Attending a Kesha concert in 2023 without some knowledge of the legal battles she was tied up in throughout the last decade is impossible – and she knows it too. Instead of opening her show in Orlando, Florida with the smash hit ‘Tik Tok’ or the diamond-selling ‘Timber’ like she may have several years ago, she takes to the stage belting out ‘Only Love Can Save Us Now’, a liberating anthem from her latest album ‘Gag Order’. “Not anymore bitch,” she shouts to a crowd erupting with applause after singing a lyric about getting sued over her mother’s tweets. The moment, despite being brief, is reflective of the apparent theme of ‘The Only Love Tour’ – freedom.
Instead of making the night a reflection of her trauma, Kesha opts to treat her thousands of fans packing out the Hard Rock Live in Orlando on 20 October to a celebration of her life and music. Against a minimalistic backdrop on stage made up of some elevated platforms and an array of ever changing coloured lights, she effortlessly ploughs through some of her biggest hits alongside the favourites that are beloved by fans. It’s no surprise that they sing the lyrics to classics like ‘Take It Off’ and ‘Your Love is My Drug’ the loudest, though Kesha slots them into her setlist so effortlessly that you’d never know they were once defining moments in her career.
Camp choreography is sprinkled throughout the set, helping to make songs like ‘Cannibal’ and ‘Die Young’ highlights of the evening because of Kesha’s ability to not take herself too seriously. ‘Raising Hell’ shows this best, given that she dons a hilarious nun costume while performing the iconic Big Freedia collab. It’s indicative of a Kesha seemingly re-energised by her newfound freedom as she never stops to take her foot off the gas from the moment she takes the stage.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments where the show slows down and feels more intimate. Kesha plays both the piano and guitar during the middle of her set, resulting in very special performances of both ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Hymn’ – the latter of which is met with a sea of flashlights waving in the air. If that’s not enough for you, then maybe a surprise cover of ‘Till the World Ends’ by Britney Spears (a song originally written by Kesha) will be – particularly when she switches gears midway and dances around the stage as she transitions from piano to upbeat instrumental. “I got to write an amazing song for an amazing woman who is also celebrating her freedom,” she told the crowd. “I fucking love that she is telling her truth right now!”
The lesser known album tracks such as ‘Backstabber’ and ‘Hate Me Harder’ – which are among the few non-singles Kesha performs on the tour – appear to be some of the most appreciated by fans, making it a shame that more aren’t featured in the setlist. In fact, the only negative of ‘The Only Love Tour’ is that it has to end. Throwing in an extra song or two from ‘Gag Order’ would have gone a long way in satisfying those who adore the record and what it represents.
Regardless, an encore made up of fan favourite ‘Praying’ and LGBTQIA+ anthem ‘We R Who We R’ bring the show to an epic end. The former gives Kesha a chance to show off her vocals one last time and is by far the standout performance of the night, with the latter having the added touch of Pride flags flown around stage by dancers.
So, whether you go to ‘The Only Love Tour’ to cry, party or both, it’s impossible to leave disappointed. It’s less of a show and more like a complete liberation, which Kesha is clearly ready to celebrate.
GAY TIMES gives Kesha’s new tour 5/5 stars.