I must have been 9 when I first saw Britney Spears. She had big brown eyes, painted pink lips and pigtails and I loved her immediately. I think I either wanted to be Britney or be friends with her but the third best option was to see her perform.
I’m not sure why but my childhood passed by in a brilliant blur without Britney. I never did go to see her show. I don’t think I even understood that she had ‘shows.’ Now, as an adult and with a solid understanding that I could purchase a ticket and see any artist of my choice perform, I resolved to go to see the Princess of Pop in Las Vegas. Britney was holed up at the Axis Planet Hollywood performing her Piece of Me show, and damn did I want a piece.
Vegas is apparently where stars go to die, their stars dim a little amidst the bright lights of the city of sin. I thought holding down a Vegas residency suited Britney well; she had routine and structure. She only had to put in minimal hours a few nights a week and she could spend the rest of her time, well, doing whatever Britney Spears did.
I knew I wasn’t going to see the Britney of my youth. Gone were the pigtails, the red cat suit and the Toxic air hostess outfit. Gone was the blaze that was early 00’s Britney with her voracious sex appeal, electric dance sets and bright blonde hair. Gone also was the wild child of questionable sanity who shaved of all of her hair at a nondescript hair salon in Tarzana. Instead there was a new and different Britney; muted, subdued, the noise and colour of her turned down. This Britney was still intriguing, unusual and appealing in some way.
Britney is a bit of a ‘living legend.’ Born and raised in rural Louisiana, she was fed into the Disney machine and erupted in a blaze of glory and appeared to be another sad sob story of Hollywood’s relentless appetite for child stars, but somehow she persevered. Most people have a soft spot for Britney (I maintain that it’s because she’s a Libra rising.) She’s the star that survived and that is a testament to her tenacity, determination and strength of character.
There are a lot of stars I’ll never get to see. I’ll never see Michael Jackson or Frank Sinatra, but gosh darn it; I was going to see Britney Spears.
I looked up tickets to Britney’s show and came across Viagogo. Britney seemed to be doing a limited set over the summer and I secured a date in May. I paid $422.31 and inherited a ticket belonging to James Kirshner. My bank balance depleted and I had a strange new moniker, but I didn’t care. I was just happy I was going to see her. Flights and accommodation followed soon after.
The thought of going to see Britney felt suitably surreal. I was a bit anxious about the fact that the ticket wasn’t sent to me immediately. The actual ticket came through about a day before I flew to Vegas (about 4 days before the show.) There it was in all its glory: the golden ticket to see Miss B Spears.
On the day of the concert I googled ‘what to do before a Britney Spears concert.’ The answer was get up, get dressed and get there early. In my case I got there about 3 hours early. I had a standing ticket in the golden circle and I knew the ravenous Britney stans would trample me to death to get to their idol. No, I was locking this space in…
I did discover that you could still buy show tickets for a fraction of the cost. Damn you Viagogo. Damn you James Kirschner.
I filled myself up with Mexican food and beer and got in line, scared to drink in case I had to leave the queue to pee. It was worth slowly dehydrating for Britney. I imagined she would also dehydrate for me if I was a famous megastar and she was a stan. Of course she would…
There is an important question to ask, what on earth do you wear to a Britney Spears concert? Well, let me tell you folks: anything goes. I stuck to denim shorts, a gaping white top and trainers but there were girls dressed as Britney from head to toe complete with twanging Valley Girl accents and stilettos the size of the Grand Canyon. I wanted to be comfortable as I knew the arena would be hot and sticky. Also, I’m not a ‘stander’ so comfort was of paramount importance.
I stood in the queue for what felt like an age, taking in the twinkling lights of Planet Hollywood. There is a bar situated inside the circle that the queue curves around so you can easily get yourself a drink. I obviously wasn’t as die hard as some of the fans, who’d been there since 10am but what are you going to do?
At the front of the queue, I showed the security guard my ticket and went through the security machine, passing with flying colours. Depending on your ticket, you are then sent to the left or right hand side of the stage. I was on the left hand side and apparently Britney gravitates to the left hand side during most of her performances.
