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music friday: pink concert #5

I set aside this Music Friday to talk about the Pink concert from last night, but since it’s the second time we’ve seen her on The Truth About Love Tour, there’s not much I can add to what I wrote in February. The show was the same in its essence. She added a cover (“Time After Time”), accompanied herself on the piano (“The Great Escape”, which she hadn’t sung last time), and dropped a couple of songs from the earlier set list.

She screwed up several times on “The Great Escape”, which was pretty charming, although if you search YouTube, you’ll find that she screws up on that one almost every night. The crowd loves her for it, which gets to the core of why her fans find her so appealing: no matter how big a star she becomes, no matter how many jaw-dropping acrobatics she performs, she still seems just like us reg’lar folks in the audience.

Even taking as a given that “authenticity” is a problematic concept in popular music, Pink walks a fascinating line between performance and “real”. She never reverts to Alecia Moore on stage … she is always Pink … it’s as if “Pink” is the real Alecia. (When she appears as an actress in Thanks for Sharing, she is billed as Alecia Moore … when she plays someone else, she does it as Alecia, when she plays “herself”, she does it as Pink.) The show is too tightly constructed for her to take requests, and there are too many set pieces to allow for changing the set list from one night to the next. But I can attest, after seeing basically the same show twice in eight months, that the production is very satisfying. The big production numbers still astonish, the emotional ballads still reach your heart, the flat-out rockers still fill the arena, and there are so many more women in the audience than men that the men’s room I used before the show had already been taken over, guerilla style, by women who weren’t going to stand in a long line just because the people at the Coliseum hadn’t though to convert a few men’s rooms to women’s to deal with the female/male ratio for the how.

The crowd is wonderful. I felt like an honored visitor. The show isn’t for me, a 60-year-old white guy, but for all the girls (and girls who have become women during Pink’s career) who relate on a more specific level to the songs Pink sings. It’s a joy to see that connection between the audience and the performer, and it points to the ways Pink is a role model, whether she intends it or not. I’m not a fan of artists being role models … I’d rather they made they art without worrying about being an exemplar … but in Pink’s case, her art comes first, yet it also establishes her as a model.

There is one area where I wish she wasn’t so conscious of this. I couldn’t make out all of the words, but she gave a little speech prior to performing “Fuckin’ Perfect” that explained why she wouldn’t be saying the f-word. Sure enough, we got the “clean” version, and to be honest, it’s one of the better clean versions of a song, but I don’t like the idea of a clean version in the first place, and I was disappointed. (Of course, the performance was great, no matter my thoughts on the matter.)

Perhaps it’s just another way Pink constructs her reg’lar gal persona. I’ve long thought that she tosses in an occasional, audible deep breath when doing some of the acrobatics, just to prove the mic is live and she is really singing. And most of her fans are well aware that Pink is a mom, but she makes it part of her act of authenticity when she says she won’t sing the f-word because the kid might hear it. In this way, she is able to use the original “Fuckin’ Perfect” to show she’s the kind of “real” artist that puts the word “fuck” into a song title, and then later can use the song to show that she’s the kind of “real” mom who tries not to curse so much.

Part of what makes her so winning, though, is that thoughts like these seem irrelevant when you are watching her. Of course “Pink” is a construction, of course we’re watching a “show”, but she shifts so easily between pop star and human being that we are charmed … we root for her to succeed, and then she succeeds beyond our wildest dreams, and somehow all of us are raised up.

For this reason, I love “Try”, a ballad that might normally strike me as a bit over the top, but which, in concert, lives up to its message that we must get off the floor once again and try. As she so often does, she uses the acrobatics not just to impress us, but to extend the point of the song. As she floats above the stage without a harness, we get a fuller understanding of how a person can “try”. Similarly, the various versions of “Sober” she has presented always result in her being in the air, which matches perfectly with the lyrics of the song.

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