Ke$ha Kills Modesty, Subtlety with a Glitter Gun at the Warfield

Categories: Last Night

Richard Haick
Ke$ha at the Warfield

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.

Richard Haick

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.

Richard Haick

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.

Richard Haick

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.

Richard Haick
The Market Street aftermath

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Absolute sobriety, if that counts.

Song heard over P.A. we'd most like to forget exists: Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl."

Best dialogue:

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!"

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Location Info



Warfield Theatre

982 Market, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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this show sold out months and months ago. i happened to see reviews of shows in other cities in both Entertainment Weekly, Spin and the New York Times which persuaded me to absolutely scour ebay and craigslist to find tickets to the Warfield to catch it because of what I read (for instance Spin called it something like "good sleazy fun" or something and EW said "she put on an amazing show from the opening number to the two encores." i have to say, i'm so glad i did even though those tickets cost me a mint. i'm a 47 year old heterosexual man. i'm not the target market. at all. but she knocked my socks off. the show was incredibly joyful and fun. it was unpretentious and it was so interesting i never made it to the bar. not once. i was captivated and i have to say Ian you don't know what you're talking about where musical performance is concerned. i have a masters in musical performance from berklee. believe me i understand a good vocal and whether or not someone is playing guitar. i taught guitar for 22 years. her vocal was spot on. i think you just couldn't hear past the effect on the vocal but that's the fault of your ears not her voice. for instance she was basically a dry vocal (meaning totally or nearly effect-less) for the two more ballad type numbers of her set and if you couldn't hear her vocal perfection there i don't know what to tell you except maybe just write about what you know in the future (which ain't live music performance). and i know she was also playing those guitars. no she wasn't the lead player and what she was doing didn't require she do it throughout the song and when not playing yes i too saw her resting her arms on the body of the gibson but i've seen the same thing from guitar greats when they're in charge not of the lead lines but the more rhythmic parts or accent parts of a song. i'm thrilled i went. i hear she's doing more touring in the summer or fall and i have to say - i'm looking online as soon as i post this comment for my tickets and i'm buying one for all of my friends and their wives/husbands. this time i won't get raped by scalpers on ebay. and i am already looking forward to another "party" with kesha where i don't even have a moment to go get a drink, nor do i want to. can't say i've seen a show in a LONG time that i didn't at some point hear my body begging for a bar break. but this show was way too interesting for that. this was musical theater.


it was obvious the point of the show was to have fun i hope we all did but ke$sha is a recording artist not a performing artist... there were way to many luls between great songs

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