Athletic dancers march onto the stage, all dressed in sexy black Battlestar Galatica-esque outfits. They continue to march and pull military style poses. They halt and you can feel the suspense fill the open-air venue. And then the moment thousands of us have been waiting for arrives. Britney enters. The crowd goes wild.
On 13th August 2018, I was fortunate enough to witness Britney Spears grace the stage during the German leg of her Piece of Me Tour. She opened with ‘Work Bitch’ and launched into a highly-choreographed dance routine. As she took centre stage, she stood out wearing a glitzy bra, knee-high boots and something I can only describe as hardly-there underwear.
As the night goes on, you can’t help but notice that from the opening number onwards, the set continues in essentially the same fashion: big dance numbers; obvious lip-synching and very little crowd interaction. The Piece of Me Tour is Britney Spears’ Las Vegas show taken on the road and you can’t escape the feeling that it’s been lifted and dropped into the Sparkassen Park Venue in Mönchengladbach.
I was very impressed by how in shape Britney was, but ultimately had mixed feelings on the night as a whole. The set was somewhat predictable, such as a circus theme for the number ‘Circus’ and some BDSM videos projected during ‘Slave For You’. Every outfit change brought on a slight variation of the bra and hardly-there underwear combination.
During the classics such as ‘Baby One More Time / Oops! … I Did It Again’, I had a great time. The songs have a transcendent quality where you could feel a wave of nostalgia ripple through the audience and so elevate the experience beyond what was happening on stage. But during her lesser known songs, the audience was markedly quieter and the mood dampened. Due to the dance-heavy focus of the show, we weren’t treated (to my dismay) to some of her slower ballads such as ‘Lucky’ and ‘Sometimes’.
However, I did appreciate the unsung stars of the show, the very talented back-up dancers. During the moments where my view of Britney was blocked , I quite enjoyed looking at them – no, not just at their physique, but their impressive talent too.
I was mostly drawn to noticing these peculiar Britney-isms. My friend perfectly described her hands as restless. If she wasn’t tightening her hairband, she was flicking her hands this way and that. Her head was also a bit twitchy, often doing a head-slide or swinging her ponytail about.
I’m not sure if having Pitbull as an opening act started off the night on the wrong foot but as a whole it wasn’t quite what I expected. Although I was seeing one of my childhood idols live on stage, I couldn’t see any of her personality or character shine through. The meagre glimpses of it occurred when the audience asked in unison ‘Who Is It?’ to which she replied “It’s Britney Bitch”. Or when she brought on a member of the audience to dance along and crawl like a dog on a leash. Although it wasn’t much, I did value these moments where we could connect with her the most.
My hats off to the 36-year-old star for remaining current in the music industry and being able to still draw in crowds in a career that has spanned two decades. But for a concert with tickets costing €70 upwards, I did expect a little bit more than the piece of herself she gave.