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Have you balanced atop and dangled from an aerialist in midair, nothing holding you to him but his strength and yours? Or boomeranged Spidey-style from end to end of a sports arena, like Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, where Pink impressed with two shows April 26 and 27, eventually reaching the very top of the ceiling – that ceiling is high – and plummeting down, down, down while still holding live notes? Better question: Would you even try?
When Pink fiercely cut through the pop fold as an R&B up-and-comer, she emerged a fearless no-shit-taker, wiping the floor clean with her savage attitude and short-lived hood swag. Heart of gold, though. When her debut, “Take Me Home,” was released in 2000, I was a teen – gay, and weird about being gay. She was/is a badass. And like all my best teachers, a woman. I wanted to be that tough, that bold, and I watched in awe: She was cool, ballsy, uninhibited, indestructible. Nineteen years later, and for the same reasons, I’m still looking on with total wide-eyed, jaw-dropped respect and astonishment.
Pink has always been one of pop’s biggest badass. She would, however, expand her badassery to include flying in the fucking air like it’s NBD and fully embracing who she is – her take-it-or-leave-it POV is her empowering way of life – despite naysayers. As she swung from a massive chandelier during the opening of her show, I marveled with admiration knowing my younger self and my now 36-year-old self appreciated that Pink has always gone boldly where you’d least expect her to go, musically and politically, sometimes one meeting the other (see: “Dear Mr. President”). Before she stepped out in Detroit for “What About Us,” the first single from her last album, with dancers from all walks of life who performed the music video’s burning choreo, a video montage advocated resolutely for human rights issues.
Addressed during Pink’s powerful sociopolitical statement were modern, divisive (in the world, and yes, even at a Pink show) issues, like equal marriage rights (“I don’t want there to be gay marriage; I just want there to be happy marriage”), #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Images of LGBTQ icons Adam Rippon, Ellen DeGeneres and Laverne Cox flashed to wild applause across the screen, taking me back to being a weird, gay kid. What that weird, gay kid would feel seeing myself represented in a sold-out sea of people, and how weird, gay kids now – and others who feel “forgotten and invisible and … less-than, unwanted and unloved,” she said in the video – must feel in that sea at a Pink show where our differences are celebrated. It drove the message of “What About Us” home and, misty-eyed, I felt it all.
The state of the (and her) world is a perpetual state of mind on Pink’s latest album, “Hurts 2 B Human,” released the day before the second Detroit show. She performed “Hustle,” a kiss-off in the swaggering manner of Kelly Clarkson’s soulful shift, and “Walk Me Home,” a song about looking out for each other. But as is the case with Pink albums, the experimental gems will likely never get the radio attention they deserve. Take “90 Days,” a sonic wild card resembling, with its echoed vocal distortion, music from Bon Iver’s 2016 album, “22, A Million.” It’s so good you wish Pink would tour with her openly gay collaborator, Wrabel, just so they could do perform this song together.
“The Beautiful Trauma World Tour,” however, aptly focused on “Beautiful Trauma,” an album she released just last year (this was the second leg of the tour). Several of its songs, including “For Now,” “I Am Here” and “Barbies,” were all performed on the ground, with her signature vigor and vulnerability, her howl of a voice reaching the same heights her body did.
She was on foot for “Who Knew,” best performed stripped of any theatrics as, 13 years later, her pained lyrics still speak powerfully on their own. During the spectacle staged for “Try,” the set morphed into a gothic, woodsy folktale, with Pink warily peeking her head out from her red cape, like Little Red Riding Hood keeping the wolves at bay. But two decades into her career, the real threat is still Pink, a superhero for our times – for the weird, gay kids who need her like I once did.