Being Ke$ha must be a simultaneously terrifying and awesome thing. The 23-year-old performer has the undivided attention of millions of teenage girls at the moment, and possibly, the ability to change the world with a kind of unadulterated access to young minds. At The Fillmore auditorium last night, several hundred of these future women of America stood in giggly, screaming engrossment -- dressed in the full Ke$ha uniform of ripped fishnets, off-the-shoulder shirts and of course, glitter -- ready and willing to consume a one-woman show that touched on themes of sex, oral sex, domination, submission, bondage and cannibalism.
Unfortunately, Beardo was traveling with the Get Sleazy Tour as well, but his type of boring brashness couldn't faze the intelligence of Ke$ha's crowd. His Weird-Al-meets-License-to-Ill-era-Beastie-Boys look and routine was so terribly played, it was neither believable nor funny. Strumming away at his prop for a guitar, Beardo disengaged the audience with songs like "Girls Girls Girls and Pills and Pills," "American Anthem" and "Alien Man," utilizing a Quiet Riot sample while bragging about his coke mustache.
Addressing a venue full of middle and high school girls as "motherfuckers" seemed beyond inappropriate, but Beardo had few choices left as they chanted "Ke-$ha, Ke-$ha" back at him in aggressive defiance. At one point, a dad next to me asked his daughter if she thought Beardo's permed mullet was "cool." Scrunching her nose and shaking her head "no", she silently captured the sentiment of the packed room. When the Los Angeles coke machine couldn't fight the throngs of bored teenagers anymore, he thankfully gave up and walked off.
Less than half an hour later, the stage had been completely transformed into a multi-level trip into the future, a stadium-ready rig of metal bars and lights crammed into The Fillmore's now tiny looking space. Ke$ha appeared at the center of it all in a flood of LED brightness and smoke, the low end of "Sleazy" creeping out of the speakers with a bassy tremor.
Songs chocked full of lewd content like "Take It Off," "Blow" and "(Fuck Him) He's a DJ" rolled off Ke$ha's tongue with a Peaches-like ease, as a sea of pale fists shot back in positive response. Glitter and shiny metallic confetti exploded from guns and cannons, the animal-embodying singer prowling and posing between her Tank Girl-ish back-up dancers as they twirled streamers and took fake pictures with prop cameras. At only a few songs into the set, the popstress was ready for an outfit change -- and returned to the stage for "Blah, Blah, Blah" in a glittered defamation of the American flag and completely pants-less get-up.
Tying up a member of her entourage, Ke$ha used him as a prop to be dominated while she tore through "Cannibal" with a maddening force. Some dancers became drag queens for "Backstabber," pawing at each other and the blown out David Bowie-ish Ke$ha before she toned it down for the awkward ballad, "The Harold Song." Soon enough, the rowdy sex and party machine bounced back with "See You Next Tuesday" and anthemic "Animal." At points, the backing vocal tracks seemed to swallow Ke$ha whole, but there was a noticable glint of her singing capabilities, depending where in the venue you stood.
Her true power came in her ability to keep every pair of mostly-female eyes on her at all times -- from the stage, Ke$ha aligned with crowd by talking to them like her friends, being her own silly self and carrying an air of snarky intelligence. "Dinosaur" proved Ke$ha's weight in humorous gold, with the twenty-something addressing old men in shifty toupees and their inappropriate attention. This was immediately followed by the clever "Grow a Pair," which entailed bringing a fan on stage and binding him to a chair with Saran wrap. Two dancers disguised a pear and a penis traipsed out from back stage to jump and wrestle with Ke$ha and the willing audience participant.
The laser-like synth lines of "Your Love is My Drug" and "Tik-Tok" closed out the set, glitter once again shooting out uncontrollably and setting the stage for a glorious parade-like exit. It wasn't long before Ke$ha and crew reappeared in yet another set of costumes for an encore, "We R Who We R," sending shrieks of satisfaction through the venue. A piñata dropped from the ceiling and a mysterious Santa Claus that had been inexplicably lurking in the shadows all night appeared to cover the Beastie Boys' classic party song "Fight For Your Right." Now wrapped in a flannel and Colorado state flag, Ke$ha danced with Santa until he threw her over his shoulder and hauled her away.
An expensive-looking big bang-up stage show combined with lowest common denominator pop could have been disastrous, but Ke$ha more than pulled it off. Glitter and sex can only go so far, but she took it beyond limits with a pretty phenomenal performance. Entering the show with my own expectation that Ke$ha use her power for female empowerment was silly and unjustified. That is not what Ke$ha has ever been about.
Ke$ha sums up why she does what she does best than I ever could -- simply put, "we're young and we're bored."
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Being the third time I have unintentionally seen Beardo perform, there was no way I could be unbiased to his always-terrible performance. Random Details: The sound guy was playing HEALTH between sets. By the Way: There was a woman in front of me who was probably in her mid-50s who knew every word to every song and had a dance for each. It blew my mind, and maybe shifted my perception of Ke$ha just slightly. In a good direction.
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