Not to brag, but I’ve been to an awful lot of concerts over the years. It’d be hard to put a number on it, but I’d estimate maybe in the 100-150 range. Sure, there are tons of people who have seen more, but 100 is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Over the years, since that first concert at age fourteen (RIP Stevie Ray Vaughan) I’ve seen some true legends. Mostly rock, but not all. I’ve seen The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Metallica, Eric Clapton (shout out to EC’s biggest fan, my Ringing Ear Podcast co-host Jeff Nale), and just last summer I saw his musical holiness himself, Sir Paul McCartney. All of which is to say, these days I’m not easily impressed. So on paper, the thought of me going to a pop concert semed rather quaint. But quaint gets turned on its head and flattened like a pancake when the concert in question isn’t your every day concert put on by your run-of-the-mill pop star. Far from it, actually—this was Pink, taking over Intrust Bank Arena on night two of her Beautiful Trauma Tour, 2018.
I was aware of Pink’s reputation as an impressive performer, recalling her spellbinding acrobatic performance at the 2014 Grammys, and wondered if when her tour hit my town she might have some tricks up her sleeve…and
boy girl, was I right.
Starting the show literally swinging from a massive chandalier, Pink and her incredible band kicked into Get the Party Started, an appropriate opening song if ever there was one. Strapped into a harness with an array of wires and bungee cords, Pink leapt, tumbled, and flipped on and off the chandelier, all the while choreographing with her multitude of dancers (did I mention she was also singing perfectly?). From there, it was off to the races as the crew launched into a set piece for the title track of the new album and tour, followed by fan favorite Just Like a Pill.
Thanks to a rather inconvenient policy at the venue, once the allotted first three songs that I was allowed to photograph were up, I had to take my camera back to my car before I could get to my seat to enjoy the rest of the concert (I was still able to snap more pics with my phone). Luckily, I had managed to find a parking spot just a couple blocks away, so I was able to hurry to the car and back while missing only three songs (though one of the three, Revenge, her collaboration with Eminem, featured a massive inflatable cartoon version of the rapper, with Pink going back on the harness to fly around it and bat it about a little bit—I would’ve liked to have seen that). As I made my way to my seat I heard her covering No Doubt’s Just a Girl and her version of Smells Like Teen Spirit, which I feel safe saying would’ve gotten sound approval from the guys in Nirvana.
Pink went airborne once again during Secrets, performing the song while twirling and spinning with a male dancer/acrobat, and managing some impressive maneuvers reminiscent of a tamed down Cirque du Soleil. Just Give Me a Reason necessitated a set change to a surreal, gothic theme, which found the singer barefoot in a black dress among massive, eerie trees while dancers donning huge animal heads paraded around her with candelabras (at this point I must admit I have no idea what that song is about, but the imagery was very cool). I’m Not Dead kept the same set design, with the addition of Pink climbing into a four-poster bed that levitated and glided high above the stage for the duration of the song.
Another set change (not to mention near-constant costume changes) for Just Like Fire, featuring, of course, some sweet pyro, and more surreal interpretive dance from her dance team on What About Us, before she finally slowed things down a notch, giving her dancers a much-needed break and bringing her band up to the front of the stage for an intimate mini-set. Her bassist traded in her electric for a stand-up, and her violinist swapped the smaller instrument out for a cello, joining the toned down guitarist and drummer for a few numbers.
Aside from the flawless vocals and amazing visuals, the thing that struck me about Pink was her stage presence. If I had to sum it up in a word, it would be ‘effortless’. Rarely have I seen someone so at ease on stage, made all the more remarkable given the amount of work she was putting forth throughout the show. Her banter with the crowd seemed off the cuff and relaxed—she remarked how pleased she was to see so many “littles” in the crowd, then immediately apologized for any hurt feelings, seeing as how many littles protest the fact that they are, in fact, little. She even stopped for one such small fry and signed an autograph before continuing with the show. Nothing she said sounded rehashed or rehearsed, which was quite refreshing—granted, this was only the second night of her tour, so fans catching her a couple months down the road may hear the exact same lines we heard in Wichita, but at least in the moment it sounded sincere.
Things picked back up with a costume change and the re-emergence of the dancers and full use of the stage for Raise Your Glass, again finding Pink airborne as she worked the crowd, and Blow Me (One Last Kiss), which put a spotlight on the dancers and backup singers, who rightfully deserved it. I can’t emphasize enough how, among a show full of amazing visuals, how good the band sounded, and the backup singers were no exception. The whole musical aspect of the show was absolutely impeccable.
Little did the crowd know Pink was about to bring the house down with her first encore, So What. In the shiny silver suit she wore to start the show, Pink was fastened into another wire harness that was almost beyond belief. First lifting her high in the air, the contraption she was hooked to proceeded to zip her along the entire arena, putting her front and center for all the people in the back who I’m sure never expected to be that close to the superstar. It brought to mind huge acts like KISS with the jaw-dropping visual of her sailing around such a large venue, singing all the while. It was quite the spectacle to behold, and had the crowd going absolutely berserk.
Once unhooked from the harness, Pink closed the show with Glitter in the Air. It may seem odd to some that she opted to close the show with a ballad, but if I had to hazard a guess, I think I might know—if she’d ended with So What, the crowd would’ve been too much, too strong. The world outside Intrust Bank Arena wouldn’t have been able to contain them, and they needed to be roped in, albeit just a touch. It was a beautiful somber tone on which to end the night, and I truly believe not a single soul left that venue untouched, unmoved, or unloved.
At one point, during the one and only extended break Pink took from the stage, a short video played, emphasizing Pink’s general philosophy and outlook on life: love yourself, treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and do no harm. And, much like the musical and visual extravaganza I’d been treated to for the duration of the show, that left me thoroughly impressed.
Side note: I found myself wondering at one point in the night, “How do I, a middle aged guy who’s steadily consumed a healthy diet of metal and punk, know so many Pink songs?”