It’s no fluke Pink’s still a rock star
July 29, 2009 12:00am
PINK is deep in her inner sanctum. She’s backstage at Rod Laver Arena – a venue she’ll visit no fewer than 15 times in 14 weeks during her Funhouse Australian tour.
She’s Alecia in here, still a few hours away from showtime and still in her civilian clothes, not the Bob Mackie-designed outfits only someone bold and fit can pull off (his other main client is Cher).
A bar fridge bursts with her beer of choice – VB. She’s tweeting like someone deranged, her laptop next to newspaper reviews of her Melbourne shows.
She’s just had dinner with the crew in the venue’s John Farnham Room. Yes, when you’ve played more than 95 shows at Rod Laver Arena – to more than a million people – you get a room named after you.
Farnham has the numbers on Pink overall, but with her 15 Rod Laver shows she’s broken his record of 12 on one tour. Last week Farnham told the Herald Sun: “Bloody good on her.”
Pink says: “It’s awesome he’s given me his blessing. But I want a room here, dammit! I want the Pink bathroom. Gimme a bathroom!”
By the end of her tour, Pink will have sold about 180,000 tickets for Rod Laver. More than 550,000 have been sold for the tour nationally. In an era when even superstars struggle to sell CDs, Pink’s entire back catalogue is trucking out of shops.
Her two most recent albums, Funhouse and I’m Not Dead, between them have sold more than 1.2 million copies in Australia. All four of her albums are back in the Top 60 this week.
Recession? What recession?
Pink struggles to express her thoughts about being the drawcard of the most successful – and lengthy – international pop tour in Australia. She’s now broken her own record – after 35 shows on the I’m Not Dead tour in 2007, there are now 52 on the Australian leg of the Funhouse tour . . . so far.
“I thought the last time was a fluke, I really did,” Pink says. “I said it would never happen. I don’t get it, but it’s awesome. It’s not something I’ve been able to put into words.”
There’s another moment in the Funhouse tour about which Pink is similarly silent.
It’s during Sober . . . three-quarters of the way through the hit song, to be precise. Pink takes a long pause and audibly draws some deep breaths. Mind you, she’s hanging upside down somewhere near the roof, dangling from the leg of a trapeze artist. She’s already switched limbs – both feet, both arms – several times, catapulting her body in mid air, climbing the trapeze artist as if he were a ladder.
And all the time she’s singing Sober live without missing a note, thanks to a microphone strapped to the side of her face. This is no Britney Spears concert.
“The reason I scream ‘Sing it’ during that song is to make sure everyone can hear me breathing and they know I’m singing,” Pink says.
“A lot of people at first were saying, ‘No way can she be singing. She’s lip-synching’. That’s bulls-.”
Pink talks about singing upside down as if it were natural for any performer. “Sometimes I sound better upside down than right side up. The only part that’s a little crazy is the spinning (on ropes). I don’t want to hear that part on the DVD, I’m sure that part is a little sketchy.”
By hanging from the roof, Pink raises the bar for pop tours with Funhouse. The Australian leg will be captured for posterity on DVD.
When she was in Australia in October spruiking the Funhouse album, the concert was still nothing more than ideas in her head. Even when tickets went on sale the show was only some preliminary sketches and concepts.
That’s all changed. Pink’s had performing live in the bag for years. The dangling she mastered on her previous tour. The trapeze work – that’s new.
Pink trained for two months with trapeze artist Sebastien Stella from Cirque du Soleil. He’s now joined the tour.
“It was serious training,” she says. “I’m not a perfectionist. Seb is. He takes it very seriously. I now see why, because my body hurts. I was a gymnast for eight years. I thought I was invincible. I thought I was GI Jane. But I’m not. I’m not 16 any more. I have to condition myself.”
Last October Pink party-hopped around Sydney, nursing a beer and a broken heart after her marriage to motocross star Carey Hart had dissolved. Those days are over. There are regular days off when the recently reunited couple enjoy their downtime and renewed relationship.
A geographically staggered schedule also stops the singer getting bored with the same venue day after day. But party time is over.
