Review: Ke$ha at the Pageant, Tuesday, February 22

click to enlarge Review: Ke$ha at the Pageant, Tuesday, February 22
Todd Owyoung

Forget what you know - or think - about Ke$ha, the sleazy pop sensation everyone loves to hate. Her very-sold-out show at the Pageant was full of ridiculous spectacle, with generous doses of camp and schlock thrown in for good measure. And oh yes, don't worry - there was glitter. And keytars.

View a slideshow of photos from Ke$ha at the Pageant

The stage set was industrial-looking and sparse, a cross between Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation and parts of Lady Gaga's Monster Ball. Ke$ha's band and back-up singers were somewhat obscured by caged wire; the skeezy diva herself had an elevated mad-scientist's lair full of synths, electric drums and other goodies smack dab in the middle of the stage. During "Dirty Picture" she conjured creepy with a theremin; for "Take It Off," she unveiled a KAOSS pad (the effects sampler that musicians often use to create scribbled-like sounds), placed it right over her crotch and gyrated and thrusted. A glowing parallelogram of tubing framed this enclave, a futuristic match for her glittery silver leotard.

click to enlarge Review: Ke$ha at the Pageant, Tuesday, February 22
Todd Owyoung

Later in the set, Ke$ha descended to the stage, grabbed a mic and showed off that she can actually sing. While the background singers, dancers and musical accompaniment created sensory overload - if it wasn't throbbing techno and blinding strobes or rock guitars, it was laser-beam synthpop and manipulated robotics - her clear vocals frequently rose above the din. "Backstabber" was power-pop kitsch featuring dancers in drag; "Blah Blah Blah" was 8-bit gasket-blowing with cheerful digital bleeps. A collection of slower songs near the end of the set wasn't quite as successful, however. "The Harold Song" was weak and thin, and the Broadway-sappy "Animal" sounded a bit like Alanis Morissette gone techno.

Still, Ke$ha is a natural performer who seems entirely comfortable on the stage; she never looked awkward or tentative. This confidence is a large part of her popularity, especially among teenage girls - she's carefree and careless in a way that's very appealing. She has the tough attitude so many adolescents wish they had, as they navigate dating, social minefields and teenage boys. For all of her party-girl poses, Ke$ha is an idol because she's fun, fearless and doesn't take shit from anyone.

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