Britney Spears' 'Circus' tour: The verdicts are in
It's been a week of premieres in the pop-culture world. On Monday, NBC debuted "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," and on Tuesday, Britney Spears unveiled the 2009 version of her comeback, the much-ballyhooed "Circus" tour.
But unlike a late-night talk show, which will evolve over time, a tour on the level of Spears' arrives on Day 1 as a Broadway-like machine. The surprises (a Perez Hilton introduction) and the set list landed before the show even launched, and the costume changes are online for your viewing perusal. Britney as the Naughty Cop, an outfit donned during "Womanizer," is at left.
If you're interested in seeing Spears when she comes to the Staples Center for a two-night stay beginning April 16, chances are you already have tickets. A Ticketmaster search reveals nothing available for the first night in Los Angeles, and only the premium-priced tickets are showing up for Sunday ($150 and up).
So how good is the show you're going to see? The Times' Ann Powers writes a largely positive review, but hers comes with reservations. She writes of "daring" dance sequences, including a well-choreographed, Bollywood-edition of "Me Against the Music," but also notes the backing track has a large presence, and Britney's dance moves aren't significantly advanced from anything you might see at your local gentleman's club.
But in terms of eye candy and bang for your buck, Powers writes, the "Circus" tour will likely deliver for fans. "She is back up on the beam," writes Powers. "The director, Jamie King, has made sure of that. If your star is a bit unstable, the best solution is to surround her with a backing troupe that can step in when she fumbles. Much like her music, the 'Circus' tour is all about added value. Instead of purchasing the coolest new beats and synth-pop augmentations, King and Spears signed up those experienced carny stars to not only fill in the gaps between numbers but enhance — distract from? — her own time onstage."
MTV noted that Spears herself is "dwarfed by the spectacle," but what a spectacle it was.
"Britney's Circus, a big, huge, loud, funny, nonsensical three-ring affair that includes everything under the big top — even an actual big top," wrote James Montgomery. "Broken down into four acts — 'Circus,' 'House of Fun,' 'Freakshow/Peepshow' and 'Electro Circ'— the two-hour show is every set designer and choreographer's wet dream, or nightmare, or both. There are literally dozens of costume changes, dancers of all shapes and sizes and acrobats and set pieces that fly about willy-nilly."
Locally (Spears is a Louisiana-native) the Times-Picayune's Keith Spera wondered how many songs Spears actually sang, and decided it was probably not many. But will anyone care? "Backing tapes and vocalists likely carried much of the load," Spera wrote. "For better or worse, many fans do not expect her to sing live. It's all about the spectacle, of which there was plenty."
As for the spectacle, Spera documents it well, and what he writes will likely make Spears purists a bit giddy. Spera wrote: "During 'Piece of Me,' she cavorted within, atop and alongside a cage. For 'Me Against the Music,' she sashayed in a sumptuous, Bollywood-style ensemble. Against the club pulse of 'Get Naked,' she posed in an oversize picture frame as dancers ogled her — a play on the media's Britney Spears obsession."
USA Today's Jerry Shriver tries to keep the spectacle in perspective. "The Circus show packs 17 song segments and every under-the-big-top cliché except Siegfried & Roy's white tigers into a crowd-pleasing hour and 45 minutes," Shriver writes. "A comeback, certainly, and a solid one at that. But all the sex, fire and stomp-and-slither choreography can't disguise the fact that the production needs a bigger, purely musical core (a few more songs from the current album would have helped) — and some spontaneity."
The New York Daily News' Jim Farber noted that Spears "dutifully hit her marks," but walked away feeling a bit empty.
"For all Britney's renewed physical prowess, she didn't project much in the way of personality," Farber wrote. "And the truth is she never has. Once again, she came across mainly like a Fembot — a dutiful, spry and attractive machine. In that sense, the show suited the "Circus" theme more than it may have intended. In the end, it's all about maintaining an illusion."
— Todd Martens