Katy Perry wows at United Center in eye-popping extravaganza

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It seemed only fitting that Katy Perry play both Chicago dates of her “Witness” tour at the United Center, given that her recent “Swish Swish” music video has a basketball theme.

But the struggling Chicago Bulls were nowhere in sight as Perry gave her fans — a diverse mix of families, dads yawning during costume changes, moms dancing along to the raunchy “Bon Appetit” and at least one baby with a pacifier — the “best Tuesday night of your life!” in the first of two nights at the venue.

Perry opened the show in a red sparkly dress that made her look like a sexy Red Riding Hood. But but her next costume change — into a checked black-and-white pantsuit — seemed reminiscent of Hillary Clinton. In a world where it seems you can’t go to Starbucks — or a concert — without mention of politics or the latest natural disaster, Perry’s show was a refreshing respite from the real world. (Somewhat surprising, considering the pop star famously stumped for the former presidential candidate.)

Katy Perry performs at the United Center on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

As Perry’s most recent album, which shares a name with the tour, wasn’t as commercially or critically successful as her previous three, she knows fans come for the hits. She sang all the vintage favorites including “Teenage Dream,” “Last Friday Night” and the ubiquitous “I Kissed A Girl.”

Perry’s blond pixie cut seems apt for someone who clearly likes to fly above the stage in various contraptions like a modern Peter Pan. Most notably, she played guitar and sat on a globe that roamed above the crowd during her ballad “Thinking Of You,” a throwback from her first album “One of the Boys” that showcased her ability to really sing, without all the massive and elaborate set pieces (like the giant lips during “I Kissed A Girl,” the giant tiger head that emerges during “Roar” and giant dice during “Witness”) and eight Rockettes-esque backup dancers that dominated throughout.

“Listen, I know you’re very proud of being Chicagoans, but you have to know, I am extremely proud to be a California girl,” Perry said as she segued into her hit “California Girls,” complete with an appearance by Left Shark, made famous during her 2015 Super Bowl performance.

A surprise guest? Perry’s mother, whom the singer called for a conversation on a giant pink phone mid-show.

“It’s always good to talk to your parents. Don’t ignore your parents’ texts!” Perry admonished the young girls in the crowd. She even brought one of them, 11-year-old Addison Jones, onstage, and asked her to make a wish. Addison’s wish? To end homelessness.

“You don’t want like a puppy or a kitten?” Perry teased the girl, who said she wants to be veterinarian when she grows up, before hugging her and taking a selfie.

Massive stage props and a bevy of backup dancers were part of the mix in Katy Perry’s concert at the United Center on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Another highlight came during Perry’s rumored Taylor Swift-aimed “Swish Swish” when she asked to get “a dad onstage right now who brought lots of kids tonight.” Joshua from South Bend, Indiana, complete with a Notre Dame windbreaker, played Perry in a short game of hoops before she closed the show with “Roar” and “Firework” to a rain of confetti.

Opener Noah Cyrus (Miley’s sister) demonstrated a surprising ability to fill the stadium with her 17-year-old twangy voice that’s similar to that of her superstar sister. She played a 30-minute set comprised of her own songs including “Almost Famous” and “Make Me (Cry)” and also covers of Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” and Selena Gomez’s “It Ain’t Me.”

SET LIST

Witness
Dark Horse
Chained to the Rhythm
Teenage Dream
Hot N Cold
Last Friday Night (TGIF)
California Girls
I Kissed A Girl
Deja Vu
Tsunami
E.T.
Bon Appetit (which segued into a “What Have You Done For Me Lately” cover/mashup)
Thinking of You
Power
Part of Me
Swish Swish
“It’s a Hard Knock Life” cover segued into “Roar”

Encore: Firework