Pink is the new gold standard.
The 33-year-old vocalist, who looked like a flash in the pan at the start of her career in the early 2000s, has become the female pop star to beat on the live stage. She's consistently more entertaining in concert than Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and most of her other competitors in the big-budget, high-concept touring game.
Pink's last three tours have all been knock-your-socks-off artistic successes that could be blueprints for how to use theatrics, dance routines and other narrative elements, as well as plenty of flash and cash, to entertain big crowds. That certainly includes the current Truth About Love Tour, which touched down for a sold-out show on Monday at HP Pavilion.
The artist is on the road in support of her sixth studio effort, last year's "The Truth About Love," which is her first No. 1 album in the U.S. Thus far, the record has produced three hits, including the worldwide smash "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)."
That's certainly one reason why Pink sold out HP Pavilion (13,600 tickets) in less than 30 minutes. Yet, an even bigger factor may well be Pink's track record as a performer.
You don't walk away from a Pink show shrugging your shoulders and muttering "meh." She works way too hard for that.
The concert kicks off like a TV game show, with a colorful emcee taking the stage and scanning the crowd for someone to compete on "The Truth About Love." But this contest is
And, boy, is she ever ready to play.
Thus begins the wild ride through Pink's take on "The Truth About Love," where the chapters unfold like acts in a Cirque du Soleil production. She starts out at the party, soaring high above the stage on bungee cords as she belts out the anthem "Raise Your Glass," and then a video clip makes the transition to the next morning, when Pink wakes up from a one-night stand with a guy she barely knows. (She even gets his name wrong in the clip.) Then she leaves the bed to make the "Walk of Shame," which leads to the remorse and regret of "Just Like a Pill."
The vignettes all worked, providing just enough drama and humor to keep the audience connected to the storylines, while rarely overshadowing the songs themselves.
The action was fast and furious, with Pink and her fellow dancers/performers challenging themselves with one acrobatic task after another. The stage set was equally busy, a love-themed onslaught on the senses that resembled an oversized version of what I imagine the wedding chapel inside the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas must look like.
Still, Pink didn't get lost in the mix. The singer, who now sports short blonde hair and favors outfits that show off her infomercial-worthy ripped abs, is absolutely magnetic onstage. Plus, she found time to interact with the crowd, shaking hands, signing autographs and even reacting to one handmade sign, which called out for "Pink for president."
"You will never have to worry about that," she said, declining the nomination. "I am way too honest."
It was just another moment showing why few, if any, performers deliver better pop spectacles than Pink.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.
To see a slideshow of Monday's show, go to www.mercurynews.com/entertainment.