March 24, 2009

It's Britney, Bitch.

First of all, there has got to be a better way to get home from Nassau Coliseum. I get that it's serving a predominantly Long Island-based populace, but when a big star like Britney Spears comes to Uniondale and not to Manhattan, you would think they would schedule an extra bus or two.

Instead, I was standing on Hempstead Turnpike in the cold for over a half hour with 100 other freezing people, waiting for the N72, watching others try to hail cabs that drove by with their top lights on, and backseats full. The ground is surprisingly sandy out there, and when the wind picked up at that big intersection with no buildings to block it, we all got a mouthful of dust. When the bus finally arrived, we managed to all cram in and get dumped out at the Hempstead LIRR station for the 12:17 a.m. train to Flatbush, transferring at Jamaica to arrive into Penn at 1:10 a.m. And then I still had to take the M16 bus home.

I've taken two-hour treks to Long Island for concerts before, but it's usually for a retro act at Jones Beach, and after a Stevie Nicks, Poison, or John Mellencamp show out there, plenty of busses await your embarkment right in the parking lot.

I felt like I spent most of last night waiting for Britney to get onstage. After the nearly two-hour trip to Nassau Coliseum, I arrived (across the street, where the bus drops you off, which is not that close to the gate) at 7:30 and found out that the Pussycat Dolls had cancelled because of illness. For a moment I hoped Britney would just take the stage earlier, but instead was met with circus performers. A guy spinning pottery on his head. Acrobatic tricks with a chihuahua. A lot of slow posing.

The show finally began with an over-the-top intro by Perez Hilton dressed as a queen - the Queen of Hearts? - on a circular video screen that rose to reveal a three-ring circus stage below, and lots more circus performers who lifted Britney onto platforms and out of cages and rolled her from one end of the stage to another in a dizzying tennis match with Britney as the ball.

# of songs lip-synched: all but 2 (unless I'm giving her too much credit for "Everytime" and "Toxic")
most head-scratching moment: an Eyes Wide Shut-style video montage of Britney lip-synching to Marilyn Manson's version of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)". It got weird after that.
biggest audience response: surprisingly, "Toxic" and "Womanizer," but I think the audience was comprised mostly of young girls and not moms or old ladies like me, so I guess they would be more into her recent hits
most pleasant surprise: the inclusion of "Boys" on the setlist, which was pretty heavily focused on the new album
song I was hoping for but didn't hear: "Stronger," which is totally underrated
favorite moment: Britney's bellydancing remix of "Me Against the Music"

At times, Britney looked amazing, with a dazzling array of costume changes from circus to S&M to glam. She was juicy and half-naked most of the time, butt hanging out of her hot pants and jiggling it all over the stage. But there was something missing in her live performance that you always see in her videos - the spark, the hunger, the grit that makes you want her and want to be like her.

I love Britney but I don't feel like I really saw any part of her last night. She didn't speak besides the occasional "What's up New York?!", and she didn't make me feel anything behind the songs. I don't know if she was feeling anything. Regardless of how frivolous a song like "Baby One More Time" might seem in the scheme of pop music, lyrics like "My loneliness is killing me" really hit you, even if it takes hearing a cover version by Fountains of Wayne for you to realize it. If you don't feel something while you're in the room with the artist, what's the point of being there in person? Unless you think they're singing (or talking) to you?

Or, maybe the point is really the shared experience with all the other audience members, hearing the music boom through the floor up your legs and into your chest, mixed with screams and concrete echoes. Then it's more of a concert-as-nightclub experience, especially if you're used to going places like Webster Hall that include aerial artists and facepainting and fireeaters with the price of admission. Then again, admission to those places aren't $150.

Britney's Circus was a spectacle for the sake of spectators, with moving set pieces and props and themed tricks (like ninja dancers and samurai warriors), but unlike similarly grandiose tours by Madonna, there didn't seem to be any message behind it, besides "Look at me." Maybe that's Britney's problem.

If you love the circus, go see Big Apple Circus (a special guest last night) or Cirque du Soleil or go hang out at Spiegeltent this summer. If you love Britney like I do, you never know when this might be your last chance to see her live, so you might as well go.

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