A pop star in concert sparks opulent images of 19-year-old Britney Spears writhing around with a snake and Madonna imitating Marie Antoinette, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Kelly Clarkson performed at Radio City Music Hall without her shoes on.
And while the casual move seemed inappropriate at first—maybe even a tad disrespectful—it was actually the polar opposite. Fans who attended Kelly’s July 16 stop on her Piece by Piece Tour were in the presence of a pop star not afraid to get real, even raw, with her fans. And that’s 10 times more thrilling than a silly little python.
With bare feet and an air of self-deprecation—”I’m so weird!” she quipped in between songs—Kelly delivered a thrilling hour-and-a-half set that was one part karaoke bar and two parts #TBT with sprinkles from her latest LP Piece by Piece. It was a show that both casual and diehard fans alike could indulge, not to mention droves of pint-sized tots. (Were they even born when Kelly made her 2003 debut? Who knows.)
Of course, she sounded fantastic, but that’s nothing new. Kelly has one of the most underrated voices in pop, and her pitch-perfect delivery throughout the evening—even during lyric flubs—was pretty awe-inspiring. However, the glittery rock-pop romp revealed other nuggets about Kelly—as a person and artist—that may surprise you.
She’s unapologetically herself.VH1/KATIE MEENA
If the bare feet is any indication, Kel gives zero f—ks about what anyone thinks about her, and that’s incredibly refreshing. Whether that’s messing up parts of her set—”I was like watermelon-cantaloupe!” she joked after a slip-up—or thanking central air for saving her from sweaty hell, Kelly’s transparency was both irreverent and endearing. No diva behavior in sight.
She’s the queen of covers.
Kelly did an interesting rendition of Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” which was fitting because the sexy 22-year-old and she will tour together in Canada. Empress K also combined elements of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” with her own 2005 hit “Walk Away,” a surprising mix that proved addicting and electric.
Her style is on point.VH1/KATIE MEENA
Body shamers, STFU. Kelly slayed in literally every outfit she wore on stage. And, for a rock show, that was actually quite a bit. In particular, Kel stunned in a figure-hugging black dress with an empire waist and plenty of dramatic flare. And, believe it or not, something about the no-shoes contrast was rather charming.
She rivals Taylor Swift in being amazing to her fans.VH1/KATIE MEENA
TSwift is famous for doing pretty fantastic things for her fans. But she’s not the only singer going above and beyond for admirers. Kelly invited Chuck Rite, a fan and aspiring musician, on stage to perform a song solo. This was Kelly’s way of giving Mr. Rite an open mic opportunity in hopes that he’ll get discovered. How badass is that?
She’s not afraid to get intimate.
The Piece by Piece Tour is full of frothy pop throwbacks like “Since U Been Gone” and “Miss Independent,” but that didn’t stop Kelly from getting serious when needed. A medley that included “Because of You” and “Breakaway” was hauntingly poignant, but it was her rendition of “Piece by Piece” that showed Kelly’s heart on her sleeve. Fighting back tears, Lady Clarkson revealed the song is for people who grew up with bad fathers like her. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? And while the show’s sadder moments added to its confessional feel, it was also Kelly’s beer-and-banter demeanor. She transformed the bombastic Radio City Music Hall into a familiar neighborhood joint. For 90 minutes, it really was just you and her. And you can’t put a price on a private show with your favorite singer.