Nov. 1, 2017
On Wednesday night at the Hollywood Palladium, the final U.S. concert of Kesha’s “Rainbow” tour had a triumphal air. “I’m a motherf—er!” she yelled to the adoring crowd, many of whom had rainbow glitter on their faces, during the opening number “Woman.” “We f—ing did it!”
For Kesha and her fans, the journey to the tour has been a joint effort. Sidelined for years by a harrowing legal battle with former producer/mentor Dr. Luke in which she accused him of sexual assault, the “Rainbow” album and tour represent a hard-won return for the singer. She told the crowd repeatedly throughout the evening that she wouldn’t be there without them, and while that statement is rolled out by so many performers that it can often seem trite, in Kesha’s case it takes on a whole other meaning: As more women come forward about their experiences with sexual abuse and harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many of Kesha’s fans see their own experiences of victimization, hurt and redemption in hers. And as they chant “Kesha! Kesha! Kesha!” — which they began doing just four songs into the show — they may as well be chanting for themselves.
While the night contained a wide range of emotions, the show was never not fun. “Are there any bad motherf—ers here?” she asked during one of many orations from her sparkly pulpit. She fired off confetti cannons several times. Her band (along with two camp dancers) brings a rootsier take to older songs like “Your Love Is My Drug” and fulfills her dream of being a barnstorming rocker: After all, she was singing Tom Petty and Rolling Stones songs at UCLA long before she launched her wasted-girl-at-the-party act with “Tik Tok” in 2010. She works a balancing act between the older version of that character and a more serious, battle-scarred survivor throughout the show: Between singing about being “through hell” (in “Learn to Let Go”) and creating a “night you won’t forget” (a country-fied version of “Tinder”), the show is a pick-n-mix of weighty confessionals and garrulous floor-fillers. She sang anthems about “learning to let go of the bullsh–” (“Learn to Let Go”) and “all the motherf—ers who won’t stop talking sh– about you” (“Let ‘Em Talk”); she dedicated “Hymn” to DACA “dreamers,” saying “I will always stand by your fight to stay in this country freely, and I’m sorry for this bullsh–.”
As a singer, she gives the impression of being let out of her cage, drawing from her musical heroes —Jagger, Joplin, Robert Plant — and moving from the celebratory freefall of “Blow” into the near-spiritual “Praying.” She brings out a “present” for the racing rocker “Let ‘Em Talk” — Eagles Of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes, who plays a perverse Danny Zuko to her hypersexualized Sandy Dee as she pushes him to the floor while he’s on his knees. She also brought out her songwriter mother Pebe Sebert for “Godzilla,” which she co-wrote. “It’s about love. And drugs!” Kesha raved. “She’s the best songwriter in the world!”
The encore began with “Tik Tok” and climaxed with Kesha diving wholeheartedly into the crowd in a way that was undignified, ungraceful and probably painful — but also triumphant, because the party anthem that started her career has taken on a whole new life. Kesha may have come from a place of debauchery and collegiate silliness, but she’s since become an emblem for bravery in the face of defeat.
But most of all, the concert was about the connection between Kesha and her followers: An alleged sexual assault from a former mentor has been a triggering experience for many. “It’s hard to put feelings into words sometimes, so I’m just gonna keep saying how much I love you,” Kesha said as she introduced “Praying” — the first solo song she’d released in four years — and the crowd chanted “We! Love! You!” The drums kicked in, and the crowd sang along, shouting in unison as they arrived at the line, “The best is yet to come.”
- Boogie Feet
- Learn to Let Go
- Let ‘Em Talk
- Take It Off
- We R Who We R
- Hunt You Down
- Your Love Is My Drug
- Tik Tok