by MIKE CHAIKEN
On her latest album “Rainbow,” pop singer Kesha sings “Don’t let (them) get you down” (slightly paraphrased for a family newspaper).
And the New Year’s Eve performance at the Mohegan Sun Arena proved hands down that she hasn’t let them bring her down.
The theme for the night was fun, fun, fun, to borrow from the gospel of The Beach Boys.
Kesha could easily have become a brooding Debbie Downer. Her twice Grammy nominated album, “Rainbow” veers into “up yours” territory with the hit song, “Praying.” The track is her response to her 2014 lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke, accusing him of sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, emotional abuse, and violation of California business practices. The suit was subsequently dismissed by a judge who ruled that the singer took too long to speak up. Her Grammy performance of her comeback hit, “Prayer,” was dubbed as the award evening’s #MeToo moment because the song was born of her troubles as a woman in an industry ruled by men.
Given her symbolic rebirth after assorted trials and tribulations, Kesha could be forgiven if she opted to turn her concerts into moments of gravitas dressed in black turtlenecks and baggy cargo pants..
But as her post-lawsuit music speaks of the importance of being true to one’s self despite the emotional beatdowns of others, Kesha clearly proclaimed that her true self is a girl who just wants to have fun.
The Dec. 31 performance was colorful, with several costume changes, with lots of musical hooks, dancing, glitter, and confetti.
Although she entered the pop world as the poster child of autotune, Kesha also proved that she’s a fabulous singer.
Kesha launched the evening with clear proof of her vocal prowess— the R&B inflected “Woman.” She belted out the anthem of independence and strength, which demonstrated that the autotune was the crutch of a producer and not a choice she had to make because of a lack of talent.
Kesha’s vocals were so strong that about two-thirds through the 75 minute set, she had to confess to the audience that her voice was about to give out. But, she powered through it, still hitting her notes and still providing a fullness to her vocals that almost seemed impossible as she croaked her stage banter. (If you know anything about singing, it is possible to still vocalize even if your speaking voice has faltered.) Kesha demonstrated she is a true trooper who lives by the entertainment axiom, “The show must go on.”
When she returned for her encore, the Grammy-nominated “Prayer,” she still managed to slam dunk the gospel-inflected heart-felt track.
Although the show was bookended by two of Kesha’s more “serious” tracks, there was plenty of the kind of fun that inspired audience members to paint their faces and sprinkle them with glitter at the Mohegan Sun. “Blah Blah Blah,” “Godzilla” (accompanied by a bare-chested bodybuilder with a Godzilla mask), “Take It Off” (which was greeted by a shower of bras discarded by audience), “Your Love Is My Drug,” and her initial hit, “Tik Tok” all inspired the audience to laugh, smile, and dance.
Kesha was the perfect choice to celebrate the coming new year. At the Mohegan Sun, to lift from the lyrics of “Prayer,” she clearly brought the thunder.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN