The Best of 2013: Pink Concert Review
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL - November 20, 2013
A great concert is exhilarating in a way that is unexplainable. It makes your heart race, toes twinkle and makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It is one thing to dazzle the audience with eye-candy visuals and another to swim deep into the heart of your soul. Most acts thrive on one or the other. Bruce Springsteen has made a career of no-frill performances that leave you mentally fatigued. Madonna's shows impress even the largest cynic for their daring gymnastic spectacles. At the end of Pink's nearly two-hour show just outside Chicago in Rosemont, it was apparent she has mastered a faultless equilibrium of ensuring the message of the music was heard in tandem with astonishing theatrics. Imagine the best elements of Springsteen and KISS mashed up and you would have Pink's 2013 world tour in support of The Truth About Love. Pink may thrive on being a commercial entity, but make no mistake, being an artist comes first.
Opening with a spectacle of vibrant characters walking through the crowd before the curtain rose on the band, the opening was the best of any arena show I saw in 2013 and arguably one of the five greatest openings I've ever seen. Imagine Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands On Me" video on speed, and that sums up the jolt of exhilaration that went through the crowd on the night's opener, "Raise Your Glass". Bungee jumping between the stage and the lighting rig above her where three men were suspended upside down gripping her and holding her in different poses, all which she sang. The stage was covered with upwards of a dozen video screens, half a dozen dancers, pyrotechnics, glittering lights and a band that worked tirelessly to not just recreate Pink's catalog, but through their muscle behind the songs making them more than radio favorites but living and breathing pop masterworks that came to life onstage.
The eighteen-song set was surprising for the strength of the material reached unforeseen heights. The hits went off spectacularly; "Just Like A Pill", "U + Ur Hand", "Try", "Trouble" and "Just Give Me a Reason". "Wicked Game", a cover of the sensuous Chris Isaak tune, somehow came from left field but worked perfectly within the set. The ripping "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)", which Butch Walker co-wrote and produced, found Pink swimming in our blood stream capturing our mixed emotions with a playful and perfect pop song while "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" was a rousing and spirited set closing tour de force with her backing band transforming a pop song into a musically strapping anthem. "Who Knew" was performed as an acoustic number and it matched the strobe light force of all the other songs because of the adoring vocal. This is a woman who struggled with love but found her way in the world. Even though she's come through on the other side, the tenderness and evocation of sorrow in her vocal was a remarkable sight. She taps into what once was and liberates it with her fans. When she sings "F**kin' Perfect" it comes off as earnest and authentic. Pink's interaction throughout the performance was one of untainted bliss. In recent years, most acts treat their audiences with disdain, but Pink embraced them, warmed their hearts and the theatrical aspect of the show was designed to bring the audience closer to her, notably on the finale of "So What" which had her flying throughout the entire arena, even those in the cheap seats. Pink's The Truth About Love tour is one of the greatest concert feats to ever be staged. The staging, the music, choreography, theatrics, pyrotechnics, gymnastics, the show opening surprise and awe-inspiring finale were so perfect, it is a shame it is ending in January because it deserves to be seen by everyone.
Pink is an example of everything that is right with pop music. She tackles important issues without watering it down to the point where it is flavorless and unappetizing. Confidence is one thing to wrap your heart around, but for me the genuineness and vulnerable side of Pink is why I have come to not just respect her, but also love her. When I interviewed Michael Franti a few months back, I asked him about the song "One Step Closer To You" which Pink harmonizes. In regards to Pink, he said "I think she's great for pop music. She speaks from her heart about things that are happening in her own life and is not afraid to tackle difficult personal and emotional issues and put them in a way that retains emotion but is fun and entertaining for a lot of people." Pop music receives quite a bit of dissension but the truth is when done right, it' music's most powerful genre. The Beatles were pop music, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Nirvana, Jay-Z, David Bowie and Lady gaga have all swam in pop waters, but few have ever been able to continue their careers with upward mobility in terms of popularity along with artistic measure. Funhouse was an audacious record but The Truth About Love has proven to be an even more spectacular achievement. The edition available at Target contains seventeen songs and it's in the four additional tracks that really accentuates her evolution as an artist. "Good Old Days" captures the essence of living in the moment and instead of waxing nostalgia, she grasps the importance of being a mother, caring and loving those around her. "My Signature Move" could have been a single and inexplicably wound up as a bonus cut, but it's one of the best cuts on the record with big drums and a chorus to-die-for. In Chicago, she sat behind a piano to perform "The Great Escape", written for a friend who had contemplated suicide, once again, it highlights a heartrending and redolent vocal from Pink. On "True Love" (sadly not performed during the show) Pink isn't afraid to discuss her doubts, insecurities and how long term relationships, while wonderful, can make you want to pull your hair out.
Pink is more than a performer, but he has evolved into one of the world's supreme musical artists. A decade back, many were writing her off after her third record, the underrated Try This sold a fraction of what Missundaztood sold, but what few stopped to take notice of was the chances she was taking by working with a variety of musical collaborators including Tim Armstrong of Rancid, the Indigo Girls and Butch Walker. It is the last of these collaborators I need to tell a story about. Since 2006 she and Walker have had a fruitful and productive relationship that has turned into a friendship. Pink fans may not know, but Walker lost his house and everything he owned in the fall of 2007 to a California wildfire. He was on the East coast when it happened and when he returned home, there was nothing left but ashes. Every master recording, instrument and family heirloom he ever owned was gone. On his first day back while they were looking at the wreckage Alecia Beth Moore, better known the world over as Pink, pulled up in her car full of items for his still infant son. She never publicized it and didn't put out a press release, but Walker details her kindness in his superb book Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt. Her duet with Walker from his Sycamore Meadows record, ""Here Comes The..." is one of the greatest under-the-radar songs of the last half decade. If all of this wasn't enough, Walker was without any instruments after the fire and Pink bought him a guitar so he could continue to do what he was put on this planet to do. It's one thing to hear a song on the radio that makes you feel good and it's another to know the person behind that song is an authentic, heartfelt and kind human being. I want my four-year-old daughter to be like Pink when she grows up not because of her success but for her compassion and heart.
Pink is an artist in the best sense of the word. She doesn't confine herself to the shackles the music industry would like to place on her but she finds a happy medium between artistic expression and exuberant entertainment. Because she still excels at the entertainment portion, many music writers may overlook her colossal talent. There are artists who divert and those who divulge leading us to discover ourselves in the process. Pink's music embodies empowerment, understanding, compassion, caring and above all else...love. We live in a world overrun by evil. I do not believe the world is a good one and that there is more malevolence than good in it but the love is always stronger evidenced by the fifteen thousand fans in Chicago who sung every word like it was scripture. Pink is a unconventional artist who bares all and as a result we don't just learn more about ourselves, but come to a closer understanding of existential questions that hover above all of us. It's rare to find an artist who captures the hearts and minds of an arena crowd while simultaneously piercing their psyche. Capturing some of the greatest odes to estrangement and endurance in the history of pop-rock music, Pink and her band delivered songs borne out of disillusionment, but when you heard her sing, they turned into prayers.
Pink's tour will end on January 20, so buy tickets while you can. The Truth About Love is still available at Target and digital retailers.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
The Best of 2013: Pink Concert Review
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