Pink is one of pop's high-fliers but tonight she is taking things to extremes. Strapped into an acrobat's harness, she devotes much of her performance at the O2 to trumpeting her skills as a trapeze artist, swooping and diving high above the room whilst belting out highlights from her new album. This display of knuckle-whitening virtuosity is the last thing you expect of an arena show by a top 20 rock star.
Along with Harlequin-attired backing dancers and a set straight out of Tim Burton's subconscious, it's all part the scary circus theme informing Pink's Funhouse tour. There's a naughty sequence in which the Philadelphia singer, performing Divinyls' I Touch Myself, is groped by a couch; a goth-rock version of Led Zeppelin's Babe I'm Gonna Leave You; and a cover of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody that makes the original sound like a triumph of delicate understatement.
Still, lofty stage craft didn't get Pink to where she is today: a 25million-selling artist with an ultra-loyal fan-base Britney and Christina can only dream of. At the heart of her appeal is her assiduously cultivated air of normality. Potty-mouthed and more fond of a beer than she perhaps should be, she's the edgy older cousin who sneaks you cigarettes behind the bike shed, totters awkwardly in glamazon heels and is dogged by a string of loser-boyfriends.
Her romantic travails are the basis of her most recent album (also called Funhouse -- one assumes with a fair degree of irony). Chronicling the breakdown of her marriage to extreme-sports racer Carey Hart, the record reveals a vulnerable woman beneath the spiky-quiffed tomboy. This evening, the most potent articulation of that heartache is single So What, reminding Hart she was always the over-achiever in the relationship.
However, we glimpse the hurt beneath the bluster during an acoustic sequence, in which, perched on a stool, Pink sings in a fragile croon far removed from her rock diva bellow. "Crying and writing songs," she says in a soft voice as she tunes her guitar. "It's awesome guys. Try it some time." She's no slouch as an aerial dare-devil, but here's one rock star at her most compelling when she has two feet planted squarely on the ground.