May 4, 2011
@ The Warfield
Better than: Dudes who look like Mick Jagger
Ripped tank tops barely concealing black bras. Gold-sequined skirts. Fishnet tights. Tousled blonde locks. Eyeliner thick as warpaint. Fuzzy cat-ear headbands. Hand-drawn dollar signs on bare skin. Stillettos. Neon fucking ice-blue lipstick. Glitter everywhere.
Responsible adults of America, meet your next of kin. Last night the tweens and teens and early-twentysomething females who'll one day run this world filled a sold-out Warfield for the frivolous incantations of queen garbage-chic party girl Ke$ha. They met her Auto-Tuned voice dressed for the occasion, like neon mall goths or careless, costumed floozies, supplying an energy level somewhere between obnoxious and nuclear fusion.
But the audience was nowhere near the weirdest part. Last night Ke$ha took the script for a standard pop show and rewrote it as a B-grade sci-fi porno flick, armed with glitter guns, a second act that felt like a white-trash zombie thriller (rubber heart yanked out of a male dancer to serve as Ke$ha's blood cocktail), and a finale of glow-in-black-light makeup, feather mohawks, and awkward sincerity about being your own ("fucking") self.
Also, a guy came onstage in a penis costume. Ke$ha rubbed her face vigorously in the fabric testicles at his feet. The penis then waddled over to a 19-year-old from the audience -- who was plucked and seated onstage to represent the insufficiently libidinous male subject of "Grow a Pear" -- and proceeded to whack him repeatedly with the balls. The kid laughed, but the funniest part was that, along with the penis guy, there was also a dancer walking around onstage dressed in a pear costume. Yep, a pear -- that delicious fruit which, in the right context, truly resembles a bulging scrotum. (We thank you so much for pointing this out, Ke$ha.)
The music was the same buzzing, three-note disco-pop now put out by nearly every other female singer on Top 40 radio, lurching predictably between the build-up, breakdown, anthemic climax, and back around again. Ke$ha' voice, when it wasn't pitch-bent with Auto-Tune, quivered and struggled enough to let us know she was mostly really singing. The chief embarrassments, however, came the few times she donned an electric guitar and pretended to play it. Allegedly she knows how to work a six-string, but I've seen vegetarians poke fresh roadkill with more vigor and familiarity than Ke$ha had trying to strum a power chord. For most of "Fuck Him He's a DJ," she merely draped her wrist over the Les Paul fretboard like its highest function was serving as her armrest.
When her zappy synths and bloopy breakdowns got tired, there was Ke$ha's unfailingly assertive lyrics, which are always good for a hearty chuckle or a palm-slap to the face. We got: "Don't be a little bitch with your chit chat/ Just show me where your dick's at"; the gleeful refrain of "There's a party at a rich dude's house"; blushless references to her "junk"; and the Jeffrey Dahmer line in "Cannibal," the last of which issued with such conviction it was downright chilling. Somehow Ke$ha managed to proclaim "I am Cannibal" -- apparently meaning she eats/dominates boys -- with the weightiness another pop star would bring to an anthem about a fatal but unbreakable romance, or the triumph of overcoming a titanic obstacle. You know, something serious. Ke$ha summoned all that gravitas for a song that contains the line, "Now that I'm famous/You're up my anus."
Of course, Ke$ha is about as unserious as music gets, and we were never allowed to forget this. She began last night's show singing from high up on a platform, looking like the captain of some janky spaceship, wearing helicopter-pilot headphones, lighted goggles, and what appeared to be a glitter-encrusted codpiece. Her outfit evolved into a torn American flag tank top (accessorized with a guitar made to look like a rifle), and then into another cheeky black leotard with glitter-outlined skeleton.
There were tons of plastic sparkle: Glitter cannons were shot repeatedly at the audience, impregnating the air above with a million tiny reflections. Ke$ha banged a drum that spouted geysers of glitter into the air. At one point she declared that "my tits don't have enough glitter on them" and was quickly doused with gold and silver shiny stuff by her dancers. By the end, the floor of the Warfield looked like this.
Between the props, the sleazy words, the cheap tunes, and the garish outfits both onstage and off, one might find this all kind of scary: Like, what does all this gleeful immodesty portend for the future of music, culture, and humanity? Are we marching toward an all-encompassing frivolity? And will we one day face a glitter shortage?
After being kind of seduced by the unpretentious fun of Ke$ha's show last night, we're gonna go with: Yes.
Personal bias: Absolute sobriety, if that counts.
Song heard over P.A. we'd most like to forget exists: Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl."
Ke$ha to kid brought onstage for "Grow a Pear": "How old are you?"
Kid: "I'm 19."
Ke$ha screaming to crowd: "HE'S LEGAL!"