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Pink At Madison Square Garden, Friday, March 22nd, 2013, Reviewed

Pink floats through the air like a bat out of hell,  strapped to a harness and using technology first seen ten blocks uptown at the Foxwoods in  "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark", Pink's The Truth About Love concert at MSG Friday night reached its zenith. Most rock stars, when they want to get up close and personal at an Arena gig, climb on top a cherry picker with an acoustic guitar and meet and greet the cheap seats. Justin Beiber's been doing it every night for six months. But the ever athletic Pink, who had already performed on the trapeze in a physical endurance of a set, took it to a whole other level. Singing "So What", often upside down, Pink was a heart stopping sight swooping from the rafters to right next to you and the audience gasped in amazement.

The last time I saw Pink on stage, eight years ago opening for Justin Timberlake at the same venue, she took to the air to make her point but less emphatically. The pop singer with the powerful voice hasn't changed much in the proceeding years, she has just gotten bigger and better and in one of the remarkable Arena shows you will ever see, she was both a bigger than life cut out character, and a personable, friendly singer, with many hit songs to choose from and a personalty sculpted to make the smallest of emotions reach the most people.

Opening bang on time and playing for two hours straight, Pink took a full band, six back up dancers and seven costume changes to the fans and despite a wobbly start pulled it off with finesse. The evening begins with a game show concept and an intensely annoying MC and it followed with two songs more acted out than we are used to but then the set settles itself and flies high. "Walk Of Shame" is way too specific in hits presentation with banks of LCDs and a snap and bang. It reminded me of Lady Gaga at the Prudential a couple of years ago, where Gaga kept interrupting the concert to change the stage so she could act out the songs. It is overkill.

But the third song is a terrific full on "Just Like A Pill" topped by "U + Your Hand" and a little too loud "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" and after a costume change the set was bathed in black and white and Pink grabbed hold and held on with "Try" (the recent # 1) and a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game". By an odd coincidence I had seen Eric Contractor cover the same song at Sidewalks an hour before. I don't think what attracted the singers was the songs protean nature, but rather both Pink and Eric have strong voices, if you have the right tone the song yields a  quiet power. Pink began to shift her set from Olympic energy that caught her huffing here and there, to powerhouse vocalist whose roots, you may remember, is in r&b not pop. The very next song was a vocal tour de force on "Just Give Me A Reason" (Nate Reuss on video) and the evenings singing highlight.

But despite a "Sober" with all the dancers and Pink suspended in midair in a spinning top, the highlights were actually the quieter moments. "Family Portrait" with pictures of Pink's broken family and joined by just a piano made the lachrymose drag of a song somewhat moving and then personal best for the evening a "Who Knew" with just an acoustic guitar which became a singalong and "Fucking Perfect" which included Pink, never one to shy away from strong language, wondering about her three year old daughter. Which also became a singalong. AT these moments Pink took the time to talk to the audience, to let us in, to joke us out and so managed to balance distance and closeness. 

But my problems with Pink lay elsewhere. She is a second tier superstar whose lyrics can be too simplistic and who is only as good as her songs. I put her between Gaga, Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna and on stage she is their equal but on record her ballads are too much and her beats need to hit the refresh button. To be clearer, the material can be iffy and strained, want examples? Both "Blow Me (A Kiss Goodbye)" and "Make Me Sick" kinda suck and there are entire albums only as good as the singles.  So it is a credit to one of the fun filled sets around that Pink is capable of working through to a setlist that works while  maintaining both closeness and joy with her audience. A very mixed audience, all ages, both sexes, she has a great voice, one of the best pop singers around, and a way of letting you in. The last thing we see as the evening ends is a video of Pink walking away with her husband and daughter. The truth about the Truth About Love is, it is the best Arena show you will see this year because it lets you into her world while satisfying its responsibilities to a wide wide audience,

Grade: B+  

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