“This is the most physically, emotionally and vocally demanding show I’ve done,” Pink says. “It’s full-on. I read a review that said you don’t have to be a Pink fan to enjoy it, that it’s just pure entertainment. I f-ing love that. If you’re having a good time and you’re laughing or crying or you danced and didn’t care who was watching or if some button in you was pushed, that’s what it’s all about.
“That’s why Bette Midler, cheesy as it sounds, is my f-ing hero. You can go to her show not knowing a single song but The Rose and have a good time. She’s like a stand-up comedian/theatre/actress/singer girl. That’s what I want. I want all of that.”
Pink has a secret weapon in her quest: her manager, Roger Davies. The Australian has steered the careers of Tina Turner and Cher, artists who’ve sustained the magic by touring.
On Pink’s first Australian tour in 2000, to promote Can’t Take Me Home, she was a brat who turned up late for her first Melbourne club show. She hated her management and wasn’t happy with how her career was going.
“I was numb, I tuned out. I hated life. I didn’t give a s-. For the first four years of my career I was constantly having to prove myself. Everyone wanted to hang s- on me. Even when Lady Marmalade came out people were going ‘Wow, you can sing!’ I still get that – ‘Wow, we didn’t know you could sing!’ What the f-? What is it about me that people don’t want to understand?”
Davies understood. Impressed by the videos from her debut album, he swooped Pink up for management in 2001, about the time of the career-reviving Missundaztood album, which took her from R&B to rock and rebuilt her as a live act, unlike most of her contemporaries.
“I wouldn’t be touring like I’m touring if Roger Davies wasn’t my manager,” Pink says. “He’s the best of the best. He works with the best of the best. He makes touring artists. It’s amazing to watch. I credit it to a lot of hard work on my part and listening to really good advice.”
The hard work is paying off. Even the self-deprecating Pink rates herself as a performer.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I’m slowly becoming a real entertainer,” she says. “I feel really comfortable up there. I feel I’m the best version of myself up there. I’m proud of that. I work my f-ing ass off. And I’m proud of it here (in Australia) because people get it and they appreciate it.”
After the tour ends in August, Pink will finally get to headline a tour in the US in September and October. Her career in her homeland has been hit and miss. She sold millions with Missundaztood, then sales dropped. Unconcerned, Pink just toured the rest of the world where people wanted her. Belatedly, U+UR Hand and Who Knew were Top 20 US hits and last year So What gave her her first US No.1 single.
From supporting the likes of Justin Timberlake, she’ll tour the US on her own – though she’s playing more shows in Melbourne than in the whole of North America.
“I’m proud to go home and play my home town and play Madison Square Garden,” Pink says. “I’ve waited ’til I’m 30 years old to do it. It’s almost better to have to work this hard for stuff, be the underdog, then you appreciate it more. None of my family or friends really know what I do.
“My brother’s never seen me in a show like this. It’s a long time coming and I credit the success in Australia with helping that happen in America. People went: ‘What the f- are we missing? There must be something there’.”
Pink turns 30 on September 8. She has a four-day break from the tour shoehorned in between Australia and America.
“I’m going to be in a motorhome with my dirtbikes, my motorcycles, my dogs and Carey,” Pink says of her 30th plans. “We’re just going to take off, go camp, drink wine, play acoustic guitar by a fire and play with my dogs.”
Pink and Hart’s reunion happened about the time a UK paper ran a story outing the singer as bisexual. “I’m not embarrassed about being bisexual. This is who I am. Love is pure and I try to keep it that way,” she was quoted as saying.
The story went around the world in a heartbeat. There was one problem: the entire article was fabricated, quotes and all.
“It was unnecessary,” Pink says. “It’s a shame that these are the kind of things that still make headlines. Ever since my first record people have been claiming me ethnically, sexually and musically. It’s always this little box I’m supposed to jump into. But I’m about the truth, whatever it is. That’s not my truth, so I defended it.”
Pink dismissed the story via the so-2009 medium of Twitter by saying it was “so 1991”.
“I’ve heard worse about myself,” Pink says. “I heard I was at a gay bar in Louisiana challenging women to wrestling and losing. It wasn’t the gay bar bit that bothered me, but the losing. That was taking it too far!”
This lengthy, demographic-straddling Australian tour has demonstrated to Pink her fanbase now runs “from age four to 64”. Rove McManus told her he saw one mother shield her daughter’s eyes during her racy cover of the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself – for which Pink acts out the song’s lyrics in lingerie while random hands poke through a sofa. The same moment pleases many others, including Pink’s strong lesbian following.
“I’ve always said I’m trysexual,” Pink says. “I’ll try anything. Well, not anything. But my connection with gays and lesbians – the whole community – is that I identify with people who struggle. I’ve not really had many close friendships with people who’ve had a silver platter in front of them all their lives and haven’t had to work for anything or go through anything hard. That’s a huge part of it (the appeal). That and the fact I’m androgynous and masculine and crazy.”
Pink is flattered when women find her attractive. “It’s not a bad thing. Not bad at all.”
But she’s taken. By the man many of Funhouse’s most emotional break-up songs are about.
One of those, I Don’t Believe You, brought her to tears when she was writing it. On tour she regularly struggles to get through the song without laughing.
“If a psychologist were in the audience they’d say ‘She’s laughing because it’s too painful for her to sing’.” Is she?
“Nah, I don’t think it’s that deep. It’s just I’m not a great guitar player.”
Hart also has to hear So What document their split each night, including a chorus that labels him a “tool” as he is flipped the bird.
“That’s fun,” Pink says. “He has a good sense of humour. It kind of stings, I’m sure. But if someone wrote an entire album about me, even if it’s a p-ed-off album, I’d be flattered, so I’m sure that’s part of it. It’s funny to me. Plus Carey taught me the word ‘tool’ so it’s good to give back.”
not in synch with britney
PINK’S Funhouse tour has been lazily compared with Britney Spears’ Circus tour.
Sure, there’s a similar theme – Pink’s Funhouse album came out months before Britney’s Circus one – but there’s one main difference in their concerts: Pink sings live and has a live band.
“I don’t like that they compare our shows, let’s be honest,” Pink says. “It’s easy to do when it’s Circus and Funhouse, but there’s no comparison.
“People want me to hate Britney. I wish her well. I want her to win. I really, really do. I don’t get it as of now, but on the other hand, as a musical person, I don’t get lip-synching, either, I never will. I don’t get how you go and get that for two hours.
“I grew up watching Broadway, watching these singers blow your heart out of your chest. And Billy Joel f-ing killing you for three hours. That was my first concert when I was two and I remember him sweating on his piano keys. That’s what I want to see. I could never go watch miming, but more power to her, there’s room for everybody.”
Moments on the Funhouse tour – such as the bed on stage and Pink dry-humping a couch – give flashbacks to Madonna at her prime.
“She was way more sexual and ballsy than I’ve ever been,” Pink says of Madonna.
“I’m probably more of a singer than she’ll ever be, but she’s a sexual force. I like to be funny.”
KICKING yourself that you missed out on Pink tickets last time she was here?
Well, you can breathe a little easier – the pocket rocket is coming back to town next month.
The rocker will play four shows at the Entertainment Centre from August 4 to 11.
And apart from being one hell of a singer and entertainer, the blonde dynamo has proved herself to be one heck of a nice chick.
Back in May, when she was here for her earlier shows, she became a roving ambassador for SA, jumping on Twitter to tell the world about her cycling trip across town, how beautiful Adelaide was and to rave about sampling our famous Grange at Penfolds.
Meanwhile, AdelaideNow is giving one lucky reader and a friend the chance to get up close and personal with Pink, simply by logging on to www.adelaidenow.com.au
The lucky pair will get return economy airfares to New York flying Qantas, transfers, five nights at the Pennsylvania Hotel and two “Pod A/front of stage” concert tickets to see Pink’s Funhouse tour at Madison Square Garden, in New York, on October 5.
AdelaideNow also is throwing in $2000 spending money.
For more details, head to www.adelaidenow.com.au/pink