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Kesha’s Rainbow Tour marks homecoming, evolution

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

By Marissa Gaston, Studio M staff //

The last time Kesha headlined in Nashville, she spelled her name with a dollar sign.

Four years later, the singer made her debut at the historic Ryman Auditorium Sept. 27 on the second stop of her Rainbow Tour, a long-awaited accomplishment for the Nashville native.

“This is a dream come true … I’ve wanted to play this venue since I was a little girl,” Kesha said. “I know Bob Dylan has been on this stage.”

🌟✨Playing @TheRyman was one of my biggest dreams and now one of the highlights of my career 🌈thank you🎉so honored 🙏😭 📸@JasonMyersPhoto — kesha (@KeshaRose) September 28, 2017

The concert sold out almost instantly as new and old fans alike vied for the chance to witness the star’s return.

“I have been a Kesha fan since the start,” said Lizzie Keiper, a user support manager at GoNoodle from Brentwood. “But I’ve never actually seen her live, so I’m really excited to see her come and play my favorite venue in Nashville.”

Surprisingly, the chart-topper has played very few shows in the city she calls home. Her last tour stop in Nashville was in 2011 on the Get $leazy Tour — aside from a secret show last December with her pop-up band Yeast Infection. Of course, her journey to the Mother Church was a long time coming.

“When I saw she was playing the Ryman, I knew I had to see this show, being from Nashville and being from Tennessee myself. I mean, any hometown show is the most beautiful show of the whole tour,” said Will Oliver, 24, a makeup artist who drove from Johnson City to attend the concert alone. Oliver said that’s how he prefers to experience shows, but this one was especially worth a weeknight trip. “Kesha changed my life … What she’s been through and what she’s managed to overcome just relates a lot to my story.”

After the release of third studio album “Warrior,” Kesha’s personal life unfolded before the public. Following a stint in rehab for an eating disorder, the singer was propelled into a public legal battle with her former producer and alleged abuser Dr. Luke that forced her into an involuntary hiatus from music.

On July 6, Kesha released “Praying,” a deeply personal ballad that hit over 1 million views and was trending on Twitter. The upbeat track “Woman” came up next, proving that she was far from done and generating buzz for the album. “Rainbow” was released Aug. 11 and debuted at number one on the Billboard’s 200 Albums Chart.

“I run my s–t now,” the singer said onstage to a raucous crowd .

The star took the stage, which was set against a backdrop of billowing rainbow curtains and bright marquee lights, wearing a custom lime green suit complete with patchwork and embroidery.

Moments before, self-described “underground rock group from Nashville, Tennessee” Savoy Motel powered through a shaky opening set plagued by poor sound, setlist confusion and technical difficulties. Their psychedelic, ‘70s sound punctuated by haunting “oohs” and ad libs were surprisingly original, but the band seemed just as detached from the performance as the audience.

Kesha revived the energy with a lively, choreographed performance of “Woman.”The eclectic crowd that danced and hollered in response was a representation of her artistic reach since she first hit the mainstream in 2010 with her party-girl antics: men with glitter beards, girls with matching airbrushed T-shirts, countless fans donning rainbow paraphernalia and numerous couples — some covered in glitter, others not.

A post shared by Clint Brown (@cbrowngz) on Sep 27, 2017 at 7:37pm PDT

However, there was a palpable sense of evolution as dance tracks and deep cuts, such as “Let ‘Em Talk” and “We R Who We R,” melted into tender, emotional songs like “Godzilla.” Her mom, Pebe Sebert, wrote the song and joined her onstage to perform it. The singer took breaks between songs to thank fans for their patience and loyalty and share insights into the making of the album.

waiting for my spaceship to come back to me. special moment with — 🦋 (@flwrnat) September 28, 2017

She recalled sitting on the floor of a treatment facility four years ago, writing lyrics to a song what would eventually be the title track of the album, “Rainbow.” Back then, she said, playing the Ryman seemed like some far-off fantasy.

“Now it’s my personal life mission to spread as much love and equality and rock ‘n’ roll,” she said.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night came when she closed out her set list with a tearful performance of “Praying.”

After a couple encore performances, the singer, who declared her shows a safe space for all religions, minorities, DREAMers and anyone in between, draped a pride flag over her shoulders and sang “Bastards,” an acoustic ode to perseverance.

“It’s inspiring to see someone who has struggled and has similar struggles (as you do), and to watch them thrive so much,” Oliver said. “Just to watch someone really just be at their best in their hometown, be able to really pull through all that in such a public eye.”

Marissa Gaston is a senior studying journalism at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter at @mrmarissalea.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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