By Shirley Griffith
August 2, 2018
Flood warnings and brutal looming thunderstorms couldn’t dampen the spirits of fans at PNC Music Pavilion as pop star Kesha and rapper Macklemore brought their co-headlining tour to Charlotte. Kesha and Macklemore worked together to write “Good Old Days” a track from his second solo release, Gemini, so it made sense for the two seemingly different artists to embark on a two-month tour through America.
Even with multiple charting hits under his belt, admittedly I didn’t expect Macklemore’s set to be as entertaining as it was. Crowd members went wild during the set, hanging on every word the rapper had to say, even when he spent the better part of ten minutes telling a story about Ubering to the show in a ’96 Nissan Sentra. An impressive brass ensemble and dominating live drummer supported the rapper on stage, giving the songs an animated vibrancy reflective of the electricity in the night’s impending thunderstorms. The band sailed through 2012’s hit track “Thrift Shop” before Macklemore gave an impassioned speech about equality and launched into same-sex marriage anthem “Same Love.” Equality, unity and above all, love were standout themes in both Kesha and Macklemore’s sets. Posted up around the venue were flyers announcing that portions of the show’s proceeds would go to charities; Kesha donating to RAINN and Macklemore to PLUS 1, an organization that advances racial and social justice. The set had a ton of audience participation rolled into it, people caught hot dogs Macklemore threw into the crowd, two fans were called up to do a live dance-off where a guy did an entire dance evolution from the worm to the Backpack Kid dance. The highlight came when two members found a golden ticket under their respective seats to sit on an inflated on-stage air mattress during the track “Willy Wonka” which featured Macklemore in full orange top hat and proper Wonka garb. The rapper was charming, comfortable and genuine throughout his performance.
The outdoor amphitheater, which is half covered and half lawn, was probably not the most ideal arena for the evening as ominous thunderstorms brought lightning and torrential rainfall before, during, and after the concert. Between sets, an announcement was made that anyone with a lawn ticket should vacate the venue and return to their cars which, as you can imagine, caused quite the indignant uproar among accusations of classism. Audience members would not bend and hunkered themselves down under whatever cover they could find to wait out the approximate 30-minute lightning scare.
The set design morphed from Macklemore’s tropical, cookout-style backyard to a massive crash-landed UFO and Kesha, in a lavishly oversized, iridescent jacket descended onto the stage to deafening screams. Taking every opportunity to flip the bird, the singer commanded the venue during “Woman” and quickly rolled through 2010’s Animal hit “Blah Blah Blah.” With feigned coy help from her backup dancers, dressed all in white, Kesha unclasped her chaps expressing that she didn’t feel her ass was out quite enough. The singer donned a beautiful white cape, and said “Ass out, cape on, we’re not fucking around anymore” then exploded into “We R Who We R” also from her Animal era, a song about living your life freely and being proud of who you are. Macklemore was brought out for “Good Old Days” and the nostalgically aware song quickly delved into an emotionally charged hymnal when thousands of people sung it in unison, taking in the exactness of a single moment. Strapping on a giant white guitar, Kesha rolled right along into Pitbull collaboration track “Timber” where she rapped Pitbull’s verses without missing a beat. Her backup dancers are multi-talented, incorporating beats and drumline techniques that The Blue Man Group would be envious of.
Worried about the storm encroaching on her set time, Kesha went into “Die Young” and “Your Love Is My Drug” before encouraging the crowd to take off their clothes and throw them onto the stage for sleaze ball free-for-all hit “Take It Off.” She received a mountain of clothes, like a rainbow shirt with EQUALITY blazoned on it, underwear with her name embroidered in gold across the butt, superhero capes and tons of bras which were hung proudly on the golden mic stand and her guitarists tuning pegs. Sleaze and glitter in full effect, “Blow” queued up, a sassy nod to the weather and when she ordered into the crowd, “throw some glitter, make it rain” the audience’s frustrations with the downpour turn into a full-fledged celebration. Confetti cannons drizzled long white streamers and the set wound down to prepare for the encore. Emerging in an all-white angelic jacket, Kesha toed into “Praying,” a stunning, tearjerker ballad about rising above and overcoming your oppressors by finding power and healing in yourself. Thousands of people longingly singing together “I hope you find your peace, falling on your knees” was an allied moment in time anyone in the crowd won’t soon forget.
Kesha took a minute to thank the crowd by saying “Thank you for waiting, thank you for being so patient” and you get the sense that she wasn’t just talking about waiting out the storm. She was alluding to the way her devoted fans waited for her between albums, during her legal battles, and have always stood beside her, patiently radiating love. Again citing the inclement weather, Kesha cut a deal with the crowd that this will be her last song but the audience is obligated to go absolutely bananas with her. Switching from the ethereal white jacket to a rainbow sequined one and wrapping a rainbow confetti cannon around her, the audience lost it to “Tik Tok.” Glitter, extended hands, and pink paper pulsed in the air before the house music, Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” ushered people safely back to their cars.
Check out the remaining tour dates for the Kesha and Macklemore tour.