Pink-Forever » P!NK’s first Australian tour was almost cancelled.
posted on 10.09.2017

The pop wild child had commanded the upper echelons of the ARIA charts with her first two records Can’t Take Me Home and Missundaztood and an enviable string of hits: There You Go, Most Girls, Lady Marmalade, Trouble, Just Like A Pill and Get The Party Started.

She had made the transition from “track act” performing with dancers to backing tapes to rocking it out with a band.

Club shows in Sydney and Melbourne were sweaty, sweary affairs which whipped her early adopter fans into shiny, happy mosh pits as they shouted along to every song.

It was all part of a master plan devised by P!nk and her Australian manager Roger Davies — one of the world’s most respected talent wranglers, who had steered the careers of Tina Turner, Cher, Joe Cocker and Janet Jackson.

P!nk had pretty much stalked Davies to be her manager after her debut album in 2000, determined to have the man who orchestrated Tina Turner’s triumphant return to the world’s pop charts and stadium stages replicate that strategy for her career.

“I always think you have to be a live act. At that stage, she was a track act; she sang to a backing track. So we got into that whole thing of putting a band together and building it, going to the UK and Germany, coming to Australia to do club shows,” Davies says.

So when Alecia Moore — as she is known to friends and family — Davies and P!nk’s longtime Australian promoter Michael Coppel booked the Try This tour in 2004, her first in arenas, they were relatively confident she would sell out 15 concerts.

Despite her considerable chart presence, when the box office opened, they struggled to get six shows across the line.

“Going into that tour, Roger rang me and said ‘It hasn’t worked. Do you want to cancel? You are going to lose a lot of money,’” Coppel recalls.

“I wanted to go ahead so he said ‘Just pay us whatever we need to cover costs.’”

Davies and his artist appreciated the support and the tour went ahead, selling about 22,000 tickets.

“The reality is that first tour wasn’t a box office success but what it did was strike a bond between her and the audience who came,” Coppel says.

And it established P!nk’s reputation as a fearless performer who took to the air for the first time during the Get The Party Started encore.

The audience bond, the buzz about the high-octane rock vibe of her performances and a clutch of fresh hits from her fourth record I’m Not Dead made a dramatic difference at the box office next time.

Tickets for the initial concerts on the I’m Not Dead tour in 2007 sold out quickly. As did the next round of shows added to the schedule until the sold-out sign went up on a marathon 36 concerts.

P!nk had leapfrogged from 22,000 tickets to more than 200,000.

“Building that live base, that’s a real world. It doesn’t matter if you have records that don’t do as well as you would like, everyone knows what she brings on stage,” Davies says.

“The word of mouth starts snowballing ‘You’ve got to see that P!nk show!’”

“So many of those shows at the Sydney Entertainment Centre or Rod Laver Arena, I would still get tingles down my back … When she’s on, she is untouchable.”

Sony Music chairman Denis Handlin, who has worked with P!nk and Davies on her records for more than a decade, cites a particular television interview for also fuelling the fan fire for P!nk in Australia.

While the music media had celebrated her unfiltered, potty-mouthed candour on her regular promotional visits to launch her records, when P!nk appeared on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope in 2006, mainstream Australia fell in love with her.

She was simply our kind of gal, a woman who laughed loud one minute and ripped open her soul about her troubled childhood and struggles with substance abuse the next.

“That Enough Rope moment was a turning point. She connected with the Australian psyche with her no bulls … honesty; people could relate to her story, the adversity she had been through,” Handlin says.

Australia’s embrace of this brash, down-to-earth, motorcycle-riding, high-flying pop performer became a global bear hug with her Funhouse album and world tour.

It all kicked off with So What, the hilarious ‘F … you’ to her husband Carey Hart in the wake of their separation. No one could quite believe P!nk had wrangled him to co-star in the video for a song about their split.

“I got a little bit concerned for his welfare when she brought out the chainsaw,” Handlin jokes.

Coppel said her connection with fans during this period was heightened because again she had poured her pain into the music.

“It struck me when she and Carey split that you saw people on TV and social media saying they hoped they would get back together. People were that empathetic, that invested in her,” he said.

The pair would reunite but So What had a profound impact on her career.

She owned the 2008 ARIA awards in October with a performance of the song, arriving on stage on a lawnmower, and set up the album to sell almost one million copies in Australia alone.

The Funhouse tour in 2009 would be her first headlining run in America where she had enjoyed chart success and sold millions of albums but somehow hadn’t joined the elite superstar club.

“I’m proud to go home and play in my home town and play Madison Square Garden,” P!nk told News Corp Australia at the time.

“I’ve waited ’til I’m 30 years old to do it. It’s almost better to have to work this hard for stuff, be the underdog. Then you appreciate it more. It’s a long time coming and I credit the success in Australia to helping that happen in America. People went, ‘What the f … are we missing? There must be something there’.”

