Descending from the ceiling in full-on ringleader regalia (minus pants, plus fishnets), Sunday's headliner left no question as to who remains pop music’s reigning princess.
It’s Britney, bitch (sorry – couldn’t resist).
Screams filled the San Jose HP Pavillion the night of April 12 as Britney Spears took the stage for the first of two Bay Area stops on her whirlwind Circus tour. More Cirque de Soleil than Barnum & Bailey, the show incorporated acrobatics, pyrotechnics, and a smattering of nightmarish clown makeup. But nothing could outshine Ms. Spears herself, who, after what some might call a “tumultuous” year and a half, elicited the same frenzied reaction fans have been giving her since “…Baby One More Time” topped the TRL countdown in ’98.
And while her onstage look has matured from naughty schoolgirl to naughtier S&M vixen (complete with blindfold, and increasingly revealing bedazzled bra tops), certain elements of the Spears repertoire remain constant. To be clear: no one attending a Britney show should expect complex vocal gymnastics. Every number was delivered as a shiny package of prerecorded pop goodness – synthesized singing included. But those who balk at the notion of a lip-synched stage show miss the point entirely. Britney doesn’t sell out arenas because of her Mariah-high pitch or Christina-style vibrato. Britney sells out arenas for being Britney: an undeniably on-point performer with the star power and stage presence of a woman born to entertain. And even the most cynical critics would be hard-pressed to deny the entertainment value of a Bollywood-remixed “Me Against the Music.”
This is, however, Britney’s first official venture out into the real world since her much-publicized “breakdown” of 2007. While she retains the confidence that comes with over a decade of superstar success, there’s an undeniable air of caution that lingers over the Circus tour. Britney hardly uttered a word to the crowd between back-to-back numbers; barring, of course, her one-and-only “What’s up, Sacramento!” to a bewildered San Jose crowd. Her body’s back in fighting shape, and every move was executed with the precision of countless rehearsal hours, but something was lacking in the energy department. An all-too-brief battle of the backup dancers and a montage of Britney’s history-making music videos only accentuated the oomph missing from the show’s centerpiece. But seeing where Brit’s been, and witnessing her commitment to move forward, it’s clear that she intends to keep that pop princess crown firmly in place. Good thing too, because it works so well with those bedazzled bra tops.
To glimpse Britney in all her Circus glory, catch her Bay Area return on Wednesday, April 22 at the Oakland ORACLE Arena.
Opening act, Pussycat Dolls:
All photos by Whitney Fry.