an excuse to show my favorite scene from robot monster
music friday: pink concert #5

pink is tonight

I’ve been going to Pink concerts pretty much as long as I’ve been writing this blog.

The first time I saw her, the blog was just under six months old: June 25, 2002. It was the “Party Tour” in support of Missundaztood, and included covers of Janis Joplin, Mary J. Blige, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Aerosmith, and 4 Non Blondes. The concert was held at the Warfield, which holds around 2300. I wrote:

“Don't Let Me Get Me" was the anthem all the girls had been waiting for, and seeing and hearing them sing along to this complex song was bizarre. What does it mean when a bunch of kids happily shout out "I wanna be somebody else"? The closest thing I can think of is when the audience would sing along with Johnny Rotten's "No Future!" ... as if in the act of proclaiming our nihilism, we were expressing our love of life. Except I don't ever remember wanting to be Johnny Rotten, while I think a lot of people in that audience would have been happy if the "somebody else" they got to be was in fact the woman who introduced those words to us in the first place: Pink.

Next was the “I’m Not Dead Tour”, which kicked off on June 27, 2006 in San Francisco. At the Fillmore, which somehow seemed appropriate. It was, and will probably always remain, the most intimate setting in which I saw her perform (it holds around 1200 people). It was an odd night, as I learned after the show that Sleater-Kinney would be going on the hiatus that continues to this day. Still, I wrote about the Pink show:

Pink fit right in at the Fillmore, of course, no matter how weird it sounds on paper. Her hip-hop days are completely in her past now ... this was a rock show. Pink herself was very winning, showing off her vocal chops, kidding with the audience, promoting gay rights and dissing George Bush, and just having a good time. Her audience was completely in love with her ... there were a lot of young girls there, young women as well, as is appropriate, and it was their show, they knew every song and sang every lyric.

At this point, I’d seen her twice, but had never seen her extravagant stage show. That changed for “The Funhouse Tour” in 2009. This happened to be the first time Robin came, too. We saw her in San Jose, at a venue that held around 13,000. She covered the Divinyls, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Gnarls Barkley. By this point, she was doing her trapeze stuff. I wrote:

This was one of the best shows I have ever attended, and I’ve been going to shows for more than 40 years (and had seen Pink twice before, as well). Pink just rocked the house … she’s always been a confident performer, but the bigger stage really gave her room to strut. Yes, seeing her at the Fillmore was more intimate and in some ways better. But she pulled off the extravaganza like she was born to do it.

She played a lot of Funhouse, and a handful of her earlier hits. The crowd loved them all. She did her acoustic segment … she sang while spinning in the air (a separated shoulder prevented her from doing the kind of trapeze work we saw at the VMAs, but otherwise she was fine) … she changed costumes … she farted around … she screwed up a song, allowing her to remind us she wasn’t lipsyncing … she was good with the rockers, good with the ballads, good with the pop stuff.

And then there was the audience. When I saw Pink seven years ago, there were a lot of men my age, taking their daughters to the concert. In 2009, those daughters are grown up, and don’t need Daddy along any more. So there weren’t many Dads. There weren’t a lot of men, period … at least one men’s room was transformed into a women’s room for the night. A rough guess of the makeup of the crowd would be 90% female, with a sizable lesbian contingent. The cheering was very high-pitched, another sign that the gender split was pretty extreme. It was also very loud … almost Beatlemania-esque at times.

Bottom line? I don’t know that I’ve ever had more fun at a concert in my life.

Finally, we saw her earlier this year (same venue) on her current tour, “The Truth About Love Tour”. This time they squeezed in a bit more than 14,000. I wrote:

It’s one of the remarkable things about Pink that whatever she does, she comes across as a real person. She’s a diva, a pop star, she puts on gargantuan concerts … yet when she talks to us between songs, she’s just Alecia Moore. She may not take requests, but she does comment on the signs, even stopping a few times to autograph one or two. She may have set pieces that are necessarily the same, night after night, but her patter is always off the cuff, and if she’s a perfectionist regarding her own safety during her more acrobatic moments, she’s also able to fluff a lyric in a way that makes her audience love her even more.

These big concerts are terrific: thoughtful, overwhelming, touching, thrilling. It says something that the two songs last night that brought tears to my eyes were both songs that Pink performed at least partly while dangling in the air (“Try” and “Sober”). Pink crosses so many barriers in her music (this is the person, after all, who followed her gazillion-selling hit, Missundaztood, by cutting an album with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong), and in her concerts, where she can sing a song with a quiet piano accompaniment, scream in front of her rockin’ band, and then touch the heart while flying. The only question remaining is one Ann Powers asked a couple of years ago: why isn’t she a bigger star? It’s all relative … she is a big star, to be sure. But it’s not clear than anyone outside of her hardcore fans know this, even though there are a lot of those fans. Like me, for instance.

Maybe people finally recognize how big Pink has become … according to Wikipedia, she’s won 3 Grammys, 6 MTV Video Music Awards, and 2 World Music Awards. She’s won around 50 awards overall, and sold more than 40 million records. She has 4 Billboard Music Awards, including a recent one as “Woman of the Year”.

Rob Sheffield gets at what makes her special, in the Ann Powers piece from 2010: “I think people respond to her sense of independence and dedication. It inspires people. This is a prolific pop artist who is sometimes famous and successful, sometimes obscure, who nonetheless keeps making her own kind of music. Every few years, the spotlight comes back around to her — but her fans can trust that when the spotlight moves along, Pink will keep on writing Pink songs.”

Yet, for all of that, I can’t convince people I know to join us at her concerts. That’s the real puzzle.