Pride festivities in downtown Minneapolis two weekends ago were off the hook as usual, but thanks to Kesha, another big, rainbow-tinted festival took place Saturday night at a rather unusual place, Mystic Lake Casino Hotel.
The Los Angeles pop-rock singer/songwriter played up her messages of inclusivity and self-love to a beautifully diverse, largely under-30 crowd of about 10,000 fans outside the casino and hotel complex in Prior Lake. This wasn’t your buffet-angling grandmother’s kind of casino concert.
Part of her ongoing Rainbow Tour — which just wrapped a month of dates with Macklemore — Kesha’s show was the first date in Mystic Lake’s summer “amphitheater” series. Unlike competitor Treasure Island’s newly cemented venue, Mystic’s outdoor concert space is still just a grassy field without any permanent infrastructure and with much poorer concession stands. You’d think a casino would know that extra-long beer lines are a good way to lose easy money.
At least it didn’t rain on Kesha’s parade-like performance, during which she changed outfits once for every three or four songs and proved all the more Cher-like with her deadpan humor and queenly attitude.
“My natural habitat is in a cape,” she told the crowd, donning a spangly white wrap for the disco-y “Boogie Feet” following her rocky, F-bomb-laced opener “Woman.”
Before her chant-filled third song “We R Who We R,” the 31-year-old ringleader mentioned June’s pride events like a party guest who wants the bash to keep going all night.
“I think every day of the year is Pride,” she said to cheers, “but technically it’s the last day of the month, so we should go extra hard. Pride is never over.”
How colorful and prideful did Saturday’s show get? Just before the encore, Kesha noticed a rather conspicuously shaped, gold-painted papier-mache object coming toward the stage from the audience for her to autograph.
“Where did you hide a 5-foot gold penis during the rest of the show?” she asked the crafty audience member. Then she tacked on a question with possible Freudian implications: “Is it a piñata?”
While Kesha’s fun persona and powerhouse voice both shone bright, they couldn’t hide her weakest trait: Nine years into her career, she still lacks enough strong material to round out a solid headlining performance.
Saturday’s set only clocked in at 80 minutes, and that included a lot of time eaten up by banter (and autographing). She also filled the time nicely with one cover song, a compelling if a bit overwrought version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
And still several of the dozen songs in the show wouldn’t qualify as filler on many other top pop acts’ albums. Among the dreck were the pop-punk throwaway “Die Young” and the elementary-school-basic “Take It Off,” which openly lifts its melody from “The Streets of Cairo” (“There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance …”)
“Timber” also felt a bit superfluous, though she certainly deserves as much credit for making it a megahit as the guy who issued the song, Pitbull (coincidentally due to perform at Mystic Lake’s amphitheater on Tuesday).
As was the case with her KDWB Jingle Ball appearance in December, Kesha’s encore performance of her now-ubiquitous power ballad “Praying” was the showstopping moment, her voice breaking slightly with emotion and prompting cheers as a result.
The similarly soulful strummer “Bastards” in the middle of the set also showed she’s hottest when she’s not trying so hard to ignite a party atmosphere. To her credit, though, Saturday’s concert still came off like a party to remember, especially for the person who went home with the autographed phallic prop.