Live Review: Britney Spears – 26th August 2018 – O2 Arena, London, UK
Following a prestigious residence in Vegas over the course of 4 years, pop icon Britney Spears has taken back to the road to bring the stellar Piece of Me stage spectacle to fans around the world. UK fans are the latest to be treated to the starlets latest project as the Toxic hitmaker has been trekking the country with a suitcase full of hits that have dressed the musicians 20+ years as reigning princess of pop.
The third of 3 shows at London’s O2 Arena, fans flocked to the final Piece of Me tour date in the capital following performances in Scarborough, Glasgow and Manchester and headlining this year’s Brighton Pride.
The stars pulling power is still very much evident 20 years on from breaking through the pop stratosphere with debut single Baby One More Time, and this was seen by the packed venue full of fans donning Britney tshirts and singing along to some of the superstars hits in the lead up to showtime.
As the lights dimmed the volume of the crowd became deafening as her dancers began to take their positions on stage and her band, perched on a high rise of stage props, found their places before Spears emerged and dove straight into opening number, Work Bitch.
The singer last toured the UK back in 2011 as part of her Femme Fatale tour; a tour negatively received by most and criticised partly due to the absence of live vocals. Since then Spears has had ups and downs and learned a lot. Unfortunately it appears she hasn’t given her live vocals any attention and last nights show was more of a mimed burlesque spectacle than a concert.
Going into the show I had my expectations firmly in place. Spears is not known for her live vocal skills but with the pop icon not daring to sing live becoming such an accepted element of her tours in recent years, one could be wrong for complaining at this point – but complain we will. When you witness a performance like this you definitely leave the venue with a deeper appreciation for live vocalists. It is remarkable that Spears has built a solid touring life on the back of backing tracks courtesy of herself.
Despite this there were some fun moments in the show. Opening tracks Work Bitch and Womaniser transformed the arena into a pulsating rave while signature hits Baby One More Time and Oops I Did It Again were given the remix treatment; the former beginning as a slow-paced piano number before erupting into the foot thumping 90’s juggernaut that we identify with the iconic legacy that Spears has built for herself from.
A costume change for Spears and her entourage allowed collaborator and friend Will.i.am to babysit the venue through a giant projection of the star lit up on the screens on stage for duet, Scream & Shout at the beginning on a neon themed act that contained a memorable, glow in the dark rendition of Boys.
Toxic and Stronger found their rightful place within the set and had every member of the audience up and on their feet and dancing along with the hit-maker but some of her big ballad numbers including Lucky, Sometimes and Born To Make You Happy were omitted. A shame given the impact those songs had on her success and the need for some laid back moments within the set-list. Me Against The Music – her duet with Queen of Pop, Madonna – featured early in the set and carried a nostalgic vein; her dancers dressed in denim and playing cat and mouse around wooden structures reminiscent of those featured in the video for the track.
There were plenty of hits for the star to throw out to her fans and plenty of action happening on stage for the audience to remain engaged but there was an everlasting awkwardness to the show and an undeniable feeling of being short-changed when it came to the total package. Whether this came from the suited male minder who stood staunchly on the side of the stage as if watching that Spears was always ok, to the blatant absence of any live vocals. At this point everyone knows a Britney concert is a mimed affair however even going into the show with preset low expectations you couldn’t quite shake the fact that you weren’t getting the full concert experience. The only thing separating Spears from her troupe of 13 backing dancers was a moving mouth and token blonde hair.
The show demanded stamina from Spears and her dancers as each number offered at the sold out O2 spectacle came loaded with fully charged, intricate choreography but even this began wearing thin by the 30 minute mark. While her dancers were equipped with range in their craft, Spears often repeated her steps – even on the set-lists token slower number, Breathe On Me. Whether this was her constant hair scrunchie tightening, her prance to the front of the stage or her little miss beauty pageant bounce, the over the top gyrating along with such a large entourage of dancers were possibly put in place to distract the audience away from the absence of live vocals. Who knows. We can only hope Spears is not leading by example for new generations of touring artists when it comes to live vocals being a component.
Break the Ice / Piece of Me
Baby One More Time / Oops!… I Did It Again
If I’m Dancing
Me Against the Music
Clumsy / Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)
Scream & Shout
Do You Wanna Come Over?
Work It / Get Ur Freak On / WTF (Where They From)
Get Naked (I Got a Plan)
I’m a Slave 4 U
If U Seek Amy
Breathe on Me
Stronger / (You Drive Me) Crazy
Till the World Ends