Show Review: Kesha, Savoy Motel at The Masonic, 10/31/2017

by Becka Robbins on November 14, 2017

Kesha, with her Mom. Photo by Dakin Hardwick.

Author’s note: We at Spinning Platters stand with survivors, and we believe women when they come forward and tell stories of having been assaulted. Due to the code of journalistic ethics, we are forced to refer to Dr Luke as an “alleged abuser” while the case is still pending in court.

Whatever you think of her music, Kesha deserves your respect. Kesha’s album Rainbow and its accompanying tour come after a long public and risky battle to take control over her career from the man who allegedly abused her. Had she lost this fight, she would have been forced to continue her close work with her alleged rapist to create new content. Had she won, but not had such strong continuing fan support on social media, she might have been able to fulfill her contract and make records, but but the label might have simply cut their losses and granted her no touring budget or promotional budget.

It is rare for survivors of assault to be believed. Today we are seeing so many of our male heroes outed as alleged abusers, and Kesha exposed her alleged abuser before the current cultural #MeToo moment arrived and began relentlessly uncovering assault. Prior to her victory, Kesha was best known as the pop star for songs about partying or brushing her teeth with Jack Daniels –  but, importantly, her songs always put her in a position of agency. Rainbow is a coming of age album of sorts, with several beautiful songs about lessons hard-learned. She still parties, but she’s crafted some beautiful songs about vulnerability and resilience that add a new dimension to this particular pop diva that we hadn’t seen before. The album’s title track is a lovely soft pop gem about letting go of the past and embracing joy in the face of fear: “It’s like a rainbow/rainbow baby/trust me I know/ life is scary / but just put those colors on girl, come and face the world with me tonight,” she intones. With “Praying”, she confronts her abuser after gaining her freedom, singing, “Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell / I had to learn how to fight for myself /And we both know all the truth I could tell /I’ll just say this as I wish you farewell /I hope you’re somewhere prayin’.

Kesha, who has been a pop star for a long time now, put on a great show, with multiple costume changes, solid vocals, high energy, and a ton of charisma. She’s naturally charming, and exudes good-hearted, impish fun. The backing band was excellent, and it’s worth noting that one member – her keyboardist – was a woman. She had two beautiful male dancers, who changed costumes throughout the show, either dancing together, grinding against her, or two-stepping to the twangier numbers. Her energy was high, and every piece of her show, from sound to her clothing to her dance routines, was perfectly executed. A great pop show requires that everyone be note perfect, working together, and having fun on stage, making the choreographed and rehearsed look fresh and spontaneous. This Kesha and her band achieved with high energy and coordinated precision.

What made this show stand out from other pop shows by seasoned performers, such as Madonna or Britney, had everything to do with Kesha’s recent struggles. It’s rare to see a seasoned performer engage as effusively as she did with her fans throughout the show, thanking them again and again and again for their support, which allowed her to continue to make music. The love flowed both ways; fans showered her with gifts, throwing flowers and stuffed toys on the stage, and even a onesie. “It’s like Christmas!” she gushed, as she picked up the gifts, pressing them to her chest, “and whatever you throw up here will get put on my boob.”

Kesha, singing alone. Photo by Dakin Hardwick.

At one point between songs, she told her fans, “You’re all so beautiful and young. I want to baby bird you all. Is that wrong?” As I turned to the nearest person cooler than myself in order to find out what baby birding was (it’s when you take a sip of a drink and spit it into someone’s mouth), a fan handed Kesha a beer and a note. Kesha read the note, took a sip of the beer, and, to the delight of fans, dramatically spat out the liquid onto the fans in the front section. She may have matured, but she’s still the delightfully raunchy party fairy she always has been.

To me, Kesha shone brightest performing her newer ballads. Both “Rainbow” and “Praying” are beautiful anthems about finding strength and light coming out of dark times. Hundreds of Animals (her name for her fans) sang along with every word of every song. While she sang “Rainbow” fans attached cut-out paper hearts to their phones, and a thousand valentines glowed and swayed rhythmically in the dark. She made a pledge to fight for equal rights for all until she’s put six feet underground, shouting, “equality, love, glitter and rock and roll” before launching into “We Are Who We Are.” Easily though, the most moving moment was when Kesha sang “Godzilla” with her mom, who wrote the song, and who entered the stage dressed as a dalmatian. There were tears falling in the audience. Some were mine.

People could be forgiven for being skeptical of the merits of Kesha’s new material if their knowledge is limited to the song “Tik Tok” or her other older material. Kesha has made more than her share of trashy dance hits, and it’s a pleasure to see her expand and bloom with a wider range of musical expression. Rainbow is a gorgeous and vulnerable album that still manages to be fun, and, with this show and release, I am newly a fan: indeed, an Animal.

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