Photos: Courtesy, Walmart AMP
From the first choreographed middle finger salute to the neon light-wrapped confetti cannon she hosed down the crowd with, Kesha’s dueling layers played against themselves during her Monday night co-headlining gig at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. She was at times angry, other times full of schlocky pop nonsense. She was lighthearted and then sometimes serious.
Her duality was in no sharper contrast than during her two-song encore, which was delivered to a packed house of about 10,000 screaming fans. She played the near-ballad “Praying,” a call for healing and change. She followed that song with the evening’s closer, the smash hit “Tik Tok,” which encourages a nonstop party.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
What: Chicago and REO Speedwagon
When: 7 p.m. June 26
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: Remaining seats start at $36.50
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or visit arkansasmusicpavilion.com for information.
The softer, more emotive side of Kesha cracked through her party hearty exterior a few times, like when she gushed about Dolly Parton before offering a slowed-down take of “Jolene.” But Kesha had no plans to lull anyone to sleep. She opened the night with “Woman,” complete with a choreographed middle finger salute featuring herself and two backup singers/dancers. There was no radio-friendly version of her songs this evening, and I suspect many of the young girls in attendance for their first concert were politely reminded by their parents that some of the words Kesha used on stage are not to be repeated at home.
Back and forth she went between these ideas. Despite the song’s steely title, Kesha strummed her way through the melodic “Bastards,” an uplifting number on the verge of being a country song. Then, back to the party, she refused to continue the show and perform the song “Take If Off” until articles of clothing, and particularly a bra, were thrown onto the stage by members of the audience. A half dozen bras found their way to the stage.
That was the story of the night. Not the disrobing in particular, but just how obliging the crowd was for Kesha, her co-headliner, Macklemore, and also their opener, the pop/rap vocalist Wes Period. When the crowd was asked to jump, they jumped. Or turn on their phone lights, or wave their arms, or sing a song very loudly. Whatever the request, the crowd heeded the call.
Macklemore used the enthusiasm to his advantage, too, and brought his own supply of energy. He played just 10 songs in his 70-minute performance, augmenting his stage time with banter and antics. For instance, he asked the crowd to search for golden tickets under their seats. The two winners were brought onstage and put on an air mattress. Macklemore then came out in a purple jacket and an orange hat and dropped the song “Willy Wonka” while bouncing on the same mattress as his fans. He later threw a hotdog to a fan, telling him it was one he grilled before the concert. It looked suspiciously like one you could have purchased from the AMP concession stands. His show was hardly an undercard, and it featured a full backing band and big-time aesthetics, including a grass lawn and palm trees. Kudos to the crew (a mix of the traveling tour group and locals, I suspect) for tearing down his elaborate setup and replacing it with Kesha’s multi-tiered backdrop in quick order.
Photos: Courtesy, Walmart AMP
Macklemore’s set was highly choreographed as well, complete with multiple costume changes and a healthy dose of onstage pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure. That the choreography extended so deep into his set, and remained in-sync for the duration of it, shows how slickly produced “The Adventures of Kesha and Macklemore” tour is, right down to the corporate-sponsored official hashtag for the evening. Photos uploaded with that hashtag were shared on video boards when Macklemore came out to join Kesha for their collaboration “Good Old Days.”
Monday’s show was a frenzy of footwork, rainbow colors and confetti. I yearned for a bit more substance – between the two artists, there were only 23 songs performed, and that struck me as light.
But pop music is escapism, and that was a focus of this tour. All three performers went out of their way to discuss marginalized groups and extend welcoming salutations. Kesha went as far as to say she might not have a career without the support of the LGBT community. She got a roar of approval when she wished everyone a happy pride month.
Her spoken message was to be the person you want to be. Which is the one she showed, too. You can be sensitive AND blast people with a confetti cannon, if that’s your dream.