You can tell how good a concert is by how much energy you feel in the room.
By that logic, I was clearly at a good concert earlier this week at the Lincoln Theater, where Betty Who and Kiesza performed to a packed crowed of mostly gay men.
Everyone was on their feet in the crowded theater for the near duration of the show, with both acts lasting more than two hours combined.
Confession: I had no idea who Kiesza was before the show. I’m still not even sure I know how to pronounce her stage name. I ended up at the Lincoln Theater earlier this week after buying a last-minute ticket on Craigslist because my friend is obsessed with Betty Who and had asked me to join him.
And I wasn’t the only person there who felt that way. On our way out, someone told me that he, too, was there only for Betty Who, but that Kiesza’s performance was “10 times better.”
That might be a bit of an exaggeration: Betty Who – one of the performers at last year’s Pride Festival – killed as usual. She performed a combination of her slower numbers as well as her more campy hits many will recognize, like “High Society.”
If you’re still not sure who she is, Google “Somebody Loves You gay proposal.” A large part of the performer’s fame – and a good reason for her cult popularity within the gay community – has to do with the gay marriage proposal, gone viral via YouTube, set to her song, “Somebody Loves You.”
These days, it often goes without saying that live vocal performances are nowhere near as strong as they are on the records that buffer singers’ real pipes with heavy autotune and sound editing. But Betty Who clearly offers an anomaly to that trend: Her vocals at the show were pitch-perfect and maybe even more interesting than her records.
I had already seen Betty Who perform at Pride. But the strongest portions of her show at the Lincoln Theater had more to do with her cute commentary between songs. For instance, in one of her more somber songs, she insisted on having a “moment” with a dude in the front row. She played a game with the audience, pitting each side of the theater against the other to see which group could sing the loudest. And later on, she stole someone’s phone and took selfies with the audience.
To be honest, she’s probably too big and too talented to be someone else’s opener in D.C., a city where she regularly performs, even if she isn’t exactly a household name like other female pop stars. Or if she’s relegated to being a “special guest” instead of the name at the top of the ticket, she should perform alongside bigger names like, for example, Katy Perry, who she opened for on the Australian leg of Perry’s tour.
But as an opener, she certainly did her job: By the time she blew a kiss to the audience and bounced off stage, the vibes in the room were already palpably positive, setting the stage for a high-energy Kiesza performance.
Even if you don’t know her name, you’ll recognize her biggest hit, “Hideaway,” which recently has been both a radio hit and a gay club classic. The song is catchy at best when piped in through speakers, but seeing it performed live was a jaw-dropper. As Kiesza sung, acrobats twisted and did splits on stage – but I missed a good portion of this because I was too busy looking around the theater, lit intermittently by strobe lights. Everyone was either singing or screaming, and seemed reluctant to slowly file out of the sold-out theater after Kiesza waved goodbye.
Both artists are young – Betty Who is 23 and Kiesza is 26. Their music, performance value, and substantial vocals provide the perfect response for music snobs who insist that music is dead and today’s pop can’t compare to the likes of Madonna and others from decades ago.
We bought tickets to see Betty Who, and ended up getting more than what we paid for with both artists. I didn’t compulsively download Kiesza’s album mid-concert like my friend did, but it was definitely worth his money.