There are few secrets in California popstar Kesha’s private life. Her battle with anorexia made headlines, whilst her lawsuit against producer and alleged abuser Dr. Luke was splashed across the tabloids years before the current slew of high-profile assault revelations. It’s been an arduous journey, but she’s made it through. Emerging like a butterfly from a cocoon, her return to the UK to headline Brixton Electric was nothing short of a triumph.
The venue, rammed with glitter and rainbow-doused people of all ages, genders, and sexualities, hummed with energy as the crowd waited for their idol to take to the stage. As the driving beat of single “Woman” kicked in, the screams escalated to ear-splitting, and finally, there she was. The artist formerly known as Ke$ha was back, and she wasn’t pulling any punches.
The bulk of the evening’s setlist–her first UK show since 2013–was comprised of cuts from most recent record Rainbow, peppered with older favourites (the most notable absence being that of 2012 smash “Die Young”, co-written and produced by the aforementioned Dr. Luke). It allowed fans and skeptics alike to see an artist in complete command as she showcased her repertoire’s breadth, relying on her magnetic stage presence above anything else.
With genre-spanning songwriting influences taking her music from rap to country via the odd yodel, it was a pleasure to hear some of Kesha’s best-known songs beefed up by her stunning live band. The set-up moved her sound from club-ready electro-pop to old-school rock and roll, letting the passion and power of her vocal performance shine through the fresh arrangements.
After rattling through recent releases “Boogie Feet”, “Learn To Let Go”, and “Hymn”, the singer started shedding clothes for the appropriately named “Take It Off”. Eschewing the studio version’sg heavy autotune and crunching synths for heavily distorted guitar, she styled out forgotten lyrics, carried by an increasingly boisterous crowd.
Kesha’s mother, Pebe Sebert, took to the stage to duet on “Godzilla”, a song she wrote for Rainbow. “She was an amazing songwriter before I was ever a person,” Kesha told the adoring crowd, as the two women crowded around the single mic. Pebe’s words served as the evening’s clearest reminder of all her daughter had been through in her career, thanking the assembled fans for giving Kesha a reason to stay alive through it all.
The set closed with Rainbow’s lead single, “Praying”, bringing us full-circle on this romp through Kesha’s discography. As the singer returned for her encore, the earsplitting reception proved her loyal fanbase were more than satisfied, despite her years out of the spotlight.
During an impassioned mid-song speech, Kesha announced that her “personal mission in life is to spread as much love, and equality, and glitter, and fucking rock and roll as possible until I’m six feet underground.” In 2017, her statement of intent feels more vital than ever.