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Katy Perry brings 'Prism' to all-star benefit at Hollywood Bowl

October 24, 2013|By Mikael Wood

In interviews and music videos, Katy Perry is framing her new album as a document of survival -- a record of her struggle to overcome a divorce and not “let love take me out that way,” as she puts it in one song.

A day after the release of “Prism,” the pop singer widened the scope of that theme -- and furthered her media saturation -- at the Hollywood Bowl, where she presided over an all-star concert Wednesday night billed as Katy Perry’s We Can Survive.

The show was a benefit for Young Survival Coalition, which, according to its website, “offers resources, connections and outreach” to “young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer”; other performers included Ellie Goulding, Sara Bareilles, Tegan and Sara and Kacey Musgraves.

“We’re survivors -- that’s why we’re here,” Perry told the capacity crowd during her headlining set. Then she sang “By the Grace of God,” the stately piano ballad that closes “Prism” with a flourish of self-help optimism.

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But spirits, of course, weren’t the only things being empowered.

Wednesday’s gig also served as the latest stop in an intensive promotional campaign designed to bolster sales of “Prism,” which follows 2010’s Grammy-nominated “Teenage Dream” and its five No. 1 singles.

On Tuesday, Perry took part in an album-release event broadcast live on Clear Channel radio stations, and she’s to appear Friday on “Good Morning America,” performing for students at a Denver-area high school who created a video for Perry’s hit song “Roar.”

The singer has some heavyweight corporate partners too: At the Bowl, signage for Citi and Radio.com outnumbered that for Young Survival Coalition, while in the audience, fans waved light sticks handed out by representatives of the carmaker Fiat.

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Before the show, several hundred Citi cardholders watched Perry do a brief acoustic set -- “Firework” was very Lilith Fair -- and answer questions submitted through Twitter. One important takeaway from that exchange? She’d be up for playing Lydia in the “Beetlejuice” sequel reportedly in the works.

As with much of Perry’s recent activity -- and like “Prism” itself -- the pre-show stuff felt as though it were an attempt to provide a more intimate look at this in-demand artist, whose earlier hits, such as “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and “California Gurls,” lampooned the idea of pop stardom even as they embraced (and helped secure) it.

The main event, though, emphasized the kind of spectacle we’re accustomed to seeing from Perry: fireworks exploding above the Bowl during “Firework,” a drum line motoring the power ballad “Unconditionally,” Juicy J’s unannounced appearance to do his verse from the new album’s “Dark Horse.”

Her vocals sounded strong throughout the hour-long set, especially in a slithering electro-grunge version of “I Kissed a Girl” and in “By the Grace of God,” for which she was joined on piano by Greg Wells, who co-wrote and produced the tune.

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And a medley of “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream” -- both classics of the form -- demonstrated her knack for joking and playing it straight at the same time.

Yet Perry was less steady in relatively elaborate dance routines for “Part of Me” and “Walking on Air,” the latter of which she reprised from her performance this month on “Saturday Night Live.”

You got the sense that she hasn’t quite figured out how to reconcile “Prism’s” touchy-feely vibe with the demands of the kind of high-energy arena production she said she’ll take on the road next year.

Perhaps that’s why, at the end of Wednesday’s show, she invited the evening’s opening acts back onstage to help her sing “Roar.” Surrounded by friends -- and showered in confetti -- Perry was finding herself with some assistance from others.

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Twitter: @mikaelwood

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