The singer-songwriter brought her all killer, no filler Rainbow Tour outdoors at Mystic Lake.
This article is set to run in the upcoming Issue 118 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.
June 30, 2018. Dressed in their best early-‘10s, Ke$ha-style garage glam looks, the mostly millennial crowd at Mystic Amphitheater was on fire before Kesha's “Rainbow Tour” show even started. Rainbow makeup shined on the cheeks and eyelids of various fans of all genders.
Just past 9, a full band walked on stage in white suits. Two backup dancers flanked the sides of a staircase. Above it, a giant spaceship set piece loomed. A glittery curtain in the middle of the spaceship fluttered. Kesha emerged. As she slowly descended the staircase to her dancers, she teased us with the spoken word intro to “TiK ToK.”
The crowd erupted as Kesha opened her set with “Woman,” a standout single from her latest LP Rainbow. Her and her dancers flipped the bird in synchronized fashion during the chorus. Screens behind them lit up with lyrics.
Mystic Amphitheater was packed, but the venue was very organized; clear lanes were spray painted in the grass so attendees could leave any standing area for a bathroom or beer run. Not like anyone was leaving during exciting numbers like “Boogie Feet,” though. For that one, Kesha donned a bedazzled cape. “My natural habitat is… in a cape,” she joked.
Kesha talked to the diverse crowd about it “technically” being the last day of Pride Month. She told the crowd, “One could argue we should go extra f—ing hard because it’s the last day of Pride Month.” Thunderous applause ensued. “Pride is never over,” she declared.
She then dedicated a rollicking performance of “We R Who We R” to the LGBTQIA+ community. The dedication excited the crowd; the US #1 hit made for probably the largest sing-along moment of the night. It was electric.
The singer-songwriter later paused to sign a fan’s vinyl copy of Rainbow. The fan was pretty far back in the audience, so it was endearing to see the crowd work together to pass her record to the stage. Being a vinyl nerd myself, being a part of around 10,000 people witnessing a single record be signed was a cool moment.
Despite most of her back catalog being dance pop, Kesha performed new rock renditions of her hits. Gone were the digital drums and synths from the original versions. How easily the songs were translated to real instruments proved how much song-craft Kesha put into writing even her “danciest” of songs, like "Die Young."
“Songwriting is in my blood,” Kesha said, while recounting writing her huge radio hit “Your Love Is My Drug” with her mom, fellow singer-songwriter Pebe Sebert. Kesha's performance of the song took on new meaning after learning this tidbit.
The highlight of the night came when Kesha noticed a giant, glittery, golden penis sculpture in the audience. Naturally, she asked for her fans to pass it to the stage. While it initially read as a joke to the crowd, Kesha took it to a deeper place. She confessed she’s always wanted her shows to be a place her fans could bring their own art. When she attempted to give it back unsigned, the crowd chanted, “Sign it!” - She did.
Kesha taunted us before starting crowd-favorite track “Take It Off” - she claimed she couldn’t start singing until people stripped and threw their clothes at the stage. Obviously, the crowd obliged. She pushed it further, asking specifically for a bra; she received multiple.
The spaceship stage piece was a perfect callback to the cartoon ones on her Rainbow album cover. Lights came out of the circular windows on it, which made for a unique and visually interesting light show. Vintage sci-fi cartoons played on the screens behind it.
When Kesha announced her final song, the crowd emitted sounds of confusion; admittedly, the setlist of this tour is a bit short at a nightly average of a dozen songs. However, audience interaction is integral to Kesha's shows and she clearly builds in time specifically for that purpose.
The pop star reassured her concerned audience that it was only the “pretend last song,” and she’d be back afterwards for a couple more. She launched into the brilliant banger “Blow,” which is arguably the most EDM out of any of her singles. Kesha and her band pulled it off fantastically as a balls-to-the-wall rock-n-roll number.
As promised, she later reemerged for her encore, beginning with a powerful rendition of “Praying,” the confessional lead single off Rainbow. She encouraged the crowd to sing along, and we did. After the song concluded, she spoke about how grateful she was for that, as the song is difficult for her to perform. It came from a time where she wasn’t sure she’d be legally able to release music ever again.
Kesha declared she had one more “boogie" song’s worth of energy left, and jumped into an electro-tinged, upbeat performance of her debut single “TiK ToK.” The summer before I left for college, I got a free download of that track on her website. It went on to become a giant #1 hit, selling over 16 million copies worldwide. Eight years later, I was standing at her show, reviewing it as press. Talk about a full circle moment.
When the song was over and Kesha said goodnight, the sentiment of the audience seemed unanimous. We had all just witnessed an artist in her prime, performing exactly the way she’s always wanted to.
Rain began falling immediately after Kesha left the stage. Fitting, as she had sung “I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain” only a few minutes before.
Opening Act: CVBZ
Los Angeles-based opening act CVBZ, pronounced “cubs,” was a hit with the audience right off the bat. The stage name of Sean Jacobs, CVBZ is so fresh he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page yet. With candid lyrics the crowd immediately vibed with, CVBZ felt like a perfect fit for an outdoor venue like Mystic Amphitheater; even his knitted poncho seemed like something straight out of Coachella.
Midway through his set, CVBZ humbly stated he wasn’t "the best" singer. However, his voice had a great tonality and shined during songs like “Vicodin,” “Drugs,” debut single “Be Like You,” and “Be Somebody.” The tracks were accompanied by interesting visuals involving CVBZ wearing a full-body green screen suit.
Before his final number, CVBZ referenced a technical difficulty in the previous song. He said, “What you just witnessed is a singer’s worst nightmare.” He brushed it off and offered the crowd fruit, which he threw from the stage.
Standout track “Feels Great” was a collaboration with Cheat Codes and Fetty Wap. “Feels Great” recently passed 100 million streams on Spotify. Fitting, he encouraged the audience to find him on the music platform. I have a feeling a lot of them added his music to their playlists.
What's your favorite Kesha song? Tweet me! @DerekPlease