectious to fans.??

It's also the catalyst for Perry's newfound self-awareness and lack of pretense. On "Bon Appetit," she asks the crowd to join in her dance routine. "Can I see some of your hips moving?" she says, coming across as more of a fitness instructor than her hypersexualized temptress of yore. During "Swish Swish," she knowingly stokes the fire again of that never-ending, trite beef between herself and Taylor Swift. She changes up the lyrics to the opening verse and adds, "God bless you on your journey, baby girl" -- perhaps a response to Swift's latest chess move in which she made her entire back catalog available to all streaming services during the same hour as Witness's release.??Perry seems totally OK, though. Her biggest issue right now is a split in her pants after performing "Bon Appetit." "I literally have a hole in my hoo-ha," she laughs. "But I have underwear on. I probably shouldn't have said anything, but it's on the internet now. We're all human, right?" The album highlight "Power" is her last offering from the new record before she rounds the performance out with a mighty rendition of "Roar." "This is our last song and it speaks for itself," she says. "I hope you can sing it with me for wherever you're at. Use your voice because you have one. You've always had one."

Before she leaves the stage, she turns herself toward a ginormous fake plug and asks the crowd if it's time to pull the plug on this whole 24/7 filming experience. "No!!!!" they cry. But she does it anyway. Katy Perry's given us enough for the time being.


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