CLEVELAND, Ohio – Just watching Pink – often stylized as P!NK — is exhausting.
Not in a bad way. Nope, not at all. In a great, holy cow, how can she do all that, dance, sing and still STAND at the end of the evening kind of way.
Pink, who was born Alecia Beth Moore, kept a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena on its collective feet for nearly two hours Wednesday night, rolling through more than 20 songs from her extensive catalog.
Oh, and along the way, she and a crew of athletic dancers made Cirque du Soleil look like a Little Rascals “Let’s put on a show!” episode. Employing wires and stage props like a giant, spark-spewing chandelier and deformed street lights that looked as though they’d been lifted from a Picasso painting, Pink and her team essentially repealed the law of gravity for the night.
Concerts that are more revues are nothing new to Cleveland. Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Jonathan Siennicki, Taylor Swift and especially Madonna have all done them, with varying degrees of success. But with the notable exception of Gaga – truly one of the most talented individuals in a generation – there was always a question of whether the “artist” was actually singing.
That was not up for debate Wednesday night with Pink. Were there backing tracks? Almost certainly, and not just on “Revenge,” which featured a giant inflatable of duet partner Eminem doing his part. (I tried and obviously failed to avoid calling the prop a Pink Floydian slip.)
As good a dancer as she is – and quite frankly, she’s one of the best I’ve seen in nearly 40 years of doing this – she’s equally good on the microphone. And even better, with the pen. Truly one of those rare talents, Pink excels at all three of her titles: singer, dancer and songwriter.
That last is important, really, because she has used her artistry and her art to rally others around causes like equal rights, an end to LGBT discrimination and most especially the empowerment of women.
That probably was best illustrated by a story she told to set up her song “Perfect.” And yes, that’s the we-can-print-that-name-in-a-family newspaper name, although fans know the tune as sporting a bit more colorful modifier in both the title and lyrics.
Pink told the story of her 6-year-old daughter worrying because she was “ugly” and looked “like a boy with long hair.” But Mama delivered – via Power Point! – a clear lesson by pointing out that while her own shoulders are broad, that she sports short hair, that she has been accused of looking “too masculine,” she’s also selling out arenas and isn’t going to change. For anyone.
And that’s a great thing. Because her ability to deliver song and dance moves on tunes like “Beautiful Trauma,” “Just Like a Pill,’ “Who Knew,” “Secrets” and an especially riveting version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” make her something special.
Former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips once said of Earl Campbell, “I ain’t sayin’ he’s in a class by hisself, but it don’t take long to call the roll.”
Same with Pink. Because not only can she deliver the message tunes like “Try,” “Just Give Me a Reason” and the acceptance anthem “What About Us,” she’s got reflective knotted up, too, with “Barbies.”
Some might argue that she doesn’t really NEED the flashiness of the dancing and sets, which included an “Into the Woods meets Beowulf” forest for “Try” and a Trans-Siberian Orchestra-worthy light show for “For Now.” Her voice and songwriting ARE strong enough to carry her.
But Pink without dance moves and aerial calisthenics would be John Wayne without his horse. Or, given those misshapen lamp posts, Picasso without his brush.
New Jersey’s Bleachers opened the night with a solid set that really felt like someone had left 1980s MTV on. And again, that wasn’t a bad thing. Double drummers, sax solos reminiscent of another Jersey band from that era and edgy harmonies gave the band. Plus, I can’t remember the last time I heard orchestral chimes in a rock ‘n’ roll setting.