Last updated on July 21st, 2023 at 01:12 am
The Final Four didn’t only bring top-tier college basketball to Minneapolis this weekend. It also brought top-tier music to boot.
The last of three Final Four concerts this weekend, Zedd and Katy Perry were on the bill to play for fans at Sunday night’s Jam Fest downtown at The Armory.
Opening the night, Grammy Award-winning producer Zedd brought the energy, pop bangers and lights only a DJ can. Oh, there were so many lights.
The Russian-German producer, born Anton Zaslavski, started off his intricate and colorful setlist with his 2015 hit “Beautiful Now.” Equally mesmerizing visuals were paired with the music during his show, ranging from a wildly winding rainbow road and vigorously pumping red and blue engine pistons to hundreds of flickering vintage lightbulbs and his own logo morphing into technicolor geometric shapes.
If several massive screens weren’t enough to keep everyone following along, the dozens of strobes, lasers and pyrotechnics kept everyone’s attention. The Armory would be remiss to not look into getting a middle screen of their own, which brought the side seats and back of the venue deeper into the middle of the show than usual.
Aside from his own music, he made sure to play a little something for everyone, including Martin Garrix’s “Animals,” “Mi Gente” by J Balvin and Willy William (ft. Beyoncé) and even a remix of Childish Gambino’s recent poignant track, “This Is America.”
While most of the songs were relatively the same BPM (“I Want You To Know,” “Save The World,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”) it was a perfect pace for attendees of all ages to dance, jump or bop their head along with in time — that is, if they weren’t too tired to dance after waiting for hours outside in the line, just to get into the free show.
That dancing was brought to a new level when Katy Perry emerged in a (seemingly basketball-inspired) orange studded dress and beret, as the beginning notes of the duo’s new song together, “365,” started. The first-ever live performance of the track found the singer simply strutting up and down the stage’s catwalk as many sang along.
But right after that brief, yet inaugural performance ended, Zedd’s set started to fade into its own finale, with “Stay,” “The Middle” and “Stay the Night.” His show ended with the 2013 track that started to spread his name worldwide: “Clarity.”
It was clear that by the end of his set, the DJ’s calves must be rock-solid strong. He had been constantly moving right along with everyone else in the room that night. More importantly, it was also obvious why Zedd opened the show. He knows how to get a crowd going and keep them singing along.
The pop icon, American Idol judge and California girl, herself
A set-change interlude featured retired professional player and NBA analyst Charles Barkley, who thanked Minneapolis for hosting the Final Four weekend, while simultaneously (and arguably correctly) reminding the room that the Minnesota Timberwolves and Vikings both “suck” – receiving a few boos in the process.
However, it was only a quick 30-minute break before the music started up again.
Katy Perry – the pop icon, American Idol judge and California girl, herself – took the stage.
She kicked off her set in knee-high red boots with “Hey Hey Hey” and “Roulette,” both off her latest album, “Witness.” Her multi-colored dress, contagious laugh and attention-grabbing stage voice all backed up her promise of playing “a very special show, just for you, Minne!”
Perry’s last tour concluded with a headlining festival slot at the San Diego Music Festival, KAABOO, in September after playing more than 110 shows on the road. Sunday night, her playful banter and genuine joy of being on stage was evident right off the bat.
“Everyone knows that I love balls,” Perry joked. “ Big… orange… basketballs.”
Obviously enjoying the one-off chance to perform and own the night, she was constantly on-point as she strutted all across the stage and belted out hits alongside her live band, six back-up dancers and a collection of inflatable stage props, including a rainbow and her own face.
She was able to delve quickly into the tunes that everyone, including both the teens there to the show to the coaches there for the game, knew.
“Chained to the Rhythm” and “Teenage Dream” enjoyed an 80s-esque sped up remix, while the room even got a treat in an acoustic rendition of “The One That Got Away.”
But no matter how big the show’s quality and production felt, it still was a relatively intimate event, as the Armory’s only 8,400-person capacity pales in comparison to her consistent arena and festival headlining shows.
However, that intimacy brought a different flavor to the show and was felt on another level – including allowing an appearance from Left and Right Shark. Well, almost…
Dave from Shakopee and Collin from Eden Prairie had donned their aquatic costumes in homage to Perry’s memorable Super Bowl performance, and were pulled up on stage from the audience.
Their slightly drunken dancing and endearing charades earned them another drink from the bar (on the pop star’s tab) and an even higher honor: “Every time I invite sharks onstage, they steal the show,” Perry said with a laugh.
That loose energy remained high and alive all night. But Perry knew she had a bit of an uphill battle from the start, playing a Sunday night show. Many in the room had work, school and responsibilities the next day, but she didn’t care. And no one in the room – at least in that moment – did either.
“This is Rock ’n Roll!” she proclaimed, defending their late school-night party. “Well, actually I’d call this Pop ’n Roll.”
And that’s exactly what she then brought to listener’s ears. Both her 2008 breakout “I Kissed A Girl” and 2010’s “E.T.” featured heavy guitars driving grittier-than-usual verses. But this was a great sidestep, as it brought a different musical pace into the room.
As her setlist kept spinning out hit after hit, it also turned more focused to the event at hand – the NCAA Final Four Tournament.
She requested a “zhoosh” of her hair and makeup just before they taped a couple of songs to air during Monday night’s Championship Game between Virginia and Texas Tech.
The first track brought Zedd back onstage for a reprise of their mellow, love-obsessed “365,” while the basketball-themed “Swish Swish” was an obvious choice for the second clip.
After those literally made-for-TV moments, she crafted an equally cinematic finale of her own.
“Pendulum,” “Roar” and “Firework” wrapped up the night with even more sing-alongs, dancing and palpable energy than it had started with – even as the clock ticked past 11 p.m. But that just goes to show Perry’s pop star power.
Whether it’s during festival slots, arena tour stops, or even a one-off performance for the Final Four, Katy Perry knows how to put on a show. The confetti, streamers and balloons cascaded down from the Armory ceiling at the end of her Sunday night show in Minneapolis and capped off the night of celebration with a bang.