After the release of her double platinum album Funhouse last year, P!nk set out on a world-wide tour. The Australia leg of the tour was sold-out — all 60 shows. A camera crew went along, and the fruit of their efforts is the recently released DVD/CD set Funhouse Tour: Live in Australia.
The CD portion of the set is a selection of the songs performed on the DVD portion. Three of the tracks are covers (AC/DC's "Highway To Hell," Led Zepplin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"), one track is from I'm Not Dead ("U + Ur Hand"), and the rest are all off of Funhouse. The choice of including cover songs in the concert is a boggling one, but to include them in the recording as well makes me wonder why they thought it would be better to do that than to have live versions of more of P!nk's songs. Don't get me wrong — they're classic songs and I can see why P!nk would want to cover them. But, I felt like they needed more of her style/touch to make them worthy of being included in this recording. "Bohemian Rhapsody" in particular sounds almost like she's singing to a karaoke track, which is a testament to the quality of the performance of her band and backup singers, but not something that excites me as a listener.
I don't know how anyone has the strength to keep going full throttle day after day. P!nk's body may be up to the stress of the athleticism of her performances, but her voice isn't. If you want a recording with spot-on vocals, pull out your copy of Funhouse, because what you'll find on Funhouse Tour are energetic, passionate performances with weaker, almost broken vocals. Live audio recordings are fickle beasts. On the one hand, you often get moments captured for all time that could never exist in a studio environment (i.e. the electric guitar solo in "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"). On the other hand, they never quite replicate the experience of being at the concert. The listener is left with the feeling that they've missed something that would make the recording more like looking back through old family photos rather than looking back through some stranger's family photos.
This is where the DVD steps in and begins the "virtual reality" that allows fans to imagine themselves in the music hall with all the lights and costumes. And oh boy, there are plenty of lights and costumes! Over the course of the two hour-long concert, P!nk, the dancers, and the set all go through numerous changes, usually seamlessly, but sometimes more time is needed, allowing the band to shine in the spotlight a bit longer than normal.
As we saw the performance of "Sober" at the VH1 Video Music Awards a few months ago, P!nk spends most of the song suspended high above the stage, often hanging on to aerialist Sebastien Stella. This came directly from the Funhouse tour show, and in this recording, it looks like "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the next song in the set, which may explain why she isn't as present in the song as she is in others. I imagine it must take a few minutes to catch your breath after such a performance. "Sober" isn't the only song featuring a flying P!nk, as the two final songs in the show feature this as well, but "Sober" definitely requires the most physical and mental focus.
The recording jumps quickly between up-close shots of the band, the dancers, and P!nk (of course), with frequent shots of the whole stage from a distance and occasional shots of the audience. Most of the time I could track the shifts, but occasionally I found them frustrating, wishing the images would linger a bit longer in one place. On a few songs, such as the über-sexy "I Touch Myself" and the two bonus tracks "It's All Your Fault" and "One Foot Wrong," the producers got a bit heavy-handed with the artistic rendering of the film. Effects like that are best done when they are subtle and blended with the rest of the film.
My favorite part of the concert, probably speaking more to my love of acoustic singer/songwriters, is when P!nk (wearing jeans and a moderately decent t-shirt for a change) hops up on a stool with an acoustic guitar, and along with members of the band on strings and her guitar player also on an acoustic, she performs the song "Crystal Ball." This song is one of my favorites off of Funhouse, and I appreciated the care and attention she put in the performance, making it more about the music and less about the theatrics.
The Funhouse show is a mix of choreographed dance/theater and improvised or free-form movement. There were a few choreographed group dances, but mostly the activity on the stage was about telling the story of the song. Sure, you can listen to the audio recording, but what really makes this release special is the visual storytelling on the DVD. The songs are all (for the most part) fan favorites and radio hits, but the live performances give them all a new life.
If you're looking for a rock show that's more entertaining than a bunch of middle-aged guys with beards and beer guts, then this is the DVD/CD set for you.
Here is a clip from the DVD: