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Live review: Pink at Staples Center

September 20, 2009 |  4:16 pm

She runs through her songbook and raises the danger level.

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The pop singer known as Pink has worked hard over the last decade to cultivate a reputation as a risk taker and a rule breaker, making wildly eclectic records that gleefully disregard the strictures of genre (flamenco-flecked electro-ska, anyone?) and pointing fun at fellow celebrities she figures could use the reality check.

Friday night at Staples Center, where she brought her yearlong world tour in support of 2008's "Funhouse," Pink's taste for danger took new shape. Several songs into the two-hour show, she paused the proceedings for a special announcement, telling the capacity crowd that she'd separated her shoulder four days earlier and that the injury was causing her a considerable amount of pain.

"But I've waited my whole life for tonight," she added, "so . . . it." Like much of what she says, Pink's actual verb of choice can't be quoted in a family newspaper.

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If Friday's concert represented a scaled-down version of the "Funhouse" production, it's difficult to imagine what else it includes when Pink is operating at full strength. Modeled (not unlike Britney Spears' current tour) after a big-top circus show, the spectacle featured trapeze artists, giant inflatable clowns, numerous costume changes and a closing number, "Glitter in the Air," in which Pink was dunked in a pool of water while riding inside a fabric hammock wearing a barely-there bodysuit that appeared to be made of masking tape.Perhaps she left out the lion-taming bit.

Pink's disgust with celebrity gradually has turned into a fascination with it, and at Staples she presented herself to the audience as a sort of trusted guide to its excesses, pairing every over-the-top arena-gig indulgence with a gesture of her just-folks humility.

"This song makes me want to dance like an idiot," she said before her eight-piece band launched into "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)." "Nobody's allowed to be cool for the next four minutes." After a stripped-down piano-bar rendition of "Family Portrait," about how "it ain't easy growing up in World War III," she admitted that for the entire song she'd had a feather in her mouth, the result of an elaborate pillow fight during the previous tune, "So What."

Pink played material from throughout her songbook Friday, bouncing from fist-pumping guitar rock to sharp-angled dance-pop to an excellent approximation of what the Rolling Stones might've sounded like if they'd spent more time as a disco band. In the middle of the concert, she performed a four-song mini-set of folky acoustic numbers, including a hoedown-appropriate take on "Trouble" and "Dear Mr. President," in which a video screen contrasted images of terrified-looking Iraqis with a grinning George W. Bush.

The show also included a handful of daring covers: Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself," Led Zeppelin's version of the folk traditional "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You." Delightfully dressed as a harlequin with an admiral's cap, Pink even pulled off an impressive version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen that elicited a standing ovation from "American Idol" glamazon Adam Lambert, who took in the production alongside several other stars from a section near the stage.

Like everything in Friday's concert -- like everything in Pink's career -- the song was a gamble, but one that the singer made look like a piece of cake.

--Mikael Wood

Photos: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

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