Perhaps I should have realized something when my flat was robbed a few years ago and the only CD left behind was Pink’s Can’t Take Me Home. At the time, I told myself the thieves didn’t know what they were missing.
My faith in the woman was renewed earlier this year when I heard her latest record playing in the Virgin shop. I convinced the kid behind the counter to sell me their in-store copy as I was too anxious to wait a week for a new one. Pink had gone rock—what could be sexier? When her one London date was announced on Radio 1, I vowed not to miss it, even if I suffered ridicule from my muso friends. Pink is pop at its best; just enough rebellion to keep it sexy, just enough fluff to keep it friendly.
12 Nov 2002: Brixton Academy London
Needless to say I was (and, to a point, still am) a fan. But, man oh man, did the girl let me down.
The audience for Pink’s show was interesting. The line to get in an hour before the show—the longest I’ve ever seen at Brixton—was full of fathers and their tweenie daughters and gangs of fashionable college age lesbians. There was an air of innocence or perhaps naiveté in the air. A woman next to me at the bar quietly asked the 16-year-old server if he knew about the aftershow party. While this in itself is not unusual at a rock/pop show, what was interesting was she was asking because she had passes and a wristband, but no idea what to do with them. And I don’t think she was trying to pull either.
I keep telling myself I should have known better, what with Pink’s manager being the guy behind Tina Turner and Cher, but I still can’t help feeling hurt! For all her talk of being a troublemaker and not caring what people think, and seeming more real than any of those young pop thangs around, Pink revealed herself to be nothing but another tired package.
Beginning with the opening number—you guessed it—“Get This Party Started”, the set felt like a Las Vegas cabaret. Granted, that song was always going to be hard to pull off with a live band, but the lack of energy and the phenomenal speed with which it was performed was disappointing, to say the least. One might have thought Pink was 53, not 23, performing some song she’d played for 20 years straight.
“Party” set the tone for the rest of her set, which was made up mostly of songs from the new album played exactly as they were recorded, albeit a bit rushed. “M!ssundaztood” provided the only risqué moment of the night when Pink lay down between her female bass player’s legs—one for the grrls in the crowd. She may hotly deny any experience with the ladies herself, but she I guess she knows who butters her bread!
Four songs in, Pink sat down to sing a cover of song-writing partner Linda Perry’s 4 Non Blondes hit “What’s Going On”. It was a nostalgic moment—most of the older portion of the audience sang along, and Pink really made the song her own. But, honestly, a cover so soon? She could have saved it for the encore.
Which brings me to my most important point. Pink has the talent to be a million times better than she was. Her voice is so strong and so good live that it should have brought us to our knees in tears. But somehow, her on stage persona, not to mention her dreadfully boring studio musician-type band, has been scrubbed clean of any genuine emotion. Sanitized pop.
As if to seal the deal on this show having an extended run in Vegas, the second half of Pink’s set was dominated by a painful medley—yes medley!—of Janis Joplin tunes featuring a slide show of fallen heroes most likely unrecognisable to most of her young audience: Kurt, Marvin, Karen, Janis. The only reason for this could be that Pink is pitching for the lead in the Janis biopic Hollywood keeps toying with. Again, Pink can sing songs that not many people can and she should show her talent off, but not in such a demeaning way. Choose one—sing “Piece of my Heart” or “Summertime”, and gets some real musicians to play for you, sweetheart.
While this critic found it hard to stay till the end—I was desperate to go home and lick my wounds—Pink’s audience loved her. The high-pitched teen screams carried on throughout the encore performance of “Don’t Let Me Get Me”. It did take me back to my early days when knowing all the words to all the songs and being able to sing along was the whole point. I can remember being very upset when any of my music idols changed their songs in a live performance, messing up my sync. So maybe there is logic to the boredom.
For days after this show I wondered, is it me? Was I wrong to expect so much from a pop star? But then the European MTV Awards were televised and my pain reaffirmed. Pink performed a medley(!) of her own songs that almost put the Barcelona audience to sleep. She could not have looked more bored or more like she was on autopilot. Followed by her good friend Christina Aguilera, whose performance of “Dirrty” was nothing short of hot and sweaty and very spot on, Pink seemed even more washed out.
I can’t help but wish Pink could get some pointers from Kelis, a woman who successfully translated her pop/R & B/rock sound to a killer live performance. When Kelis played the dance tent two years ago at Glastonbury, she almost brought it down. Her voice was nowhere near as technically perfect as Pink’s, but no one could doubt her commitment to blowing the socks off her audience.
She may be tired and overworked, but if Pink wants to be a Madonna and not a Mariah she had better get a handle on the machine that’s driving her gravy train.
Get some rest and then show some soul, girl. We know you got one.
// Notes from the Road
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