Pink was already one of pop's greatest performers, but she reached a new peak in Milwaukee
When it comes to putting on a pop show, Pink is the best we've got.
Thursday in Milwaukee, she proved, incredibly enough, she's getting even better.
Milwaukee is where Pink ended a three-year concert hiatus with an electrifying Summerfest show in 2017. For all of the show's spontaneity and energy, it was a bit bumpy — with Pink leaning on her dancers, backing vocalists and diamond-in-the-rough persona to get her through rougher patches.
Now Pink is well into her "Beautiful Trauma" world tour, and she's firing on all cylinders.
Thursday's sold-out show at Fiserv Forum began with a signature skill set that's put Pink in a league of her own — jaw-dropping aerial maneuvering. She kicked off the hour-and-50-minute concert swinging and bungee jumping from a chandelier for "Get This Party Started," singing at times while dangling upside down and holding herself up with her legs.
The aerial antics continued for the cheeky "Revenge," accompanied by morbidly funny Claymation sequences, as Pink flew up to dropkick a three-story inflatable Eminem puppet in the face.
And the "So What" suspended-rope routine from the previous tour made a roaring return, with Pink flying up to the ceiling of the arena, dive bombing fans on the floor, and swinging and cartwheeling all around the seating bowl.
But Pink pushed her daring and abilities to a new level during "Secrets," performing a complex, sensual dance routine with a male aerialist while they — sometimes just he — held onto to suspended ropes that frequently spun them 20 feet above the stage. At one point, Pink was lying parallel to the ground, held up by nothing more than the flat feet of her dance partner as he hung on to the spinning ropes.
That's the kind of feat worth the price of admission to Cirque du Soleil — and Pink was singing on top of it, and very well at that.
At her past two Milwaukee shows, Pink let her backing vocalists do some of the heavy lifting during the more demanding moments, but she largely took the reins this time. A complex, Red Riding Hood-gone-goth dance routine during "Try" climaxed with Pink managing to lift a male dancer with a hand on his ankle while leaning backward; in between deep gasps for air afterward, she still landed those swelling vocal notes.
When Pink had both feet firm on the ground — as for the radiant show-closer "Glitter In the Air" — her vocals were as dazzling as any of the night's acrobatics.
Pink's confidence and candor have long been a core appeal of her music, but she's also coming off two of the more consistently vulnerable albums of her career — "Beautiful Trauma" and the week-old "Hurts 2 B Human." And while only two songs from the latter made Thursday's 21-song set list, the show often evoked its emotional gravity.
"Raise Your Glass" and "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" have long been caffeinated crowd-pleasers, but their defiant messages of self-love took on greater meaning Thursday following an audio recording of Pink's empowering MTV Video Music Awards speech from 2017, where she recalled convincing her 6-year-old daughter that she was not ugly.
And a moving video montage with visual nods to #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and other movements set the mood for the "Beautiful Trauma" anthem "What About Us," with its goosebump-inducing combination of Pink's rich voice and significant words.
It's hard to imagine how Pink will top the power of her "Beautiful Trauma" tour the next go-round. But at this rate, it's impossible to imagine that she couldn't.
Here’s some fun Fiserv Forum trivia for you: Pink’s opener Julia Michaels became the first artist to perform at the new arena twice, after opening for Maroon 5 there in September. Michaels is one of pop’s most successful songwriters, as a medley of some of her credits (including Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Selena Gomez’s “Good For You”) illustrated Thursday. But as a performer, Michaels still struggles to convey the emotions of her material, largely performing with gee whiz wonder Thursday even when singing about misery on “Happy.” Michaels will be back in Milwaukee Nov. 3, performing across the street from Fiserv Forum at Turner Hall Ballroom.
Milwaukee’s own KidCutUp also opened Thursday, but this wasn’t a one-off gig. That was the case two years ago, when the veteran DJ born Tim Zick opened for Pink at Summerfest. He’s been touring with her ever since, and you can see why, entertaining the crowd Thursday with creative mash-ups of Salt-N-Pepa with Bon Jovi, Missy Elliott with Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes, and more.
And while Pink was the star of the show Thursday, Zick was a star in his city: Mayor Tom Barrett took the stage during the DJ’s set to proclaim it was “KidCutUp Day” in Milwaukee.
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- When she introduced her dancers, Pink called out her 7-year-old daughter Willow, who ran onstage to give mom a hug and do a few cartwheels for the crowd.
- Pink also mentioned that, before the show, she met a girl named Thea. “I saw her mom on Twitter talking about the fact that she has been bullied,” Pink said. “So I brought her backstage and we made a video for her bullies.”
- There was a lot of crowd interaction all night, and Pink paid particular attention to kids in the crowd, squatting on the catwalk to sing a few lines of “Walk Me Home” to a waving girl, and giving a little girl hoisted up by her dad in the pit high fives. Pink also received fan gifts, including a realistic sketch of the pop star that Pink proudly showed to the tour video cameras.
- While Pink slipped in some covers at that Summerfest one-off, Thursday there was only one, a snippet of No Doubt's "Just a Girl" that blended in with "Funhouse," which transformed into a speed punk version by the end.
- She also abandoned the awkward Afrobeat-approach to "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" that was done for Summerfest, a smart move given understandable criticisms regarding cultural appropriation.
- Fiserv Forum illuminated its balcony in pink light Thursday in honor of the pop star.
- Sample banter: “The last time I was here was Summerfest. That was fun. You guys can drink! I like that!”
The set list
1. "Get The Party Started"
2. "Beautiful Trauma"
3. "Just Like a Pill"
4. "Who Knew"
6. "Funhouse"/No Doubt's "Just a Girl"
10. "Just Give Me a Reason"
11. "Walk Me Home"
12. "Just Like Fire"
13. "What About Us"
14. "For Now"
16. "I Am Here"
17. "F**kin' Perfect"
18. "Raise Your Glass"
19. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)"
20. "So What"
21. "Glitter in the Air"
Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at facebook.com/PietLevyMJS.
Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.