Ariel Pink's subtle performance on Wednesday at Tipitina's proved that he's dedicated to laying low.

ariel pink photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk
Ariel Pink at Tipitina's, by Patrick Ainsworth

In interviews following the release of Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, Ariel Pink spoke about his quest for attention ad nauseam. Until he was 26, Pink felt unacknowledged, desperately fighting to be noticed. But once he finally got the attention he craved, Pink lost what initially drove him to make music, forcing him to rethink how to write songs without that short-sighted goal in mind. Now pushing 40, Pink’s music hasn’t changed drastically, but his approach to his art is less self-indulgent and more mature. 

Ariel Pink was calm and focused on Wednesday night. Pink’s recorded projects seem impossible to reproduce outside the studio, but somehow, he translated his fuzzy and at times distorted sonic textures to near perfection on stage. Pink performed without the distraction of leopard print pants or tongue-and-cheek interludes between songs. The only thing to focus on was his craft, and the music alone sent the audience into a hypnagogic state of nostalgic bliss.

Pink's most recent album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, was the pinnacle of the show. He opened with “Time to Live” and sent the audience underwater with drowning synth and vibrating guitar. The sound was immaculate. The keyboardist played each wonky note like he was doing a puzzle. The low-fi recording of the song distorts Pink’s voice to sound like it’s coming from an old 78, and he got the same effect on stage.

Tracks like “Another Weekend” are easier to imagine live, and Pink delivered. He cocked his head to the side while the audience swayed to the woes of a jaded partier. Pink gently strummed his overly subtle chimes, his natural voice fully audible. This was a step away from previous Ariel Pink tracks and placed him in a vulnerable light. The simplicity of the track was juxtaposed with surprising tempo changes and pops of distorted synths in the verses. But the strongest aspect of the track is Pink’s vocals. He sounded like a '60s rock star when he sang over an acoustic guitar.

On the song “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson,” Pink sung, “Acting comes naturally, I’m acting out my fantasies.” This cryptic message stands in stark contrast to the message that Pink has repeatedly stated—that he is over trying to get attention. The lyric insinuates that being a subversive artist is integral to his personality. When preformed live however, Pink sounded confessional, verging on guilty. 

Make no mistake, Ariel Pink is unapologetic and callous. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is arguably his most intimate album yet, but by treating it as a concept to execute, he maintained a barrier between himself and the audience. Pink flowed from one song to the next, only breaking between songs to address the audience. 

The lack of flamboyance was predictable based on recent interviews, and Pink named his newest album after Bobby Jameson to deliberately direct attention away from himself. Nonetheless, the placidity of the performance was a bit disappointing. Pink has built his image off of shock humor and scandalous comments. He has been branded as a misogynist who deliberately works to be disliked. A joke here and there is what makes Pink attractive to his fans, whether he is being politically correct or not.