Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13

Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13
Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Alecia Beth Moore is strong as an ox, powerful as a locomotive, tough as nails, cold as ice, hard as steel, mighty as the Mississippi, badder than Old King Kong, meaner than a junkyard dog, etc. No matter how she's described, know that Pink is equal parts ripped, cut, and jacked. Not to say that her strength is the one dimension that defines her, but her The Truth About Love tour stop in St. Paul flexed that muscular and emotional fortitude for a solid couple of hours.

When she belts out her jagged pop hits with feeling while dangling 100 feet in the air, and upside down, she not only sets the bar impossibly high for her Top 40 cohorts, but for everyone who comes out to see her. Even for those of us without ropes, pulleys and chiseled backup dancers ready to catch us, witnessing Pink bust her ass like that is inspiration enough for even the most inhibited to break out of a stupor and (at least metaphorically) dance.

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Slideshow: Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13

If there was any song to hammer home that point, it was "Try," one of several cuts from last year's The Truth About Love mixed into the night. After spending the first part of the song deftly twirling on the ropes while suspended in the air, Pink came to earth for more feats of gymnastics-level strength involving her dancers, and an extreme amount of flexibility. "Just because it burns/ doesn't mean you're gonna die/ you gotta get up and try and try and try," she sang while all of this was going on. The backdrop (and a long-winded intro from an overbearing "host" she had along) took its cues from sexual fetishes of all sorts, but the lyrics reach further than the bedroom with their intent. And, it was these sorts of lyrical nudges that regularly brought fanfares from the audience.

Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13
Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13
Photos by Stacy Schwartz

So, aside from the fact that Pink had her sculpted abs on display and completed circus-level stunts for a large percentage of the night, her self-confidence and layers of vulnerability filled out the irresistible package of her live persona. On the somewhat phallic catwalk erected out in front of the stage dominated by a heart-shaped screen, the singer strutted out to commingle numerous times and receive a variety of tokens of appreciation -- necklaces, a white fedora, and a rather large bra ("Honey, that wouldn't fit me; I wish"). And though she had kind words for the crowd ("I like it here!"), she left most of her statements to the ones carefully constructed within her songs.

"Everyone else in the world is cool," she said before launching into the "I love you, but give me space" anthem "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)." "We're dorks." And in the wake of the applause that resulted, she urged the crowd to try out their worst dance moves, and tried out a few of her own as a "Dork-o-meter" on the screens buried the needle. Obviously, Pink can actually dance, but seeing her do some sort of flapping bird routine with a huge grin was a disarming delight.

Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13
Photo by Stacy Schwartz

The biggest and most-upbeat chart hits of her career were present in the early going -- "Raise Your Glass," "U+Ur Hand," among them -- but Pink fans are total suckers for the ballads. After a faithful rendering of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," there was "Just Give Me a Reason," featuring a video cameo by Fun. lead singer Nate Ruess. This one got the whole place singing lustily along. It was a touching moment, although Ruess's face on gigantic screens does bring new attention to his exaggerated, rubbery facial expressions.

Through her costume changes -- purple sequined leotard with an "X" on the crotch to a frilly white skirt -- Pink created movement in the show. Following a soul-baring "Family Portrait" with grand piano for accompaniment, she strode out to the end of the catwalk to sit on stools with her tour guitarist. With that song, "Who Knew" and a PG-rated version of "Fuckin' Perfect," she took the opportunity to showcase her voice above all. Aside from a pretty charming flub in the middle of "Who Knew," this would be the most down-to-earth section of the night -- and again, the audience sang and sang.


To kick things back into physical action, the oldest Pink material of the night got meshed into a

Can't Take Me Home

medley. The 13-year-old songs seem miles away from the rock-fused empowerment jams she makes now, but even with its antiquated bling references, "Most Girls" still stands as a revolutionary moment that opened the gates for Rihanna, Gaga, and plenty others. And, it gave Pink a chance to showcase some more complex dance moves, including one through a male dancer's legs that nearly lifted her out of her pants.

Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13
Pink at Xcel Energy Center, 3/19/13
Photos by Stacy Schwartz

The evening's lowlight was undoubtedly The Truth About Love track "Slut Like You" -- though it appears to be a song that fans and Pink feel quite strongly about. While the message of equal opportunity one-night-stands isn't an issue, the melody and its incessant, atonal "woohoo" refrain wasn't improved from its grating recording in the live setting -- even with a stripper pole dance routine in the middle. Though it might be a big hit in a country bar, it stuck out as a low-grade attempt in an otherwise strong batch of songwriting.

Fortunately, the finale was a grand recovery. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" contains everything that Pink has come to stand for -- unmistakable pop hooks and her brand of uplifting crassness. Ditto that for "So What," which featured the grandest aerial attack of the entire night, and one of the most impressive visual displays a person can hope to see at a concert. Strapped into a rotating harness attached to wires that reached high into the Xcel, her gilded figure spent the song soaring through the open air into everyone's faces, and never once losing her composure.

The soft, sensual "Glitter in the Air" proved subdued in comparison, but only slightly so. In another high-hanging display, she and several dancers played the part of a spinning human chandelier. Towards the end, she got dunked into a pool of water, and sent water droplets everywhere. The effect combined all of the night's showcases of strength with all of its beauty, making separating the two aspects irrelevant.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: While it might not have been fuckin' perfect, this show rocked harder than recent stops by Madonna and Lady Gaga at the Xcel. That said, it wasn't due to the commonplace alt-country by the City & Colour, which was all the smoothness of Christopher Cross with little of the substance, in the opening slot.

The Crowd: Maybe 70-30 female. Many, of both genders, with pinkish hair.

Overheard: "They all must've been cheerleaders in college," regarding the rah-rah attitude of Pink's backup dancers.

Raise Your Glass
Walk of Shame
Just Like a Pill
U+Ur Hand
Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)
Wicked Game (Chris Isaak cover)
Just Give Me a Reason
Are We All We Are
How Come You're Not Here
Family Portrait
Who Knew
Fuckin' Perfect
Most Girls/ There You Go/ You Make Me Sick
Slut Like You
Blow Me (One Last Kiss)
So What
Glitter in the Air

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