Three or four years ago I was invited to VIP party at Myth Nightclub. All night, the party promoters kept promising that there would be a surprise that would “blow our minds.” Around midnight, the stage lights went on, the fog machine started up, and a beautiful, svelte blonde in a schoolgirl outfit took center stage. For the next fifteen minutes this blonde did her best Britney, lip-synching to all of the pop princesses hits. She was pretty convincing.
Then her wig fell off.
Last night, in front of a packed, but not sold-out, crowd at the Target Center, the former princess of pop did a much more expensive version of that Myth show. Her Circus tour has backup dancers, costumes by Dsquared , acrobats, clowns, and all sorts of aerial apparatus, but it also has a beautiful, not-as-svelte-as-she-once-was blonde at center stage, lip-synching to all her greatest hits. Her wig never fell off, but her roots were definitely showing.
Now the big joke on the gossip blogs after Britney made an unladylike comment into her mike at the Miami show was: “Why was her mike even on?” No one expects supreme vocal stylings from Brit Brit—is she singing? Is she lip-syncing, my vote is for the latter, and Jon Caramanica’s NYTimes review notes “vocals appear to be recorded”—but her fans always expect a show. And from the night’s 15 minute circus-themed intro with acrobats, aerialists, contortionists, and those girls who stand on a pole and do a bunch of flips, they got it.
Britney started with “Circus,” went into an S & M-themed (there was a lot of S & M to the show) “Piece of Me,” and then broke into less-familiar material from Circus before getting back to her hits: “If You Seek Amy,” “Everytime,” “Do Somethin’,” Toxic,” “Hit me Baby One more Time.” It was a quick, action-packed 90 minutes, with dancers, clowns, and giant a LED screen showing music videos filling every inch of the stage during the songs and every second of the costume changes. I couldn’t help but feel all the distractions were intentional, a way to keep the audience from noticing that Britney wasn’t always mouthing along to the words, couldn’t always keep up with her dancers, missed a step or two in the choreography. There were times I couldn’t even tell where Britney was on stage, and without the aid of a jumbotron (she never appeared on the LED screen, only prerecorded videos) I never got a good look at her face. It could have been anyone on that stage. It could have been that girl from Myth. It was, quite literally, a circus.
It wasn’t, I don’t think, what a lot of fans expected. Certainly not the mothers of the prepubescent girls in the suite next door to mine, who were watching in horror as Britney pole-danced, did her best Dita Von Teese, and appeared in an Eyes Wide Shut-inspired video where she lip-synced Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” while slithering around in a bustier. This wasn’t the sugary sweet girl from Oops I Did It Again, this was a calculated image change, as if she knew that after the freak outs and the hospitalizations and the temporary loss of custody of her two boys, she could never go back to that girl who sold-out stadiums, performed at the Superbowl, and had a fairytale romance with Justin Timberlake. And, after the spectacle last night, I don’t think she cares. This is Britney 2.0, and she wants to play.