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1st March 2024

PinkPantheress live in Manchester: Virtual star logs off and takes the stage

Pop sensation PinkPantheress took to the stage of Manchester’s famed O2 Ritz and did not disappoint
PinkPantheress live in Manchester: Virtual star logs off and takes the stage
Ailish O’Leary @ The Mancunion

PinkPantheress and Louis Theroux are not a combination you would immediately put together. When the viral Tiktok star joined the documentary maker on his podcast earlier this month it was hardly a perfect pair. Naturally, there was somewhat of an adjustment period for ‘Pink’, who usually presents herself in short-form content, including Tiktoks, music videos and bite-sized songs, as she adjusted to a format that was more of a slow burn.

As Pink begins her largest tour to date the same concerns arise. Even she jokes about her inability to breach the two-minute mark. Touring off the back of debut album Heaven Knows which was released in November, Pink takes to the O2 Ritz to tackle this concern.

After a lengthy opening DJ set the show starts with a slew of early hits including ‘Break It Off’, ‘I Must Apologise’, and ‘Pain’. It would be easy to mistake this opening section as a medley, as Pink sprints through her shorter songs. She avoids any extended mixes, solos, or improvisations, preserving the songs in their original brevity. This opening section foregrounds a PinkPantheress the crowd is familiar with, backed by live drum and bass as she saunters from side to side on stage – bag on arm, as expected.

Ailish O’Leary @ The Mancunion

“This is the uni town” she affirms during a brief break that she admits is to catch her breath. As she rambles about her expectations of Manchester and thoughts on Unidays discounts she admits her heart is racing, and later jokes about how embarrassing it would have been for her to have had a heart attack on stage. She makes light of it though it perhaps reveals a hint of anxiety behind her confident and unfiltered stage banter.

As the show continues Pink gradually shifts the focus to her debut album. She also takes off her bag as things get serious. Songs like ‘Another Life’ and ‘Blue’ show that Pink is beginning to expand out of her usual soundscape and into more complete songs, though the quality of execution varies. ‘Capable of Love’, the track which lends its name to the tour, falls flat as Pink moves out of her conversational vocal style and fails to hit the lengthier notes the track asks for. Similarly, Kelela collaboration ‘Bury Me’ feels somewhat hollow when stripped of its collaborative components.

By contrast, some tracks are elevated through live reinterpretation, and the use of a live band is a major asset of the show. The Sam Gelliantry produced ‘Picture in my Mind’ manages to live up to its full disco potential compared to the studio version, and is a high point of the set. As is ‘Internet Baby (Interlude)’, an easy-to-overlook album track whose title risks self-deprecation. In reality, the song reveals itself as a fan-favourite, opening the encore to rapturous enthusiasm.

Ailish O’Leary @ The Mancunion

It is also impossible to deny Pink’s charm. Her honest willingness to interact with fans is unpretentious and a welcome break from the trend of lofty pop stars and snobbish indie bands who might avoid building such a friendly rapport with their audience. She is more than happy to receive gifts (“I’m gonna put this in my bedroom”), take BeReals (“Let’s take the fucking BeReal!”), and sign flags  (“I’m giving you consent to throw the flag”). She is equally quick to taunt the crowd about their expectations of Irish dancers, in response to trending videos from her previous show, only to later reveal a highly choreographic Y2K-styled flash mob for final song ‘Nice to Meet You’ which she argued was more appropriate for Manchester.

When appearing on Louis Theroux’s podcast the inevitable question of how Pink was to make the jump from screen to stage comes up, specifically responding to previously ridiculed live performances. Pink admits to being anxious about her skills compared to her institutionally trained and well-supported peers. However, her show at the O2 Ritz showed all the signs of a fledgling pop star destined for greater heights.

Whilst not perfectly slick, and only clocking in at a characteristically short 62 minutes, it is important to remember this is only her debut album tour. There is clear evidence of a sequence of acts and transitions in the show and an authentic personality befitting a pop star for the new generation. The imperfections came across as endearing more often than not, and the crowd are clearly supportive of her, irrespective of occasional mistakes. PinkPantheress’ career is an unconventional one, but worth watching nonetheless.

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