When Pink’s Party Tour 2002 came to the Orpheum Theatre last Friday, it included a bonus attraction just for Boston: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who had earlier stirred a lot of flashbulb commotion when he took a seat in the audience with his family, joined Pink on stage for "Misery," their duet from her slam-dunk second album, Missundaztood (Arista).
It wasn’t the only exciting moment of the evening, or the only surprise. Overall, the show was riveting: dynamically paced, musically infectious, and hugely confident — certainly for a first-ever tour by someone from whom you wouldn’t necessarily expect a lot of big ideas. Powerhouse pop was a given — Pink has enough hits in the bank to have bought and sold the crowd (heavily represented by her tot and teen fans) without even trying to do much more than look good and sing well. As it turned out, her seemingly effortless vocals were a revelation, and her live presence credibly backed up her calculated shift from disco diva to ballsy rock chick.
Chrissie Hynde she’s not, but somewhere between Shirley Manson and Madonna, Pink’s rock-star niche is a natural. Wearing a mechanic’s jumpsuit with glow-in-the-dark patches — "Punk" in pink script, for one — she kicked off the show with a monster, "Get the Party Started," and kept up the pace with a high-impact barrage of Missundaztood tunes. These were, moreover, played live with some real organic thrust by a supercool-looking rock band — a nice surprise when you’re expecting the usual pick-up team of LA session cheeseballs.
Pink’s material may not be revolutionary art, but revolution, however vaguely imagined, was clearly a theme. She gave the girls some grown-up stuff to think about, and it wasn’t heavy on how to be a 21st-century bimbo. Beyond the show’s basic empowerment messages, it included some ambitious social content via backscreen photo montages. The ’60s-issue anti-war messages during "My Vietman" merged into a somewhat abstract stream of important things to think about, with strong words ("racism," "ageism," "sexism") fading in and out in a generalistic stand for peace, love, honor, and personal dignity. One of these messages seemed acutely personal: as she sang the line "What could I do for you/To make me okay in your eyes," the words "gay" and "straight" appeared on the screen. You might have thought you’d imagined it had Pink not made a point of restricting her on-stage oral-sex pantomimes to other women (at one point, she acted out a master/bitch routine with a big-haired bombshell in vinyl pants). Whatever she is, it would seem that Pink is indeed missundaztood by anyone who’s cast her as just another dance-pop hottie shaking her thing for the boys.