Pink : London Brixton Academy

...tonight she is the boss...

It’s like ‘A Clockwork Orange’ in the Gents. There’s a gang – maybe 10 or 12 of them – rampaging around, chucking stuff about. They’re wearing flat caps, white T’s, red braces, boots and heavy make-up. Oh, and they’re women. So that’s a swift one in the nuts for all those who had Pink nailed down as some major record company exec wank. This one, it transpires, is strictly for the girls.

Pink only pauses to acknowledge the testosterone in the room once tonight. She says: “Guys, I’m gonna give you the chance of a lifetime… For the next three minutes and 30 seconds or so, you can all become ladies!” Then she launches into ‘Respect’ and the fact that it’s a pretty lame facsimile of TLC‘s ‘No Scrubs’ passes utterly unnoticed as we all scream along – lesbian couples, superhyper gal posses and tagalong boyfriends alike.

Tonight is Pink‘s fourth ever show outside of the States and what we learn from seeing her in the flesh is that those of us who had her tagged as some Frankenstein Feminem, some Stepford Star, were pretty fucking far off the mark. The Pink that flexes her muscles before us in Brixton is not even the Good Pussy or Fucking Bitch that those naughty attention-grabbing T-shirts have labelled her over the past few weeks. Tonight she is pitch Goth black punk Pink who spends a lotta time between songs teasing her quiff back to erection. And tonight she is the boss.

If it hadn’t already been done by a certain Blonde some years ago, these shows could very well have gone out under the banner The Pink Ambition Tour. Because what unfolds before our eyes in the next hour is not so much a manifesto as a gameplan as to how Pink intends to conquer the world.

First we get what, on the surface, is a homage to Janis Joplin, the hippy who sang the blues around San Francisco in the ’60s until she took a bad hit of smack. While Pink does good with the vocal pyrotechnics, crashing through a medley of Joplin standards – ‘Summertime’, ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ and ‘Little Piece Of My Heart’ – we are treated to video images of a pantheon of dead stars. Lennon, Cobain, Miles Davis, Hendrix, Marley, Billie Holiday, Biggie and Tupac join Joplin up there on that big, sad screen. And we all shout out as each image appears as if we are cheering Hall Of Famers. The biggest cheers – which says a lot about Pink‘s people – are reserved for Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopez and Karen Carpenter.

But what the fuck does it mean? It means, of course, that homage has passed into appropriation; that Pink gets greatness and that genius is pain.

Hang on in there… there’s more! It’s ‘My Vietnam’ and Pink moves with unabashed ease from raiding rock history to referencing real history to illustrate the complexity of her persona. Pasted between newsreel shots of dead soldiers and napalm victims, run these slogans: FREEDOM PEACE WAR OPPRESSION POLITICS POWER RACISM SEXISM AGEISM GAY STRAIGHT UNITY CHOICE. The subtext, of course, is that Pink gets the world and she’s no puppet, nobody’s fool.

The third setpiece in the holy trinity of Pink‘s symbolic autobiography is ‘Family Portrait’ where Pink actually projects onto the screen snaps of her family as she was growing up, even as she is telling us how her broken home scarred her for life. The subtext: Pink is 4 Real.

Of course, all of this should stink to high heaven. It doesn’t because, although Pink will stop at absolutely nothing to get the recognition she craves, there’s a twist – she does it all on her own terms. Others – the Pop Stars lot and more – will do anything they’re told to do for a shot at fame. But fame alone doesn’t do it for Pink. Pink wants success because success equals power and power equals influence and influence equals inspiration and inspiration changes lives. Pink really wants to mean something.

All of which would amount to sweet FA, of course, if it wasn’t for the fact that she also happens to have authored three of this year’s greatest pop songs. Anyone whose pulse doesn’t race to the set opener, ‘Get The Party Started’ might as well be dead. ‘Just Like A Pill’ is a gem that manages to ride its chic innuendo into real realms of romantic suffering and ‘Dear Diary’ is a sweet liaison between Madonna‘s ‘Don’t Tell Me’ and The Verve’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’.

Here’s a line from Kurt Cobain’s Journal, published nine days ago: “Women are the only future in rock’n’roll”. Hey, maybe the loser was a prophet after all.