P!nk's Summer Carnival Brings The Heat To Minute Maid Park

P!nk clearly has good taste in college football teams.
P!nk clearly has good taste in college football teams. Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Minute Maid Park
September 27, 2023

It's been four years since P!nk last graced the stages (and skies) of Houston. You could say a lot has happened since then ... and you'd be right. It really wasn't that long ago, but looking at it through the lens of a pandemic, a contested election, and the war in Ukraine, 2019 might as well be another century.

Even leaving out current events, P!nk returns to H-Town in a year that's already seen two ridiculously anticipated concerts descend upon our city: Taylor Swift's "Eras" Tour and Beyonce's "Renaissance World" tour. Both of those multi-night events weren't just drenched in superlative reviews, but also covered by local news with the kind of anticipation America used to reserve for moon landings.

That's not to say P!nk should've been worried, or indeed had anything to prove after the last time she came to town. Especially since  "Summer Carnival," which descended upon Minute Maid Park last night, proved what her fans have known all along: P!nk absolutely kills it whenever she performs. What's more, she doesn't take five to seven years off between tours.

After her 2019 aeronautic extravaganza, it's hard to imagine the Toyota Center as "confining," yet that's exactly what transporting her show to Minute Maid Park does. The increased dimensions allowing P!nk to really explore the space, in the truest Gene Frenkle sense of the word. The staging was more expansive,  the atmosphere more charged, and the stunts ... more subdued?

Rewinding a bit (that's a cassette gag, as P!nk might have mentioned), Brandi Carlile took the stage and owned it like someone who's been playing stadiums for years. The once and future Highwoman wore her pink jacket in honor of the headliner, and even though the acoustics in Minute Maid Park are not exactly forgiving for singer-songwriters, Carlile established her presence early, wowing the crowd with ferocious renditions of "The Story" and "The Eye."
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Brandi Carlile set a high bar.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
I briefly thought how nice it would be see Carlile perform in a more intimate setting, but then she launched into "We Are the Champions" like she was the one closing out the show. She was fantastic, is what I'm saying, and we still had P!nk to go.

Does anyone of P!nk's status work harder in their performances? Opening the show with "Get the Party Started" while descending from the top of MMP on bungie cords tends to set you apart. The resulting five act set drew from a catalog we sometimes forget is as expansive as it is, but also threw in a few surprises, including covers of Sade's "No Ordinary Love," Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love," and Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," which generated the kind of response from folks of a certain age that probably scandalized their kids.

Comparing last night's show to her past performances, one could see that that she's slowed down just a bit. The aerial acrobatic numbers ("Turbulence," "So What") are fewer, with more introspective tunes making inroads, especially in "Act III," when P!nk's daughter Willow came out to accompany her mom on "Cover Me in Sunshine."

The maternal energy didn't stop, as she let the MMP crowd know that she would "mom anywhere." And that she did, encouraging her guitarist to hydrate, confessing that her own kids found her insufferable, and confiding in the crowd that she was annoying enough to have written "Baby Shark."

As has been the case since the passing of Sinead O'Connor, Carlile joined P!nk on stage for a stirring cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U," continuing a theme of celebrating powerful (and occasionally troubled) women. She's has been doing this long enough to have evolved beyond caring what pinheads (not to be confused with P!nkheads) care about her views. The third act included her some of her more overtly political tunes, such as "I Am Here" and "Irrelevant."

With it's refrain of "The kids are not all right" and accompanying video featuring pro-choice and BLM protests, "Irrelevant" continues P!nk's live tradition of giving figurative double birds to the "shut up and sing" crowd. Though to be honest, if you were of that mindset coming to a P!nk show, you're probably not that bright to begin with.

On a *totally* unrelated note. Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner recently found himself in hot water for stating that Black and female artists weren't as "intellectually articulate" as the white male musicians he idolizes. I'd not so politely suggest Wenner check out P!nk or Brandi Carlile live some time, provided he can extricate his head from his ass long enough to do so.

Personal Bias: As previously noted, I'm a fan.

The Crowd: Looked like they just came from a Barbie screening.

Overheard In The Crowd: "We came for Brandi, let's stay for P!nk."

Random Notebook Dump: "Note to self: get to the gym tomorrow."
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P!nk going "above" and beyond.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar