Katy Perry’s Dance Saves Show, Coldplay Supports Bieber
Katy Perry pays homage to Pop Art in
polka dot leggings. R’n’B sexpot Usher needs a fire extinguisher
and Coldplay plays support to teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber.
Welcome to the weekend Summertime Ball staged by Capital
FM. An audience of 80,000, with plenty of teenage girls, duly
screams with larynx-endangering abandon at Wembley Stadium in
London. Over the course of seven hours, 17 acts take to the
stage, each playing between one and six songs. With time only
for hits and no fillers, the show provides an insight into the
current state of pop, warts and all.
Like some infectious disease, some is extremely catchy.
Newcomer Rita Ora bounds around the stage all smiley bright red
lipstick, blonde hair with dirty roots and 1950’s inspired garb.
And, as diseases go, some is unpleasant. Kelly Clarkson’s
insipid music has none of the charisma of Avril Lavigne. Rapper
Flo Rida has been peddling his thuggish take on euro-trance for
a couple of years now. His show is as tired as it is uninspired.
Worse still is Cuban emigre Pitbull — dressed in a black
suit, like Scarface via Wal-Mart. He raps like a man in a
toffee-eating competition and dances like a constipated penguin.
Possibly the product of some dastardly CIA scheme, Pitbull’s
performance is among the worst I’ve ever seen.
Coldplay’s mild English rock has sold more than 55 million
records. The band, in the middle of an 84-date world tour, is
first on at the most un-superstar hour of 4 p.m. The enjoyable
run-through of hits including “Yellow” and “Every Teardrop Is a
Waterfall” is played on fluorescent paint-spattered instruments.
“We’re called Coldplay,” quips singer Chris Martin,
mimicking the classic patter of support bands everywhere. “We’re
Justin Bieber’s dads.”
Before Bieber, U.S. star Usher scurries like a funky
hamster of lurve. His dancing is immaculate, his songs perfectly
balanced commercial choruses and crisp soul emoting. The
consummate professional, he doesn’t miss a Michael Jackson-
inspired move when someone rushes on to extinguish part of the
stage set on fire by a malfunctioning pyrotechnic.
British popstrel Jessie J performs her hard-edged funk-pop
looking like an extra from Frankie Goes to Hollywood in mini-
studded leather shorts, matching jacket and a classic 1980’s
“Boy” T-shirt. Theoretically excellent, the overbearing sense of
her commercial ambition has made her music, not to mention her
constant star antics in the U.K. media, peculiarly unpalatable.
Far more screams are garnered by Ed Sheeran. A podgy,
scruffy young man playing average, wordy folk with a battered
acoustic guitar, Sheeran is one of the more unlikely heroes to
be thrown up by the U.K. charts.
The loudest screams are reserved for Bieber. The 18-year-
old Canadian has already sold more than 15 million albums, had
2.7 billion YouTube views, earned $55 million and has been named
by Forbes as the third most powerful celebrity globally.
Bieber wears a Union Flag shirt and a sleeveless denim
jacket with another flag sewn on the back. His dancing is
mechanical, his nasally voice a mild irritant and his songs
driven with only the slightest crumb of inspiration.
In an effort to stave off terminal incredulity at the
hysterical response such mediocrity generates, I scour his set
for hints that something darker, Scott Walker-style, might yet
blossom. Depressingly, none emerge.
Katy Perry saves the day with a knock-about performance on
a set inspired by the art of Roy Lichtenstein. Perry understands
that, more than being cool or aspirational, pop should be fun.
Primary-colored costumes and cartoon choreography add to
the uncomplicated thrill of hits like “Firework” and “California
Gurls.” Perry’s cheeky winks, ability to sneak in a Radiohead
reference (“The One That Got Away”) and a strangely moving
acoustic cover of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” suggest she has
what it takes to become one of pop’s true greats.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and
leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are
To contact the writer on the story:
Robert Heller in London at email@example.com
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