Defying gravity and illness, Pink bops Eminem and swings from the rafters at the Xcel


Pink, doing her thing. Getty Images for Live Nation

It’s tempting to review a Pink concert in the overexcited tones of a seven-year-old returning from his first Star Wars movie.

“So first Pink was swinging from a giant chandelier and then sparks flew up from the stage and then all the people were dressed like animals and then a giant inflatable Eminem rolled out and started rapping and then she flew up in the air and then she punched him in the nose and then—

As a grown-up professional music journalist, however, I won’t subject you to that. (Or, at least, not any more of that.) And I’ll dutifully mention that for Alecia Moore’s second 2018 show in the Twin Cities (she played one of those Zillionaire’s Balls at the Armory during Super Bowl week), Pink was once more ill, though not apparently spit-a-lozenge-out-on-national-TV sick like she was in February. Still, there were moments she seemed a touch breathless, and she leaned on her backing vocalists and audience participation a bit more than expected.

That said, she did fly up in the air and punch a giant inflatable Eminem in the nose, in addition to performing all other manner of aerial loop-de-loops that would wreak havoc on the stomachs of most 38-year-olds in perfect health. (I personally haven’t even been able to handle Tilt-a-Whirls since 2001.)

To begin the night, a musician stepped out to perform the 20th Century Fox fanfare on a tiny trumpet in front of a giant curtain, which then dropped to the stage, revealing—well, revealing a whole lot. There was a full band (including hometown gal Jessy Greene on violin), countless dancers, bent Seussian lampposts, fantastical pink and black decor, and the star herself, in an outfit color-coded with the garish set, high above the stage, swinging from a chandelier. (I mean, Sia could never.)

After “Get the Party Started,” the most obligatory-yet-welcome opening number this side of the Stones’ “Start Me Up,” Pink strode into the march-like ballad of “Beautiful Trauma,” the title track of her latest album. Unlike a lot of current arena shows, Pink didn’t use a “b stage” toward the back of the venue. Instead, three illuminated catwalks jutted out into the crowd, meeting at a point, roughly in the shape of a ship’s prow, with lucky fans gathered in the two pits within these runways. A treadmill ran along one of the catwalks, and for “Just Like a Pill,” Pink coasted along before counteracting its forward motion with George Jetson-like persistence.

Which brings us to the oversized Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Slim Shady, who “rapped” along to “Revenge,” Pink’s recent duet with Eminem, while she darted in the sky before him like Peter Pan. This bit was preceded by a gory claymation-style video about an amusement park called “Revengeland,” where troublesome significant others are comically set ablaze, electrocuted, and punctured with spikes. Pink has a clear-eyed view of romance.

Re-attired in a plaid bathrobe, Pink mashed up her own “Funhouse” with bits of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl,” before playing a faithful version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Her alt cred established, she once more took to the skies for “Secrets,” performing an aerial acrobatic duet with a seriously buff male accomplice.

Then, during a poetic spoken-world interlude in the darkness, leaves fell to the stage and the spooky silhouettes of bare trees materialized. When the lights came up for “Try,” the dancers were costumed as fairy tale human-animal hybrids, sporting antlers, carrying candelabras, and otherwise suggesting some cursed Disney scenario.

For all the spectacle, though, Pink also boasts as solid a songbook as any pop star this century, and her 21-song set, focused significantly but not unduly on Beautiful Trauma, barely dipped into all her hits, while indicating her emotional and stylistic range. And the video that introduced “What About Us,” with prominent clips of activists supporting movements from Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, cleared up any lingering doubt that it’s as hardy a protest song as corporate radio is likely to condone in 2018.

Pink’s a talker too. She introduced “Raise Your Glass” with a story that began with her six-year-old daughter saying, “I’m the ugliest girl I know” and turned out to be genuinely moving, inspirational, and, not coincidentally, funny as hell. Something Pink understands that’s often lost on more earnest traffickers in pop sentimentality is that you can’t boost self-esteem without a sense a humor, which she displayed prominently, whether interrupting another story about her daughter to notice a strand of hair onstage (“That’s not mine”), quizzing her guitarist about how many instruments he owned (“You know. Your insurance knows”), or quipping, “Do you remember in junior high when you used to hold your breath to make yourself pass out? They found out that’s bad for you.”

For her encore, Pink wore a silvery spacegal suit for “So What,” shot up to the nosebloods and did the full swooping, tumbling, death-defying circuit of the Xcel. After that, the live-your-life platitudes of her closing number, “Glitter in the Air” (not exactly my cup of uplift), sounded like actual words of wisdom. Turns out all those silly pop romantic clichés about believing in yourself and taking a chance on love that superstars like to lecture us about in concert take on a very different meaning when the woman voicing them is suddenly flung high into the arena rafters by wires to flip all around the room before landing onstage to make some more wisecracks.

What I’m saying is, if Pink can do all that, shit, you can totally ask out that cute boy at the coffee shop, or tell your boss you want a raise, or get the hell out of bed in the morning, or whatever other emotionally fraught task you’ve been putting off. Why, I myself, despite crippling allergies this morning, finished this concert review only three hours past my deadline. Thanks, Pink! I couldna done it without you.

Critic’s bias: Pink won me over early in her career, when L.A. Reid was still marketing her as R&B-flavored teenpop, then clinched it with her 2001 image-defining breakthrough Missundaztood. By the end of the aughts, the mid-tempo blare of inspirational ballads like “Fuckin’ Perfect” had kinda lost me, though Pink’s more recent albums have perked me back up some.

The crowd: Mostly women, and mostly Pink’s age or above—they’d grown up alongside her as adults rather than first hearing her when they were still girls. But there was also a little girl three rows behind me who belted out “What About Us” with a deadpan earnest face and dramatic arm gestures.

Get the Party Started
Beautiful Trauma
Just Like a Pill
Who Knew
Funhouse / Just a Girl (No Doubt cover)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover)
Just Give Me a Reason
I'm Not Dead
Just Like Fire
What About Us
For Now
I Am Here
Fuckin' Perfect
Raise Your Glass
Blow Me (One Last Kiss)

So What
Glitter in the Air

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