To sum up P!nk in one word seems at first like an impossible challenge. And then you see her live, and if you’re a word lover like me, the right one might dawn on you, just as it did me when I saw her Tuesday in San Jose at SAP Center on The Truth About Love Tour. Ready? The word is spectacular. Give it a minute: she can dance her ass off (both in the traditionally choreographed styles we’ve come to expect with pop acts and more modern/contemporary styles. She’s a bad ass aeralist in her own right, and she’s not too shabby when it comes to acrobatics these days, either. And of course, she’s singing 100% live the entire time, too, as she doesn’t believe in lip-synching. Even when she’s suspended in mid-air upside-down, she’s still singing, and it’s near perfect. Add a great opening act (New Politics), a fun set, costumes, makeup, and a “story” throughout the evening, and it gives you quite the spectacle to behold. So there you have it: Pink = spectacular!
The evening kicked off with stellar opening act New Politics, who I saw open last weekend for 30 Seconds to Mars. Honestly, I expected them to play the exact same set, and was happy that they didn’t. Also, they didn’t let a huge arena swallow them up: lead singer David Boyd ran all around the stage and took advantage of the space. In addition to the same energetic antics I’d seen last time, he had room to break dance, and he can move! He’s really fun to watch. The set began with “Give Me Love” into “Dignity,” followed by “Fall into These Arms,” and then he really started to break it down before “Just Like Me.” While introducing the band to its audience, Boyd explained that he and guitarist Søren Hansen are from Copenhagen, Denmark (“we’re vikings, we’re just not very big!”) and that drummer Louis Vecchio is American (from NYC). Next came a new (to me) song I didn’t hear at the previous show. Incidentally, it’s now my favorite New Politics song so far, and it was called “Overcome.”
“We’re not used to playing venues of this size,” Boyd admitted. “We’re a little nervous.” He went on to say that it was just the band’s third show opening for Pink, and that they were “excited just to say that.” He also added that it was hard not to watch her during the show, saying that he’d plan to watch “just the intro” and the next thing he knew, she’d be on the last song. “She’s so awesome!” The next song was dedicated to the crowd, and was “Tonight You’re Perfect.”
“You guys sound beautiful, San Jose! You guys are amazing, thank you so much! It’s been an honor playing for you…” Boyd made a quick plug for their merchandise, saying they’d sign autographs after their set. Next came the delightfully catchy current single, “Harlem“, from A Bad Girl in Harlem. “You guys are amazing, thank you so much. We’ve got one more song for you, San Jose. Is that okay? Alright, I wanna test this crowd…” Riling up the audience by having them chant “yeah, yeah, yeah!” Boyd and the boys began last song “Yeah Yeah Yeah” before the singer ended their set with a note of inspiration: “one thing we wanna leave you with: we don’t care where you’re from, where you’ve been, what age you are or the color of your skin. If anyone has a dream, we want you to follow that dream till you die!” And as the crowd cheered for the sentiment, the band took their bows and left the stage.
Though I admit I was antsy for the show to start, video distractions on the screen like Pink’s Cover Girl commercial did little to ease my impatience. Eventually, though, a funny little man (“Ruben,” who would be something of an emcee throughout the evening) in a crazy costume showed up on stage to welcome the crowd. He said something about being the audience loving him because he was “such a sexpot, and I thank you,” and then conceded “it’s not about me, it’s about you. Make some noise if you’re in love!” Further shouts out to those whose loves were there with them followed, and then something in the speech about “we all love and we all need love, but not everyone knows the truth about love… it’s about laughter, tears, heart-breaking and love-making…” Eventually he said he was going to select someone from the crowd to learn the truth about love, and the cameras showed audience members until he singled out the person he wanted to bring on stage: Pink. It was perfect. “You’re in for the ride of your life!” he told her as the crowd went crazy for the clever little play.
No, she wasn’t really in the audience, it was just a video clip, but it worked well. Instead, she was in place to begin the show: at first, she wasn’t visible. Three men hung upside down from the ceiling as “Raise Your Glass” began, and then there she was: sort of hanging from them, in all her acrobatic glory. Singing upside-down as she flew through the air, did flips, bounced back up to the boys and swung back down again, she was impressive right from the start. When the song concluded, she quickly ran off stage as another video played on-screen, featuring an alarm clock. When it went off, she was back for “Walk of Shame,” after which she lay on her stomach on the stage so as to be able to reach as many fans as possible before beginning “Just Like a Pill.”
