Seeing Pitbull and Ke$ha Tuesday night at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre was like that awkward moment when you’re hanging out with a couple, and you really want to pull the guy aside and tell him like it is.
You’re too good for her, man.
Here’s the thing: The last time Ke$ha was here (and hot off her hits), she wowed with a strong show that was fun and campy, but it was also a smaller stage. This time, it was hot and outdoors – as she whined several times, requesting a beer – and the pop star seemed a bit manic to throw out as much raunch as possible to fill the void.
The men dressed in penis costumes with testicles at their feet, the drag queens humping a parade float-sized hippo and upside-down legs in lace-up boots or pole-dancing while she showered fake money on them. Sigh. It was all just a bit tired.
Not to mention that her voice hit strong at times, and then took a painful nasal turn at others. It’s her strong suit, and that added to the wearying barrage of stories between songs meant to endear us – “So I was at this party and everyone started taking their clothes off, I don’t know how it is that that always happens to me, everyone around me always wants to take off their clothes” – just made it more painful to listen to her.
The telling point was that after she brought us up and down repeatedly – I hope never again to have to get through “Machine Gun Love,” a new and sadly monotonous song, but “Your Love Is My Drug” was a dance romp — the crowd did indeed go “apeshit” as she promised for “TiK ToK,” and we thought she was done. As we all sat and began chatting, a creepy video of her writhing in a tub started playing (was it the filler between shows?), but after a few minutes of this confusion, her dancers came out again with drums.
Oh, no! She’s back! Reluctantly, everyone got up again and half-heartedly clapped, but this was not the raucous encore clapping one normally gets. She did try to pump us back up again for “Die Young,” from her new release “Warrior,” and left us with, “I hope you all get laid tonight,” but girlfriend felt played out.
The Jump Smokers were a good palate-cleanser before Pitbull, who took the party the Chicago DJs started to the next level. Pitbull is rap’s own personal trainer – when he looks out into the audience in his black suit and sunglasses and says, “Give it to me,” you get those hands in the air and you jump, jump, jump.
The man is not shy about sharing his philosophy, and it’s not crude. “Pasos cortos, visión larga,” he says his madre told him, and so he lives by “Short steps, long vision.” He knows the haters hate, but he refuses to listen.
Of course, the man gets nasty. He gets freaky. But it’s sexy. It’s fine. His dancers – four of them, in a rotation of leotards black, white and red – rotated around him for about half of the songs, and they did the faux-grind toward him or approached for a playful pretend slap on the rump.
But Pit, as he calls himself, was really all about the music. His 75-minute set was a solid sound wall of mash-ups, snippets of his hits interwoven with bits from other players and his own cheery wisdom, while in the background, videos of the artists who usually sing them with him alternated with laser lights darting out at the crowd to created a club vibe.
For instance, he “loves, loves, loves” Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” pairing it with his hit “Live It Up,” with Jennifer Lopez – talking about how songs like that make him remember how you have to take bad things and make them better, and put “Sweet Child O’Mine” with “Rain Over Me,” a Marc Anthony match-up that was part fist-pumper and part bittersweet crooner.
Other highlights included “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Culo,” as well as “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) from the Beastie Boys leading into Pitbull’s own “Don’t Stop the Party.”
The rapper stayed connected with the primarily Latino crowd, giving a shout out to the many flags and hand-written signs – “I see Colombia. I see Venezuela…Nicaragua. Honduras. Brazil…Panama…” – and then sang and spoke in Spanish, as well.
The night wound down with “Hotel Room Service,” the newer “Feel This Moment,” his recent release with Christina Aguilera,” and then he sent out a classy thank you for his first big hit, “Give Me Everything,” with Ne-Yo and Nayer.
Poor Pitbull. He and Ke$ha are only halfway through the tour. But wait, what was that he said at one point about the haters?
“I learned a long time ago, I got to turn a negative into a positive.”
Kyle Wagner is a regular contributor to Reverb and travel editor at The Denver Post.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.