Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Live Review: Ke$ha at the L.A. County Fair (with Semi Precious Weapons)

The Los Angeles County Fair is a symphony of runway noises, marble-mouthed barkers ("ouinnah, ouinnah, chickedinnah"), and screams from patrons atop remarkably vertical loopy rides, and, last Saturday, the roaring synths and electric guitars at Ke$ha's all-live and all-fun solo concert as part of the Toyota End of Summer Concert Series and the pop star's ongoing Warrior Tour.

The LA County Fair is an overpriced substitute for Disneyland that runs the month of September at the historic fairgrounds in Pomona, but it does drag a lot of folks in; it was easy to spot fellow Animals in their glitter and ripped stockings. After a burger-and-fries meal for two ($28) and a small cotton candy ($4), a friend and I made our way via the table-setting competition (sample judges' notes: "tablecloth too small for table"; "dessert fork on left placement facing wrong direction") to the racetrack grandstands where a small stage was set up for two hours of rock and fun ($25 apiece, plus $10 for Fair admission since we bought through Ralph's).

The night started right on time with opening act Semi Precious Weapons. A veteran of Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour, the pop-rock band plays Ke$ha-friendly party anthems with familiar themes ("don't bring us down," "I need a drink") and an effervescent frontman, the wiry Justin Tranter. Tranter, with bleach blonde bowl cut and wearing tux shirt and slacks, sang with vigor and pizazz, and midway through the set smartly offered up free swag in the form of t-shirts with the titles of their next two songs emblazoned on them, which is why I (and much of the audience, I imagine) still remember the titles. "Aviation High" is the most memorable, even if it is a dead ringer for Rihanna's "Diamonds"; I suggest if you weren't a fan of the latter you might try the former and see if, like me, you like it better.

Ke$ha's set was sleek and efficient, although it didn't skimp on content. Four dancers wore costumes ranging from ninja (complete with swords) to go with the "Warrior" theme of the latest album; tube tops, daisy dukes and blonde curly wigs; chickens and tigers; and dancing eyeballs with canes. Ke$ha herself had three outfits, the first a dazzling blue-green sparkled leotard and floral headdress (and she looked dead sexy too, with hair you wouldn't believe) to daisy dukes, bandanna and crop top (nice rack) to leather and gold leotard. At one point she "urinated" from a water bottle onto bemused security staff and later bludgeoned a poor unicorn piñata to death as her dancers flung the confetti inside toward front-row fans.

Ke$ha bludgeons a unicorn pinata to death at the LA County Fair
Ke$ha continues her assault on the unicorn race at the LA County Fair
The entire set was performed live, from the vocals (helped out by two game keyboardists/backup vocalists) to the music behind them itself, which meant sometimes we were treated to very different renditions of electropop hits like "TiK ToK," "Crazy Kids," and "Blow," although the latter did devolve into the Cirkut remix near the end. She proclaimed "Dirty Love" to be her favorite song from Warrior, and performed a new second verse instead of Iggy Pop's on the album, although I didn't catch the lyrics. It was nice to look around the crowd and see everyone singing along to the hits as well as bonus tracks like "Gold Trans-Am," and as she performed singles like "C'Mon," "Your Love Is My Drug," and "Blah Blah Blah," I realized how hard it is to sing along with her rapid-patter sung-spoken verses, making her success with those songs (some more than others) all the more impressive.

The crowd was with her all the way, and was quite supportive of the opening act as well. Some people didn't seem to be familiar with the tradition of the encore, and were halfway out of the stands when she returned to perform Warrior's only mega- (if short-lived) hit, the aptly named "Die Young." The Warrior campaign may not have been as big a success as it could have been, but her appearance at the Los Angeles County Fair last weekend suggests there's hope for Ke$ha still, and that the public may react to her next outing like those throngs heading to the exit: surprised yet delighted to stick around and hear more.

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