“Thank yo,u thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!! How much fun do you guys wanna have?!” Pink asked the screaming crowd before glorious crowd-pleaser “U + Ur Hand.” “Are there any good dancers here tonight? How about any terrible dancers? I wanna see the worst dancing I’ve ever seen…” she requested as she began “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely),” thus knocking back-to-back faves off my list of songs I’d love to hear live. Back out came Ruben with a relatively benign but humorously raunchy poem about love, and then Pink reappeared for “Try,” featuring an awe-inspiring mix of aerial dance and the contemporary dance moves featured in the song’s music video. There seems to be nothing this woman can’t do; I’m starting to think she’s the female Justin Timberlake, which I mean as the highest and most sincere compliment I can think of. But I digress. Next was a highlight of the evening: a sexy cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” and then her hit “Just Give Me a Reason,” which of course features fun.’s Nate Ruess. Though I’m sure Nate’s busy with his own projects, I wasn’t sure what Pink would do when it came to his verses, and she made it so simple: Nate’s face was projected on the screen during his parts, and the recording of his voice was so clear and perfect, it was as though he was there singing it himself. Brilliant.
Next, Ruben was back again, this time in Cupid wings and a diaper (with glowing red balls within), hoisted from the ceiling to distract the crowd, presumably giving the singer a chance to change (and hopefully catch her breath). When she returned, she sang “Trouble” and again stretched herself as far as was physically possible so that she could make contact with fans in the front, all of whom sang along happily. “Thank you! You guys sound awesome!” She went on to give credit to the “most amazing, incredible, most talented people in the world,” her back up singers, the band, the acrobats and dancers, and her crew. She continued by introducing members of the band, including her drummer, Mark Schulman. After he played a little solo, she chided him, saying, “I mean, I couldn’t do it, but I feel like… I feel like there’s something else there…” He rose to the challenge and played a wicked little solo, leaving Pink looking thoroughly impressed. “That’s more like it! Aside from being one of the best drummers in the world, he’s also a pretty good teacher,” she declared, demonstrating a little solo of her own from a smaller drum set center stage. “Are We All We Are” came next, during which the singer took her time giving love to the crowd on all sides of the stage, and then with each musician individually before finishing with the back-up singers. A crazy cage contraption descended as “Sober” began, and inside she climbed. Throughout the song, Pink practiced more of her acrobatics with and around the other dancers, all while inside of or climbing on the suspended, spherical cage. At the end of the number, Pink ran off to change again while the band stayed on stage to play an instrumental version of “Chaos & Piss.”
This time when the lights came up, Pink was seated at the piano. “Hi. How’s everybody doin’ so far, you guys happy?” They were. “How ’bout in the back?” They were, too. “So, every tour, I like to learn something new, ’cause how else am I gonna learn new things? Last time was guitar; I can play almost a whole song on guitar. This time it’s piano.” She introduced her keyboard player, Jason Chapman, adding “maybe if I mess up, save me this time! That’d be great, thanks. I’ll give you a piece of cheesecake…” Before beginning “The Great Escape,” she had a favor to ask: “if everyone could turn and face the back while I do this? Thanks…” They didn’t, of course, but she made it through the song on piano while killing the vocals, so it’s safe to say it went well. “Thanks! I think that’s the first time I didn’t mess up!” After stopping to sign an autograph for someone in the front of the crowd, she introduced guitarist Justin Derrico, calling him “one of the loves of my life.” According to Pink, the way you can tell that someone is one of the loves of your life is by asking yourself, “have they held you/yours or your stepmom’s hair back in the driveway?” As she was talking, Pink was accepting gifts from fans for her daughter, Willow. “I’m gonna keep all this and give it to her for Christmas like it’s all from me: best mom ever!”
