Seeing Britney Spears live holds every possibility of being an ugly affair. But seeing her play show number 32 as part of her Las Vegas residency? This could be hideous.
Like the hoards of 20-something women who dominate Britney’s audience tonight (and, one suspects, every night), I’ve grown up with her. The last time I attended a Britney Spears concert she was 19 and still a reported virgin. I was 11 and believed it.
Whilst her previous post-breakdown tours felt exploitative, Britney’s ‘Piece Of Me’ show is a celebration of her pop music milestones and a rapid-fire set list is required to get through them all. Some of her earlier hits are melded together, ‘…Baby One More Time’ into ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’ is sent from the Max Martin heavens, whilst others are re-arranged to match her new EDM pop sound. The vocals are not live but no one is a fan of Britney based on her voice alone.
Dancing was always her trump card and she’s still playing it. There is nothing spontaneous about her performance (how could there be? This is show 32, remember?) but the choreography is sharp and to be admired. In the flesh she looks far more dazzling than the tabloids would have you believe – she’s athletic, smiley and brighter of eye than I was anticipating.
Britney’s tours have always been renowned for their theatricality and she does not disappoint here: she varies from playing a flying angel for ‘Everytime’ to a dominatrix for ‘Freakshow’; she leaps from the heightened branch of a tree that grows onstage for ‘Toxic’; and reduces the crowd to a swaying mass for a ballad version of the now frighteningly prophetic ‘Lucky’.
Make no mistake, ‘Piece Of Me’ is no nostalgia fest, it’s a masterfully transmitted message that Britney Spears was and still is a true pop great. One particularly affecting intermission in the show sums it up: the multifarious television screens of the ‘Hold It Against Me’ video are re-created and simultaneously blast out her canonical made-for-MTV images. The impact, like this concert, and like the Britney Spears phenomenon as a whole, is overwhelming.
Written for Classic Pop (and a massive middle finger to anyone who doesn't appreciate the value of Ms Britney Spears)