In the most scintillating sequence of the backstage concert documentary “Pink: All I Know So Far,” the title punk empress, with her platinum cockatoo swirl, caps off her 2019 tour of Europe with a show at London’s ginormous Wembley Stadium, in which she performs the rousing “f— you” anthem “So What” while being hoisted into the air by pulleys attached to a ring that clamps around her waist. In the grand history of rock ‘n’ roll showmanship, a handful of musicians have found ways to literally hover over the crowd. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
Cued to the moment when Pink sings “So what! I’m still a rock star,” she is lifted up in her skin-tight red-glitter suit, her body twirling forward in a 360-degree rotation. (She’s singing the whole time, but as Pink says in the film, “I’m a better singer upside down.”) Before long, she’s flying over the audience, an incandescent speck of spangled charisma soaring through the thunderdome of Wembley like Tinkerbell infused with the spirit of Joan Jett. It’s an uncanny piece of kinetic theater: so over-the-top it’s funny, so impeccably timed to the rhythm of the song it’s cathartic. Few rock stars could attempt a stunt like this (Pink was trained as a gymnast), and you wouldn’t want them to, any more than you’d have wanted to see someone try to match Elton John’s costume-shop flamboyance in the 1970s. When Pink takes off into the stadium stratosphere, she’s expressing something personal: a jaunty freedom, the fluky joy that floats through her music.
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Yet that’s part of why “All I Know So Far,” directed by Michael Gracey (“The Greatest Showman”), is quite a paradoxical experience. Pink, whose first album was released in 2000, is what I think of as a post-classic rocker. In the documentary, we see a clip of her when she was 11 or 12, singing Madonna’s “Oh Father” at a talent show. For a second, it’s startling to recall that Pink, born in 1979, came along an entire generation after Madonna. Yet she absorbed a lot from the ’80s, be it Madonna’s effrontery or Billy Idol’s hair. And despite her thrust-tongue-and-devil-horn trappings, there’s something very rock-solid and traditional about Pink’s music. She turned spelling her name as “P!nk” into a trademark, and it’s a perfect one, since Pink really is a performer who carries an exclamation point around inside. There’s a wholeheartedness to her, an honest desire to wow the audience that informs every move she makes. She wants to fly you to the moon.
Offstage, however, “All I Know So Far” reveals Pink to be just about the most grounded rock star you have ever seen. The film was shot during three weeks of her Beautiful Trauma World Tour, when she was traveling through Europe, and she’s got her husband of 15 years with her, the former freestyle motocross champion Carey Hart, along with their daughter, Willow, who’s eight, and their son, Jameson, who’s two. A behind-the-music doc will occasionally introduce us to a pop star’s children, but in this one they’re the main event. In her hotel room, or out on the street, with her face stripped of makeup and her hair wrapped in a multi-colored kerchief, Pink becomes a touchingly conventional and down-to-earth mother, affectionate but a little snappish (even with her toddler).
Sounds nice, and maybe a bit boring, but it’s actually, in its way, quite moving and political. Early on, Pink says that when it comes to rock stars who are the parents of young children, “I know it’s a lot easier for men, just primally, to walk out the door and not look back. It just is. There’s no way a mother can walk away from her babies and not think about them every single second of every single day and not worry, to the point where you can’t sleep.” The result, says Pink, is that for rock stars who are women, “they stop touring. Because you can’t imagine being able to do both.”
It’s not like that happens every single time, but the trend she’s talking about is real. And Pink, in “All I Know So Far,” devises a way to defeat it. She’ll take her family on tour, at least during the summer months, and turn the city-to-city, arena-to-arena adventure of it into a roadshow vacation in which mom has to give a concert every night or two, and constantly tweak and rehearse the show, but that’s fine; that’s what she does. The rest of the time, they’re living as a family, and it’s a so-normal-it’s-eye-opening sight: Pink devoting herself to the grubby and minute tasks of parenthood, at one point using every ounce of will she has to get up and chase her toddler around a set of couches, even though she’s already spent every dollop of energy giving a two-and-a-half-hour concert. (I have, on occasion, ducked such invitations from my kids with a lot less of an excuse.) Her daughter, Willow, is a graciously wise and rather circumspect girl, whereas Jameseon, even at two, has his mother’s showbiz exhibitionism. Looking after them, Pink is loving and weary, enthralled and impatient, infuriated and awestruck. Just like so many of us parents.
Is what we see here too good to be true? Well, we never learn what happens with her kids when Pink is touring during the non-summer months. “All I Know So Far” is a deliberately even-keeled movie, without that touch of high maintenance that lent drama to a doc like “Gaga: Five Foot Two.”
What keeps it interesting is that Pink, even while playing up the parenting, has the highly visible perfectionism that, in rock docs, it its own form of charisma. The film kicks off with Pink in concert singing “Get the Party Started” while hanging from a chandelier that’s like a giant swimming-pool float. And she goes on to make a touching connection between the baroquely executed grandeur of her shows and the fact that her single mother, an ER nurse who could scarcely afford it, would take her from Pennsylvania into New York City once a year to see “Les Miz” or “La Cage aux Folles” or “The Phantom of the Opera.” Those shows spoke to her, as did a Cher concert in which she focused on Cher’s gymnastic dancers, twirling and unfurling in the air, rolling down ribbons, and began to wonder why she couldn’t do the same thing.
Gracey, a gifted showman, keeps “All I Know So Far” moving, never letting it stray too long from the concert stage, structuring the film as a travelogue of tour destinations: Amsterdam, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Cardiff, Stockholm, Brussels, and finally London, where Pink will do two nights at Wembley, a stadium so large that the concert arena resembles the black sky of a planetarium, with the light gleaming from the stage, but at several points the camera tilts up through the open roof to show us the bright blue sky overheard, as if the arena were its own universe. Which in a sense it is.
The songs are the golden nuggets you expect, all performed with a thrilling sonic clarity. “Beautiful Trauma” is a gorgeous fable of bad romance, one that became an instant anthem; the crowd chants along with it. The deliciously syncopated “Hustle” is an aggro party propulsion machine. A disappointment: The film finds no room for “Just Give Me a Reason,” the broken-love duet Pink recorded with Nate Ruess that might just be her greatest song. I’ve always wondered how personal the lyrics are, and you can only guess whether Pink and her husband, who seem such a finely oiled unit, ever came to such a blasted moment of truth. You’d guess that they did, but watching “All I Know So Far,” you don’t see it. You just see a happy and functional rock ‘n’ roll family, close the way that any family is, only with 90 million records sold.
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