Hard not to like this candy girl

TAMPA

High-heeling a titillating tightrope between Hello Kitty and What's New Pussycat, SoCal party star Katy Perry came to the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday to entertain the innocents and goose the grownups. That's the poplet's strength, winking innuendo in a sugar-spun shell, Jessica Rabbit's God-fearing cousin.

The 26-year-old is the kind of girl who likes to play Candy Land in naughty wear — so that's exactly what she did during a two-hour edible spectacle in front of 11,857 females of all ages, a near-sold-out crowd bewigged in neon 'dos and ponying up for blinking cotton candy bundles called glo-cones.

The dentist can wait; let's dance, ladies.

After a relentlessly technotic set from intriguing Swedish opener Robyn — big over there, still breaking here — Perry took to her pinked-out, food-stuffed stage in a mini-dress adorned with swirling Starlite mints, two of which were puckishly placed. Emerging from a lollipop forest, she belted the title track from her latest album, Teenage Dream.

Backed by a seven-piece band and a fleet of dancers — all of whom were dressed like toppers on a circa-'80s wedding cake — Perry kept her doe eyes wide, her sturdy gams moving and her noncaloric hits coming. For Waking Up in Vegas, she was accompanied by a randy slot machine. "This song's about drinking too much." But rather than linger on bawdy, she brought out showgirls and Elvis.

Ur So Gay is a wicked little song, but it was presented so light-heartedly, so cartoonishly, there was no offense to be taken. At one point, she pointed out that a group of fans were drunk. "I can't afford that," she said. "I have too much to lose." She even gave Florida a pep talk, talking about how she used to live (and tan) in Fort Myers.

Yeah, it was tough not to like her.

A Seussian story line of Katy in Wonderland played out on video screens, a clever way for the raven-haired looker to manage her umpteen sassy dress-ups — or, for that matter, undress-ups, as she performed Peacock in not much more than a glittery aquamarine bustier.

Perry is the daughter of Christian pastors, and while she has definitely given them reason to pray hard, she's actually getting more conservative. She performed part of I Kissed a Girl in vampy torch-singer garb, prefacing the song by bringing on a boy to smooch.

She has only two albums, but they're smash-packed. The loudest sing-along was for current chart-topper E.T., which Perry crooned (and she did sing, rather well) in a cat suit. And when she wasn't doing her own stuff, she was jacking up the throngs with other goodies, performed acoustically no less: Rihanna's Only Girl (In the World), Jay-Z's Big Pimpin'.

For the end of the show, Perry blew out the budget: floating high over the crowd in a pink cloud and singing Thinking of You and magically going through seven (!) costume changes in the span of Hot N Cold. She lovingly covered Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).

And, yes, she closed with Firework (cue the pyro!) and California Gurls (cue the dancing gingerbread men and the whipped-cream bazooka!). Perry had a blast, and so did everyone else. Sweet dreams indeed.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow him on Twitter (@seandalypoplife) and Facebook (facebook.com/seandaly.tampabay).

Hard not to like this candy girl 06/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 11:27am]

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