Kesha at Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, review: Freedom looks good on her

Artist performs new material alongside old pop favourites

Ilana Kaplan
New York
Thursday 19 October 2017 12:50 BST
Kesha performs at the Hammerstein Apollo in New York
Kesha performs at the Hammerstein Apollo in New York (Jason Myers)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


If you didn’t find confetti in your bra or glitter in your beard after Kesha’s Hammerstein Ballroom show on Monday night, you didn’t do it right.

In today’s tumultuous times, the one thing we can all rely on is the safe space of pop music, and Kesha’s Rainbow tour was just that (along with a colourful fete to go along with it).

While it was the likes of “Tik Tok” which put her on the map, her innate talent for songwriting, soaring vocals and guitar shredding has helped sustain her longstanding career.

To get to the place where she could release Rainbow, Kesha has been to hell and back trapped in a legal battle with her former producer. Thanks to her fan base and the support of industry folks alike, she was able to release an LP that let her tell her story on her terms. Playing her album live was redemption.

Opening with a burst of horns care of The Dap Kings, Kesha belted out “Woman” as if she was the goddamn President. She took a minute in the song to switch up the words and yell: “’Cause I run my s*** baby” to: “I write my s*** baby” to validate that she is more than capable or writing her own music. Because song ownership and songwriting has been such an integral part to her career, she wanted everyone to know the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into her latest record.

“We did it,” she screamed into the crowd, who roared back and threw glitter into the air. “My animals, you all mean so much to me.”

Throughout the evening, Kesha’s show progressed from rock ‘n’ roll to pop and country folk: the three genres Kesha has settled on as closest to her heart. But the show was as about her country’s political strife as about her own personal battles. Prior to performing “Hymn” she dedicated the song to the “Dreamers” who she would stand by, referring to immigrants affected by the ending of DACA.

In the unifying anthem, Kesha belted out lyrics such as: “We won’t stand and salute” with her middle fingers raised, a protest to President Trump’s treatment of NFL players. She reminded the crowd that she preaches tolerance, acceptance and love.

While she stuck mostly to cuts Rainbow she took the time to rework some pop favourites with a haunted Black Sabbath-like version of “Blow” and a rock-fuelled “Take It Off”. Two of the most poignant parts of the night featured Kesha’s balladry: a performance of “Godzilla” where she brought her co-songwriter and mother on stage to sing and lent a country lilt to “Spaceship,” which celebrated individuality.

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But the moment the whole crowd waited for was the final song before her encore, “Praying”, where every single audience member was belting out the words to her masterful comeback hit. Hugging and more confetti ensued.

“Very many years ago, I was sitting on the floor of a rehab facility with a severe eating disorder and I was dreaming about today,” she told the crowd.

The beauty is that she got there and brought her sass with her. Some parting words came before her closing song: “I’m trying to exude all of the love in my body at you, but I hope you take a little touch of a ‘f*** you’ to the bastards that bring you down.”

Kesha is finally free, and liberation looks good on her.

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