Hoopla

REVIEW: Kesha kicks up killer party

Pop star rocks U.S. Cellular Arena in free concert

CEDAR RAPIDS — Kesha has a new fan.

When the dust settles from the glitter bombs, f-bombs, streamers and confetti, the pop-rapper wraps powerful messages in her music, making a believer out of me Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.

But hey, what’s a party without glitter, streamers and confetti?

Not only did fans who waited in line all day get their money’s worth — because time is money, even when the tickets are free — U.S. Cellular got its money’s worth by bringing in the star to celebrate the company’s 30 years of bringing wireless service to the Cedar Rapids area.

The namesake U.S. Cellular Center Arena was jumping to a pulse-pounding bass even before Kesha made her dramatic entrance dressed in white from head to toe from the front view, not the rear view. Not surprising, since her bare backside graces the cover of her 2017 album, “Rainbow.”

She’s definitely not in Kansas anymore. She’s flown way over that rainbow, to a realm all her own, full of sequins and sparkles bursting beyond her darkest days of battling an eating disorder and her former producer, whom she has accused of being abusive.

Her nearly 90-minute set skipped through her body of work, with cuts from her three albums — 2010’s debut, “Animal,” 2012’s “Warrior,” 2017’s “Rainbow” — and her 2011 “Cannibal” extended play effort.

And yes, while I grew weary of all the profanity, she put on one heck of a show. It had glitz, it had glamour, it had top-flight video and lighting effects and it had a spaceship center-stage, from which she emerged and retreated for three full costume changes.

Her all-male backup band was dressed in white throughout the show, giving not only a sleek look, but a blank canvas for her sweeping, rainbow-bright light show.

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She bounces across the line between trashy and classy, but seemed genuinely sincere during the many times she thanked her “Animals,” as her fans are called. She knows how to connect with her audience musically, visually and viscerally.

She blasted onstage with one of her latest power plays, “Woman,” extolling the way she doesn’t need a man to pay her bills or hold her too tight. “I buy my own things, I pay my own bills,” and I believe her.

Then she dipped back to her debut album for “Blah Blah Blah,” telling the crowd to “get ready to get (expletive) nasty” as she unleashed her disdain for guys’ phony pickup lines. It’s nice to hear the song live, without the Auto-Tune and other electropop tricks rolled into the video and recording.

Her voice stands just fine on its own, kicked up a notch with a toss of her long blonde mane and some slick and feral dance moves mirrored by her two male dancers wearing skintight pants that remarkably didn’t burst at the seams.

She sang a dozen songs in her hit parade, each one strong enough to stand on its own, but even stronger when playing off each other.

“We R Who We R” is a call to action and inclusion for the LGBTQ community, written in response to a spate of gay teen suicides in 2010. “This song is about being yourself, about basic human rights, about basic equal human rights. I’ll stand for that until I’m six feet underground,” she told the crowd, as they worked into a fist-pumping frenzy.

That pairs nicely with “Bastards,” similar in tone but in edgy ballad form. She breathes power into her the soul-baring lyrics: “And I’m so sick of crying ... I could fight forever, oh, but life’s too short ... they won’t break my spirit, I won’t let ‘em win.”

She turns playful with “Godzilla,” finding a childlike charm in its tone, turning whimsical as one of her burly roadies strips off his shirt and struts around the stage in just his jeans and a Godzilla head.

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“Timber” ramps up the high-octane rock, and sorry Pitbull — Kesha raps just as hard without you on this 2013 collaboration.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen clothing tossed onstage, but when she told the crowd she couldn’t start singing “Take It Off” until somebody threw an item of clothing onstage, her fans were more than happy to oblige. Soon, she was showered with bras, shirts, jackets and hats as she appropriately sang: “it’s a dirty free-for-all.”

Whatever she asked for, her Animals eagerly obliged. When she said she might do a couple more songs if the audience was loud enough, an earsplitting roar that could wake the dead rattled the arena. Naturally, she obliged, with one of her strongest anthems, “Praying,” an ode to the strength she’s found to move on, while praying at night that maybe the one who did her wrong will see the light.

The biggest roar was yet to come, as she launched into the song that first shot her up the charts, her all-night party anthem “Tik Tok.” I’m pretty sure her crowd could have partied all night.

• Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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