Pink shows rock 'n' roll heart

June 14, 2002


'Music is freedom!" teen-pop princess Pink declared midway through a rollicking
sold-out show Wednesday night at the Rosemont Theatre.

For the former Alecia Moore of Philadelphia, that statement wasn't just lip
service. Though she has been as skillfully marketed as any of her peers, her
music remains joyfully individualistic and idiosyncratic, and that hasn't come
without a fight.

"On this new album ['Missundazstood'], I did everything they said I could not
and should not do," the singer told her Chicago fans. The "they" would include
Arista Records label head and her associate producer Antonio "L.A." Reid,
whom she mocks in the tune "Don't Let Me Get Me."

Pink's response to all of those who attempted to tailor her sound or remake her
personality? "I told them to kiss my a--," she said. "But with love."

That's a classic rock 'n' roll sentiment, of course, but it's one that's been sorely
missing from fellow teen divas Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica
Simpson and their ilk. Unlike those stars, the 21-year-old Pink is no
poster-perfect pitchwoman and supermodel: There was no visible corporate
sponsorship at her concert; she spent much of the show dressed in dowdy
green coveralls, and she has more rough edges than all of those other women

Backed by a flesh-and-blood five-piece band that deftly navigated between R&B,
dance music, rap and plenty of rock, Pink strutted her stuff through hits such as
the natural show opener, "Get the Party Started"; "Respect" (which isn't the
same song, but does update Aretha Franklin's sentiments for the hip-hop
generation) and a cover of the '90s hit "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes (whose
leader, Linda Perry, writes much of Pink's material).

Pink's wide-ranging genre experiments were not all successful. The limitations
of her raspy voice showed through on ballads such as "Dear Diary," and the
melodrama of the set-closing "My Vietnam" veered dangerously close to Billy
Joel. Still, you had to hand it to her for sheer ambition and for having a sense of
history in recognizing a similarly freaky forbearer when she launched into a
three song mini-set in homage to Janis Joplin, whose banshee blues wail she
did a fair job of approximating.

The bottom line is that personality has always been one of the key ingredients
in memorable pop music. And at a time when most pop stars are corporate
cookie-cutter clones, Pink has personality to spare.

Opening the show was a group of Pink proteges from New York, the four-piece
all-female rock band Candy Ass. The group's glittery glam-rock was fairly
generic and devoid of memorable hooks, and its bottom-bearing lead singer
sounded way too much like the squeaky Josie of Pussycats' fame. But the
three instrumentalists rocked hard behind her, and here, too, the band's
message was a laudable one.

The group invited the predominantly pre-teen audience to come meet its
members in the lobby after the show, "and we'll tell you how to start a band so
you can open for us next time we're here!" I'd like to see riot girl icons Kathleen
Hannah or Courtney Love be quite so kind and generous.