That US leg would kick off after she became the Biggest. Pop. Star. Ever in Australia. Box office records were smashed as concert after concert was added to the itinerary. She would ultimately perform a gobsmacking 58 shows between May and August, selling more than 600,000 tickets and grossing $55 million.

Funhouse was also the show which set a new benchmark for pop concert aerials. During Sober, she would hang upside down somewhere near the venue’s roof, held dangling over the stage by a trapeze artist.

She switched limbs several times, catapulted her body in mid air, and climbed the trapeze artist as a human ladder.

As she pulled off moves most fans would only expect to see during a Cirque du Soleil production, she sang live and didn’t shirk a note.

“The reason I scream ‘Sing it’ during that song and make sure everyone can hear me breathing is so they know I’m singing,” P!nk said during that tour.

“A lot of people at first were saying, ‘There’s no way she can be singing. She’s lip-synching.’ That’s bulls …”

Coppel said P!nk’s creative vision for the Funhouse concert set a new benchmark for pop artists. If you don’t zip line or fly over a crowd now, it just isn’t good enough.

“Her aerial work and stunt work has really impacted the concert space. I am seeing artists from Beyonce to Katy Perry doing versions of that now because it’s not enough to come out and sing into a mic,” Coppel says.

“Alecia had the advantage of being a trained gymnast as a child but she really is a fearless personality, she does crazy stuff, flying on two wires and singing upside down.”

While she is surrounded by highly-skilled technical crew, trapeze artists and dancers who know what they are doing, Coppel said Team P!nk would always be out the front anxiously watching her during the show’s daredevil moments.

“Everyone backstage would walk out to watch Sober. And once she had completed it successfully, you could relax,” the promoter says.

“You never took it for granted.”

In support of The Truth About Love album, which celebrated her reconciliation with Hart and the arrival of their daughter Willow, P!nk raised the flying stakes.

This time she was spinning and singing and swinging in the air in a cage to open the show. If that feat of physical agility wasn’t enough, she also flew out over the crowd from the stage to the back of the arena.

The Australian leg of the world tour stretched to 46 shows, sold almost 600,000 tickets and scored Willow dozens of onesies, stuffed toys and assorted presents from fans. P!nk’s backstage looked like a kid’s funhouse.

She broke John Farnham’s record for the most concerts at Rod Laver Arena with her 18th show at the Melbourne arena. And apologised – in the sorry, not sorry vein – for daring to topple an Australian icon from his throne.

A plaque was erected backstage to commemorate the achievement while a Hollywood-style star was placed out front with her daughter Willow’s handprints cast in bronze beside it.

Even with her mum duties taking up much of her time offstage as the Hart family showed their daughter as much of Australia as they could, P!nk devoted plenty of time to her fans and supporters.

Coppel says she is unmatched in his experience when putting in the work to promote a tour and keep the juggernaut rolling.

“With a lot of artists, no matter how much they get paid, you get nothing, not even one phone interview,” he says.

“P!nk invests in her career and in people. She wants to be successful and that drive makes a difference.”

What she has planned for the Beautiful Trauma tour remains a mystery which will be revealed next year.

When she played festivals in Europe in August, she arrived on stage by ziplining from a hook dangling from a cage attached to a giant crane.

While that probably isn’t possible for an indoor concert, even with two children now this indomitable pop star has no plans to keep her feet on the ground.

“I haven’t really done too much acrobatics on this summer run of shows, not really. I did zip line which was fun but nothing too physical,” she says.

“We all did ziplining in Budapest, Willow was great at it. I ziplined into my show, the one Willow didn’t come to because she begged me not to have to come to my show. ‘What if I get bored?’ Yeah thanks.”

The most remarkable difference between the P!nk of the Truth About Love era and now is her voice.

The woman whose vocals have often been compared to one of her heroes, Janis Joplin, has found a wider range and jokes she can hit Chipmunks-worthy high notes.

“I love to sing, I love it so much. I think because I am super f … ing vulernable right now which is probably why I am super defensive. I think I’m raw, wide open, I think it’s from having babies. I just think I’m wide open,” she says.

“I think my range has gotten bigger somehow. This is only my second album ever not smoking too. I think that has a lot to do with it because I was smoking my voice away.

“I had a lot of vocal problems on the last tour. I had cortisone injections.

“I have definitely gotten more range. I sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks sometimes. I miss my rasp, I miss it. I just heard Who Knew for the first time in years, the recording, and I am so raspy.”

Ask P!nk what she still has the to prove after selling more than 50 million albums worldwide, dozens of No. 1 singles in dozens of countries and hundreds of sold out concerts over her 18-year career and her answer is simple.

“What am I still trying to do? Show my kids the world and have connections at my live shows, true, honest connections, no bulls … And maybe write a song that makes people feel better.”

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