Before you head to your seating or standing position, you get the opportunity to walk around a Britney wonderland. Britney’s outfits of yore are positioned in glass. You can see her Star Search outfit, as well as the red cat suit of Oops! and the Work… costume. I knew Britney was lithe and lean but her costumes were so tiny and delicate that I realised just how miniscule the Pop Princess truly was. I thought she liked a McDonalds drive thru or two…
As well as Britney’s old outfits, you get to purchase paraphernalia too. I promptly purchased a white jumper with the Britney album cover emblazoned on the front. I rushed through this part to get a good position in the golden circle. The fans had already gathered like locusts but I wound my way to the front. I wasn’t as close to Britney as I could have been but I wasn’t too far off.
On either side of the stage, a large image of Britney loomed down upon us complete with a countdown. There was 30 minutes to go until Britney graced us with her presence. My excitement petered out into boredom until finally she was there.
Spoiler alert…Britney’s set list is as follows:
Scream & Shout
(will.i.am song) (Video Interlude)
Work It / Get Ur Freak On / WTF (Where They From)
(Missy Elliott Break Dance)
Get Naked (I Got a Plan)
There she was, directly in front of me. Britney, in one of the many tiny tight costumes we’ve grown accustomed to seeing her in over the years. Her figure was astonishing but it was obvious that the presence was lacking. Listening to Britney’s playlist, it’s evident she’s the pride of pop, but where was her pizzazz?
Britney went through the motions, seemingly on autopilot, hitting her marks. Her energy was lacklustre and offset by her astonishing dancers, who stole her thunder at every turn. It would seem impossible to top the Britney of 2002 but the Britney of 2017 was slower and less spectacular and the ingénues around her were like the lionesses to her weary lion. Britney has made it known that she isn’t a fan of her older songs and it appears obvious, as she blitzes through her earlier tracks.
Britney did not greet the audience. There was a ‘how y’all doin?’ and ‘thank you Vegas’ but conversation was otherwise kept to the bare minimum. The show centred on sex and sleaze, very fitting for Vegas, city of strippers and shooters, but it did strike me that Britney had not evolved beyond her Lolita beginnings. There was little else that Britney was allowed to do but be sexy, which she undoubtedly still is, but the tired, empty look in her eyes betrays that she barely wants to be there. Britney once admitted herself that as a mother she wanted to depart from her sexy image and I’m sure there is far more to her than ‘the sex kitten’ but that side of her has never been allowed to come out to play, which is unfortunate.
Although certain songs got me dancing and singing along, Britney’s trademark moves are skipping to either side of the stage, flicking her hair and lip-syncing. She rarely smiles (at least not authentically…although I could swear I saw her smile at me) and her eyes are disconnected, aloof and absent. As she skipped through her set and changed into various costumes, I felt a pang of boredom set in which is odd as the show is less than two hours long. I wasn’t the only one. As I turned around, I saw a sea of dejected, unimpressed faces and a lone man among them dancing frantically. I’ll have what he’s having, I thought…
Set wise, her show was a spectacle. There’s plenty of fire, snow and the piece de resistance is Britney descending from a giant moving tree to a slowed down and sultry version of Toxic. Britney is not the star that she once was. She turns up and she puts on a show, but the energy and effort is not there. The moment that her set finishes, Britney disappears and does not come back. I have also never seen more ass cheeks, pelvic thrusts and tired sexuality and I grew up when Eurotrash was a feature on channel 5.
Although I left the show feeling a tad disheartened and heavy, I would still see Britney again, because even when she isn’t putting in her A game, there’s still something inherently watchable about her. Perhaps it is little more than the nostalgia of what Britney was back when I was a little girl or perhaps it’s the twists and turns that her life has taken. Whatever it is, I still like Britney, I still root for her and I still consider myself her fan even if it sounds like I sank a glass of haterade before writing this.
So, would I recommend her show? If you’re a diehard Britney fan, it’s worth it. If you aren’t, I’d advise against it, but there’s still something about seeing her in the flesh whilst you still can. After all, it’s Britney b****!
All my love,