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Review: Pitbull, Ke$ha deliver pop power, spectacle and excess at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre



You hear the name Pitbull and sometimes forget how truly dominant a force he's been on Top 40 radio for the past five years.

But at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater Friday night it became abundantly clear. He and Ke$ha, as co-headliners of a world tour, drew two very different but no less fervent crowds to Tampa to gyrate and jump like they were at a rave for three hours.

When Pitbull came out to close the show, there were no costume changes, huge props or any other razzle dazzle that fills in the gaps of the other artists' shows.

For 90 minutes, the Miami rapper stood center stage and cranked out 26, count 'em, 26 top 40 hits.

A classic big-band set with a full slate of musicians, including a saxophonist, began to play as a black-suited Pitbull appeared on the stage to perform his opener Hey Baby featuring T-Pain. It would be a running theme of the evening that Pitbull would perform a song featuring the voice of another artist who was not present. His stage show deftly dealt with that deficit by playing video clips of the missing artists and letting the crowd sing the choruses to their hearts content.

On big hits Give Me Everything, featuring Ne-Yo, and Feel This Moment, featuring Christina Aguilera, the effect was magical, as the instant camaraderie built between neighbors as they turned to sing in each other's faces.

For his part, Pitbull's breath control was above average for a rapper, and he managed to maintain coherence for the entire set. But where he really showed his greatest asset was the Spanish language section of the show, where he whipped out classics like Culo, Bon Bon, and Sube Las Manos Pa Arriba. His voice and performance in Spanish is so smooth and charismatic, you're left wondering if there isn't a little something lost translation.

Before Pitbull took the stage a different kind of party scared the pants off of unsuspecting parents of Ke$ha fans.

She warned us all about 40 minutes too late.

"And now s--- is about to get really weird," Ke$ha calmly intoned as a giant inflatable pig and a pair of disembodied legs wearing white go-go boots rose from the stage. Your Love Is My Drug started to play as her male dancers rushed the stage wearing stripper drag, penis costumes, a furry beaver getup, a unicorn mask, chicken suit and a very interesting rabbit outfit complete with leather jacket and flag bandana.

At this point, it wasn't even shocking. Every minute of Ke$ha's hourlong set was about something. This moment was about having the most fun ever in life. Her hit Tik Tok ended in a sloppy kickline of smiling people falling all over one another and laughing hysterically.

The sentiment was so infectious parents who'd probably felt duped as the f-bombs started to drop in the second minute of the show were tapping their toes.

Out of the gate, she appealed to her bullied-for-being-themselves "animals" with anthemic, stadium worthy versions of Crazy Kids and We R Who We R.

A white electric guitar set off her glittery onesie as she struck a rock star pose for the teeming horde covered in glitter in the pit.

Her backing band was solid though both Ke$ha and the musicians relied on the backing track heavily. Her keyboardists harmonized well on the songs where Ke$ha deigned to stretch her vocal legs. like the Iggy Pop-penned Dirty Love. where she turned in a near flawless, campy '80s pop tart performance.

The raunch factor was high throughout the set, increasing as the show went on and finally losing control during Take It Off when male dancers (dressed like female strippers) grinded on the singer as she sat on a chair and then simulated oral sex complete with foamy spit take.

Her last song, Die Young was prefaced with a video clip that could be interpreted as a tribute to the late Sharon Tate, as Ke$ha, wearing '60s mod and flower-child outfits, runs from a tattooed man in a horse mask with with a weird-looking pig arm. But you don't feel the imminent danger in the creepy scene because Ke$ha smiles even as she flees in the video. Disturbing images for anyone familiar with the gruesome details of Sharon Tate's murder by the Manson family in the '60s. But for fans at a Ke$ha concert, it was just shy of high art. None of them expect to die young. They just plan to live like there's no tomorrow, being themselves at all times and partying like it's their job.

That's what Ke$ha and Pitbull want. And for three hours, they succeeded.

-- Robbyn Mitchell, tbt*

[Last modified: Saturday, June 29, 2013 8:18am]


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