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Kesha and the Creepies @ The Rave

Aug. 19, 2016

Aug. 22, 2016
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“As some of you might know, I am in the lawsuit from hell at the moment,” Kesha told her sold-out crowd of adoring, glitter-spackled loyalists at the Rave Friday night. They all knew. Since the confrontational pop star filed a suit against her longtime producer Dr. Luke in 2014, accusing him of nearly a decade’s worth of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, she’s been locked in a highly publicized battle with Sony to free her from a contract that, in effect, forces her to continue working for her alleged rapist. It’s a queasy new low for an industry with a long history of mistreating women, but for all her legal setbacks, at least Kesha is winning in the court of public opinion. Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson have all stood behind her #FreeKesha campaign, as has Taylor Swift, who donated $250,000 to her legal fund.

One thing working against Kesha: time. As she outlined in her lawsuit, her window as a viable pop star shrinks with each month she’s unable to release new music. So in the meantime, she’s rallying her diehard fans with a small run of club dates with her new band, a sort of industrial/rockabilly/dance-punk ensemble dubbed the Creepies. Several times Friday night she lamented she was forbidden from playing the new songs she’d written, but, she roared, “I can play some of my old songs, and I can play them however the fuck I want to”—which, as you might imagine given her circumstances and the name of her tour (“Fuck The World”), meant they were quite a bit rawer and angrier than their fizzy studio versions. Brooding around the stage in a glammy vampire cape (the whole night had kind of a Halloween feel), she opened with gnarly, lurching versions of “We R Who We R” and “Your Love is My Drug,” while the supportive crowd danced and cheered no matter how far the songs strayed from their Top 40 foundations.

It was a powerful display of agency from a singer critics once dismissed as an industry puppet. She screeched, strummed an electric guitar, and tossed her pick at the crowd. Even the lighthearted bits were loaded. During “Dinosaur” Kesha was joined by a pair of dancing dinosaur masks, a silly carryover from past tours. But this time one of the dinosaurs got handsy, taking her from behind and trying to have her way with her. She fought him off to more loud cheers. Then she shared some covers: Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing,” Eagles of Death Metal’s “Speaking in Tongues,” and a gloomy, Cure-esque take on Britney Spears’ “Till The World Ends,” a song she co-wrote.

At times Kesha seemed to be pushing back not at rape culture and her oppressors at Sony, but also the detractors who, before her situation rendered her sympathetic for the first time in her career, questioned her legitimacy as an artist. For her encore, she paid homage to her Nashville roots, taking the stage in a straw hat and Grand Ol’ Opry-style pink dress, first for a twanged-out take on her Pitbull duet “Timber,” then for a pleading, genuinely show-stopping cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”—proof, if ever there was any, that Kesha adopted her signature valley-girl sing-rap affect out of choice, not out of necessity. “I’m sick and tired of people saying that I can’t sing,” she said. “So fuck that.”

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