P!nk - Madison Square Garden - 3/22/13

Categories: Live, Pink

Better Than: The opening act.

Poor P!nk. Back in 2001, she was the pop star who wasn't, dissing L.A. and Britney and singing songs for all the missundazstood suburbanites teenpop theoretically ignored. Ten years later, it looked like P!nk was moving away from pop just as pop was moving more towards P!nk: The most popular artists in the world were referring to the fans as animals and monsters, even going on to offer them pre-concert group therapy, and the one who had gone gold with the confessional "Family Portrait" hadn't released a new album in three years and counting.

Then again, if there was one takeaway from Friday night's Madison Square Garden show, it was that P!nk is doing just fine. True, she at one point referred to the Hives, they whose heavily affected take on "real rock" could have easily sent a less dedicated scribe home early, as one of the best bands in the world, but beyond that there were few lapses.

Entering from the ceiling, twirling in the air on ropes and sashes, and at one point spinning above the audience inside a giant gyroscope, the performance bore more in common with last year's Michael Jackson Cirque de Soleil than it did with most arena concerts. It even had the one thing that Michael Jackson Cirque de Soleil lacked: some narrative thrust, opening with a crazed game show host pulling P!nk from the audience but mostly letting the songs take over from there.

You never would have guessed it in 2011, but the best of those songs mostly came from last year's The Truth About Love, a record strong enough to convince you that the cheeky ...So Far!!! appended to the title was more than just talk. If you don't mind skipping to the last page, the Truth, at least P!nk's version of it, isn't just that love hurts but that love is hurt. She makes this clearest on "True Love" (as in, "I hate you so much I think it must be") and "Try," but if on Friday you were listening to the words on the latter you were probably just wondering why they weren't as good as the dancing, which was extraordinary.

That's the other thing about P!nk: She might try to distance herself from the major pop stars, but her dancing is better than just about all of them. Exhibit A: the music video for "Try," which puts the singer in the desert with a male dancer who appears to be even stronger than she, and the two proceed to throw each other, flip each other, push each other, and hold each other, a pair of people detoxing after who knows how many years of love and hurt.

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