Kesha Is Defiant, Triumphant & Tearful in Brooklyn 'F--- the World' Tour Stop

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Ke$ha performs during the 2016 "Global Citizen: The World on Stage" concert at Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 22, 2016 in New York City.  

Kesha might not have her freedom yet -- her legal battle with Dr. Luke drags on in New York court -- but on her F--- the World Tour, it's clear she has an abundance of two things every pop star needs to survive: A fervent base of supportive fans, and a hell of a lot of talent.

When Kesha and the Creepies -- her stylistically malleable backing band -- hit the intimate Brooklyn venue Warsaw on Thursday night, Kesha demonstrated within minutes that she's a legitimate live force. While many pop stars rely on glossy, big-budget stage productions to cover up for a lack of live charisma, Kesha actually flourishes in this scaled-down setting. She seems more herself fronting a band than a troupe of backup dancers.

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Dressed as a glitzy cowgirl but prowling the stage like a seasoned rocker, Kesha Rose channeled Axl Rose while singing the ferocious show opener "We R Who We R" before strapping on a guitar to play "Your Love Is My Drug." Like most of her songs on the F--- the World Tour, those dance-pop singles were reworked as rock tracks and delivered with country bar band swagger by the Creepies.

Detractors who dismissed her music as disposable over the years would be shocked to realize how durable her material can be: She bellows on "Blow," does it honky-tonk style on "Timber" and recasts "Till the World Ends" -- the song she co-wrote for Britney Spears -- as an ominous dirge from another dimension. Her voice, which doesn't often get the chance to shine on her studio tracks, is demonstrably powerful and versatile in a small concert setting. It's hard to imagine many other pop stars fronting a rock band without getting lost; Kesha, however, takes to it like it's her destiny.

There was only one part of the night where Kesha seemed to be holding back -- when addressing her ongoing legal battle. But while Dr. Luke wasn't mentioned by name, he was certainly alluded to.

"Anything outside of these four walls doesn't matter tonight," Kesha said at the start of her show. "I'm talking about rent. I'm talking about homework. I'm talking about your shitty ex-boyfriend. I'm talking about my lawsuit. F--- that!"

Later in the night, Kesha stopped to respond to screams of love from the audience. "I miss you guys, too. I love you guys," she said, breaking off and turning away for a moment. "You made me cry," she said, pulling a tear away from her eye while her voice faltered. "Thank you for standing with me through all this." She was quickly met with a wall of "Kesha" and "Free Kesha" chants, followed quickly by "f--- him, f--- him," over and over. Not losing sight of the ongoing lawsuit, Kesha, still teary, smiled and simply said, "No comment."

She did, however, tease the existence of new material: "I can't share my new music with you, and I can't wait for that. Pray that day will come."

In lieu of new songs, she delivered a series of compelling covers, from Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing" ("My favorite song of all time" she said) to Dolly Parton's "Jolene" to the Bob Dylan-penned "I Shall Be Released" to the country standard her mother, Pebe Sebert, wrote, "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You."

During a defiant cover of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me," a song seemingly tailor-made for her, she delivered her most pointed barb of the night. Changing the line "Don't say I can't go with other boys" to "Don't say I can't write songs with other boys," Kesha managed a dig at her ongoing adversary without deigning to drop his name. (Another insult-via-lyric-change happened during her raucous "Tik Tok": "Boys try to touch my junk, junk / f--- you Donald Trump, Trump," she spat.)

Its title aside, Kesha's F--- The World Tour is low on cynicism. Oh, there's anger -- but it fuels a fiery urge to succeed and prove everyone wrong -- whether it's courtroom foes, people who want to pigeonhole her as a victim, or those who doubt her abilities as an artist.

Despite the sizable number of punk acts who've exhorted followers to 'f--- the world' over the years, Kesha probably has a better excuse to take up the mantle of defeated nihilism contained in those three words than most of them. And yet she remains hopeful, her eye on the future while recasting her past hits in a way that makes them sound better than ever before.

Regardless of what happens in court, Kesha has already won.

Set List

We R Who We R
Your Love Is My Drug
Dinosaur
You Don't Own Me
Nightclubbing
Till the World Ends
Blow
Boots & Boys
Cannibal
Take It Off
Tik Tok

Encore

Timber
Jolene
Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You
I Shall Be Released