“Yes, I will sign your ribs for a tattoo,” Pink told a fan, and then stopped to do so. “Don’t yell at me. Don’t yell at me! Oh God, please don’t get that tattooed.” Pink directed a fan to come closer, lying on her stomach on the stage, foot in the air, to be able to reach. Eventually, she addressed the crowd again: “today’s my dad’s birthday. We do the acoustic guitar set in every show because of him. I grew up singing with him, he made me feel like a star when I was four. So this one’s for him.” The song was “Who Knew,” and Pink sang barefooted from a stool next to Justin with his acoustic guitar. Near the end, she stopped just long enough to stop Justin, saying, “I can’t hear the key, so let’s just finish it a capella.” It was flawless, which is a good way to judge a singer’s true talent: with no music or back-up singers to hide behind, Pink’s vocal abilities are hard to dispute.
“I’ve been told that this song is full of ‘Mom words.'” She admitted that that was “kind of a dis,” and that while she usually drops the “F bomb version to retaliate,” there were “so many cute little ones here… wait till my daughter’s twelve. For now, I’m gonna keep it classy.” With that, she sang the edited version of single “Perfect.” After another video came an old-school Pink montage: a medley of Can’t Take Me Home songs, including “Most Girls,” “There You Go,” and “You Make Me Sick.” I couldn’t help but notice that the crowd didn’t seem as excited about that part of the set as my friend Kerri and I were. Maybe they didn’t get into Pink’s music until M!ssundaztood or later, or maybe they just needed a break from all the excitement of the evening, but we certainly dug getting to hear those oldie-but-goodies. During the medley, though, Pink danced her tiny little tail off, and when the crowd applauded her for it she said, “thank you. That’s why I fly, so I don’t have to work that hard!” as she tried to catch her breath.
“So everyone, this is Kat. We’re gonna take miming classes together soon. My mom made me do mime in the first grade… should I take that personally? Anyway, Kat would like me to tell you that she’s not a slut. Besides the young people who aren’t allowed to answer… who in here is a dirty filthy slut!?” As might be expected, the audience (or at least those who know where this is going) went a little crazy. “There’s no such thing… We’re just really good at sharing!” And with that, the line “I’m not a slut, I just love love” that begins “Slut Like You” came over the speakers, opening what is arguably Pink’s most fun live song ever, and it didn’t disappoint. I did notice, though, that there was a lot less rowdy crowd jumping than what I’m used to seeing at a Pink show. (“It’s cause they’re all old!” my friend says. I didn’t notice that to be true, but I wasn’t paying too much attention the crowd, to be honest.) After “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” Pink ran all over the stage waving goodbyes to the fans. She stopped to give props to all her fellow performers, including the silly and strange Ruben character, who was back to close to the full set. As Pink disappeared, the dancers piled onto a big couch on-stage which was then wheeled off.
In between the end of the main set and the encore: more Ruben. He said something about the “glory of love and sphincter of sin; ain’t none of it pretty. When I say ‘love,’ you say ‘love!'” He continued talking to the crowd with a big silly sermon on love, including “how can you love anybody else if you don’t love yourself? Take it from me, love yourself as often as you can! Can I get a hell yeah?” By then, thankfully Pink was changed and back onstage, in a harness, and pushed him away. Her final song was “So What,” and while I could see that she was going to be suspended from the ceiling again, I could never have anticipated what they actually did. Somehow, they managed to zoom her all around the arena, to impressive lengths to get close to the fans. She had a pedestal set up on either side of the back of the venue so that she could stop for a minute to keep singing, but she was everywhere I turned. She flew over my head, then she was in the back of the venue, over on the right side, then the left. It was dizzying just to try to follow her, and I wasn’t the one flying (much less trying to sing while doing so). It was unbelievable, and she still sounded great! When she landed back on stage at the conclusion, Pink gave the band props again, said goodnight, and disappeared for the last time.
Before the house lights came up, there was another video: on the center screen, credits for the show rolled. On the screens on the left and right sides of the stage, a behind-the-scenes type video of Pink in rehearsal, including shots with her family. Especially memorable were some really beautiful, sweet photos of Mama Pink with baby Willow. I think that might be one of the reasons this woman is my favorite: she’s so damn multi-faceted. She’s funny, uber-talented in almost everything I’ve seen her do, she’s kind of a tough girl but definitely also can be a softie, she’s a tomboy who can pull off a girlie side… She’s also a married mama who writes anthems about drinking or bad decisions. What is there to not like? I can’t think of a single thing…