concert review: kesha
Written by Marygrace Schumann, Staff Writer
Walking up the Aragon Ballroom steps, a newly purchased hat and “Motherfucking Woman” pin in hand, I couldn’t contain my smile. It was that dumb smile, the kind that feels like somebody’s got puppet strings on your mouth, so you have to keep looking down sheepishly, shy about just happy you are. I was practically bouncing, pre-concert sparks igniting a pure rush of adrenaline.
Yeah, Kesha does that to me. She’s always done that to me.
I’ve been a Kesha (formerly known as Ke$ha) fan since Animal. Her hits were catchy, sharp and above all, fun as hell. But I really fell in love with her after watching a scene from her 2013 documentary series “My Crazy Beautiful Life.” In it, she talked about why she made the kind of music she made and how it was so hard for her to understand why people hated her so much.
“I’ve been called the death of good music, trash, disposable. I don’t understand. I’m just trying to make people happy. It’s such fun, positive music. Why are people so angry?” she said.
Though Kesha’s new album, Rainbow, seems like a huge departure from her old style, I have loved everything she’s put out, old and new. All of her music, I truly believe, is about making something that speaks to people. Whether it merely speaks to the part of them that wants to smile and let loose, or the part of them trying to pull the reins on their demons. Kesha’s music is about human connection and love.
No matter what she went through or what music she produced, I always saw that in her. Her warmth, kindness, empathy and genuine love for others. She just wanted to make other people happy. These past four years, as she’s come forward about the sexual abuse she faced at the hands of her ex producer Dr. Luke, she’s become a hero and inspiration. To many, she’s risen above her old “party girl” self. I don’t see it that way. Like all of us, Kesha is complicated, unique, contradictory. That night, in Aragon Ballroom, I was ready to see it all.
She starts the show with “Woman”, the second single off her new album Rainbow. It’s a crowd pleaser. She’s a force of nature, in a black suit and gold top. Rowdy, full, strong. There’s people of all genders in the room, but it’s doesn’t really matter. I throw my head back (I’ll do that a lot during the course of the show) and scream. I feel powerful; connected to everybody in this room and yet, completely independent at the same time. A motherfucking woman.
She hits next with “Boogie Feet”, another song off Rainbow. It’s groovy, funky, makes your feet move on their own. Those pre-concert sparks have quickly turned to a full on fire. The smile has not gone away.
“Learn to Let Go” is the first time I cry during the show. I’m sappy, I can’t help it. It’s her speech that gets to me. It’s simple, to the point, reiterating the song’s message. There are some things you just have to let go of to keep on breathing. Exercise the demons inside me she sings, and for a moment we’re all trying to.
Those nasty tears continue with “Hymn”. This is hymn for the hymnless, kids with no religion. Kesha has invited us all, made people who often feel left out, a part of something. Few people in that room are kids anymore, but we all feel like it, as Kesha ushers us in with a loud, energetic lullaby.
Next is Take It Off and We R Who We R, two of her old hits. And fuck, do we all have fun. We’re jumping up and down, screaming at the top of our lungs. I throw my head back, just like I did at Woman. The “old Kesha”doesn’t feel so different from the new one. She refuses to condemn her past self or her old music. She has a blast. We all have a blast. She is everything at once. A survivor, an idol, a party girl, a rockstar. So are we.
The night continues with a mix of old and new. Spaceship has us all swaying, taking us away, her voice smooth and earthy. “Nothing is real, love is everything, and I know nothing,” she says to us, and it sums it all up. Tonight, all that matters is the love around us.
Her mother comes out for Godzilla, an adorable love song they cowrote. It’s sweet and light, and my big smile softens. “I love moms!” she tells us, and I scream back, “I love moms too!”
Somebody hands her a rainbow flag, and she wraps it around herself like a cape. She promises this is a space for everybody, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or socioeconomic background. She promises she will spend her life fighting for us. I didn’t doubt it. Like I said before, through it all, I have always known how big Kesha’s heart was.
Blow, another old song, has us all screaming. Confetti falls. It’s a classic, and we could not be having more fun.
Her last “official” song of the night is Praying. Her first single in four years, Praying was Kesha’s comeback. The song is about pain, hope and forgiveness. In her Lenny Letter about the song she say, “This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you.” Though she hasn’t specified who the song is about, most believe it’s about her producer, Dr. Luke. In 2014, Kesha sued Dr. Luke with the intent to void their contract so she wouldn’t have to make music with him anymore. According to Kesha, Dr. Luke had sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused her. Unfortunately, Kesha lost the lawsuit, and is still legally obligated to make two more albums under Dr. Luke’s label. On the bright side, this is the first album Dr. Luke was not directly involved with, and Kesha did not have to work with him personally. She is not entirely free, but she has finally been able to take her voice back and make her music.
Though this song is extremely personal to Kesha, it’s the one that hits me the hardest. Throughout the night I’ve felt apart of something, connected to everybody here. That all disappears during Praying. Suddenly it is just me and Kesha. That fire in me simmers down. No more monsters, I can breathe again she sings, voice cracking, and I throw my head back once again. I let it stay there. I sing, up, up, up. My throat feels raw, and my heart is beating fast. Even as the room disappears and I sink into myself, feeling the song in my bones, this loving energy hugs me. It is tangible. It is healing.
After a couple minutes of screaming her name, she comes out for the encore. She starts off with Tik Tok, her biggest hit, making us promise to sing every word. Of course we know them all. I’m taken back to simpler days, singing the song in my friend’s basements, wearing our mother’s lipsticks, laughing until our stomachs hurt.
Her real last song of the night is Bastards. Don’t let the bastards get you down she asks of us, and it seems like a simple enough thing to promise her. It’s nights like this that make you sure they’ll never get you down again.
Listen to Kesha's new album, Rainbow, here:
Contact Marygrace by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.