P!nk brings stellar blend of acrobatics and activism to John Paul Jones Arena

The iconic singer makes a stop in Charlottesville while touring her seventh studio album


 Step aside, Tony Bennett — John Paul Jones belongs to P!nk now. 

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

Step aside, Tony Bennett — John Paul Jones belongs to P!nk now. The home of the University’s basketball teams transformed tenfold to house P!nk and her entourage for the Charlottesville leg of her Beautiful Trauma tour. 

The show opened with a set from DJ KidCutUp, an up-and-coming artist known for putting a fresh EDM twist on old school hip-hop and classic party tracks. There was a little bit of everything with this opener, from Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’s “I Love Rock and Roll” to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” overall making for a casual, understated, yet fun opener that served as an extreme juxtaposition to the beautifully complex show to come. 

The lights went down over the arena, the larger-than-life pink curtains adorning the stage dropped and P!nk appeared — swinging back and forth on a crystal chandelier suspended from the ceiling. She started the show with the fitting 2001 dance track,  “Get The Party Started,” belting the lyrics with effortless vocals, even as she somersaulted through midair. P!nk descended onto the stage to join her dancers and perform one of her newest hits, the titular track of her tour — and most recent album — “Beautiful Trauma.” 

This alternating pattern was fairly consistent throughout the setlist, with the singer transitioning from old hits to new singles. “Just Like A Pill” and “Who Knew” preceded new song “Revenge,” and “I’m Not Dead” came right before “Just Like Fire.” The music and setlist itself was engaging and diverse, but it was the sets, choreography and personal touches from P!nk herself that pushed this concert to a whole new level of uniqueness.

The set was constantly changing and morphing between different themes, with the beginning stage decorated in the stylings of a lavish hotel lobby, complete with velour loveseats and luggage carts. Then the concert took a devilish turn into “Revengeland,” a carnival themed around “the beautiful trauma that is love,” featuring attractions like roller coasters that behead people, complete with a giant parade float-esque blow-up-doll of Eminem that actually strode to the edge of the stage during the rapper’s verse on “Revenge.” There was nothing static about this show — even the stage itself was continually in motion. Dancers were constantly popping out of trapdoors, and the entire center walkway extending into the crowd was a treadmill that P!nk comically stumbled, drifted and danced upon.

That kind of clever comedy was integral to the show’s aesthetic, with P!nk stopping in the middle of a song to ask the crowd, “How much do we love Gwen Stefani?” before singing a few bars of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl.” In a rare moment when she wasn’t singing and dancing, P!nk struck a pose and said to the audience, “I have a very serious question to ask you. Are you intimidated by my beautifulness?” 

These moments when the mega-star’s personality shone through gave the concert a genuine feel, making the show a personalized experience even in the packed arena. She spoke to her daughter — who was wearing ear protection and watching the show with father Carey Hart — several times, and she paused the show to introduce by name all of her backup dancers and all of the members of the band. P!nk’s humility and grounded, down-to-earth presence was such a refreshing sight in an industry that seems so distant from the average fan and listener.

But the true emotional resonance of the concert came about halfway through, when a montage of social justice backlit the stage. Narrated by P!nk, the short described the singer’s passion for making the world more equal, just and fair. She showed clips and images of the #MeToo movement, of Black Lives Matter marches, of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, and for a brief moment, the screen was lit with an image of the torch-bearing Nazis and white supremacists marching across the Lawn on Aug. 11. 

The video was followed by a performance of her hit single “What About Us,” a song focusing on the resilience of marginalized and oppressed groups. This was thematically reflected by the diverse group of dancers coming together onstage with P!nk, their contemporary interpretive dance reflective of despair and hope, fear and change.

The concert ended with a final gesture of unity from P!nk, as she strapped herself into a harness and ziplined around the stadium to her epochal song “So What,” pausing at each section to wave to her audience and to do a few airborne cartwheels. Finally, the singer returned to the stage for an encore, singing the ballad “Glitter in the Air.” The final verse of the song begins with the question, “Have you ever wished for an endless night?” With the performance P!nk gave, it’s safe to say that at that moment, every member of the audience was wishing for just that.

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