wed 13/12/2017

Kesha, Electric Brixton review - a joyously sassy comeback | reviews, news & interviews

Kesha, Electric Brixton review - a joyously sassy comeback

Kesha, Electric Brixton review - a joyously sassy comeback

Pop's party girl returns with a tight band and a fistful of feisty songs

Ms Blue Sky, please tell us why you had to hide away for so long

There are more clothes flying Kesha’s way than onto the stage at a Las Vegas Tom Jones concert in the mid-Seventies. She started it. As she introduced her 2010 single “Take It Off”, she announced that since things were so hot she’d be discarding a few items. Duly, she removes the heavy, dark velveteen jacket, decorated with embroidered red roses, that she’s been wearing so far, and undoes her shiny gold shirt down to her sternum, revealing her bra. The song kicks in and the capacity crowd go nuts as she attacks her ballsy ode to a party hole “where they go hardcore and there's glitter on the floor”. A hail of tops bounces about the venue. Behind me a young woman, naked from the waist up, boogies like a headbanger.

Kesha’s freed-up party persona is contagious, the more so because her five-piece band, similarly clad in velveteen suits, with glittery cowboy ties, transform her older, electro-pop material into a Memphis-style rhythm'n'blues rock-out. They’re assisted by two male dancers/backing singers, one shaven-headed in glasses, the other a long-haired Adonis. This pair deliberately subvert the usual pop imagery by playing the coquette-ish role usually taken by female dancers, notably on opening number “Woman”, a horn-boosted feminist anthem on which the whole crowd shouts out the, “I’m a motherfucking woman!” chorus.

The bastards and assholes clearly haven’t broken Kesha

Of course, this sole British Kesha concert of 2017, amid a PR-announced “Kesha Takes Over the UK” campaign, is the European culmination of a comeback. Kesha has been through years of misery, resulting from a bitter, convoluted and well-documented legal conflict with the man who discovered her, Dr Luke. The songs on her recent album, Rainbow, deal with the subject, with her alleged abuse, exorcising it and finding empowerment in song. Perhaps more interestingly, in terms of her music, Rainbow is also about Kesha exploring new ways to express herself. Her work with The Flaming Lips, her country-rockin’ Yeast Infection outfit, and last year’s Kesha and the Creepies rock’n’roll tour all showed an artist keen to break free of the chart-pop straitjacket. Now she almost has, and the way the audience knows her new material seems to thrill her.

Indeed, when she brings her mum, the songwriter Pebe Sebert, on to help sing the strummed, Jonathan Richman-esque ballad “Godzilla”, one of Rainbow’s finest songs, and one her mother wrote, Kesha is so overcome with emotion she has to stop singing for a moment. Mostly, though, there are no such hiccups, as she shakes her waist-length pink hair extensions gleefully around, spits water – and later beer – over the audience, and hurls out towels she’s mopped her face with (“This is a big one – you can tear it into little pieces and share it”).

She’s given to very American emotional pleas, and proclamations of love for her fans. During “We R Who We R” she gives a speech about gender rights, saying there’s “no more room for hate and discrimination”. The crowd love her, very vocally. They’re mostly in their twenties and lathered in glitter, assisted by the handfuls of it Kesha and her band throw over them during the gig. They all yodel along with her jolly cowgirl stalker number “Hunt You Down” and sway, eyes closed during the new, kitsch-psychedelia number “Spaceship”, during which Kesha changes from her suit into a white, short-sleeved crochet-style dress and backwoods cowboy hat. On the final pre-encore song the whole Electric Brixton sings the self-empowerment anthem “Praying”, as if it were a hymn.

To finish the show, it’s time to go bananas as Kesha pulls her mega-hit “Tik Tok” out of the bag and the two dancers fire confetti over us. It’s one of the 21st century’s monster pop songs, a hedonist ultra-blast, and Kesha is sometimes almost inaudible beneath the crowd chorusing. She then ends with Rainbow album-opener “Bastards”, a big country-flavoured “fuck you” tune which explodes into a “Hey Jude” style “nah nah nah” vocal, accompanied by a tickertape cannon filling the air with flutter. “Don’t let the bastards get you down/Oh no, don’t let the assholes wear you out,” we all yell along. An apt close, to roaring applause. The bastards and assholes clearly haven’t broken Kesha. She seems like a woman who’s only just blooming into the artist she wants to be.

Overleaf: watch a caped Kesha perform "Learn to Let Go" at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2017

Behind me a young woman, naked from the waist up, boogies like a headbanger

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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