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LAce Posted Monday, April 19th, 2004
Britney's Onyx Hotel Tour
Joy Gerdy

I am not your typical Britney Spears fan. I am neither a 17-year-old mall dweller nor a 20-year-old frat boy. I do not watch TRL. Instead I enjoy books about American history. I even own a myriad of CDs by independent recording artists who will never appear on MTV. I do not fit the pop star groupie profile. But for some reason, Britney appeals to me and millions of others who do not typically fall for the pop star of the week. The fact remains that Britney has outlived the expectations of more than one pretentious music reviewer. Less than a month ago I was fortunate enough to watch Britney from the front row during her new tour to promote her latest album, In The Zone.

In 2001 and 2002, Britney promoted her self-titled third album with the Dream Within A Dream tour--a success by all measures. When HBO broadcast this tour live in the fall of 2001, more than five million people tuned in to see a circus spectacle that featured Britney bungee jumping and being soaked by a waterfall.

After a tour that grand, Britney's fan base eagerly awaited to see just what she would do next. So when she announced the Onyx Hotel tour would begin in February, I rushed to her website to find out everything I could. I found this explanation of the tour's title:

An "onyx" by definition is a precious black gemstone that emits various colors of light depending on the light you shine into it. The ONYX HOTEL is a unique, mysterious hotel powered by an onyx stone. Each guest who enters this hotel shines their own light into the onyx, and in return, makes their fantasies come to life. It's a vibrant, whimsical place where wondrous dreams are realized, and the darkest of secrets are revealed.

Since becoming one of Britney's most loyal fans, I have had many occasions to cut her a little slack-- from the movie Crossroads to the title of her first single of her third album, “Slave 4 U.” But even I had to admit that her tour theme echoed of complete and total bullshit.

Once I got past "Onyx Hotel", I was still excited for the concert because I like her new album. A majority of the songs are decidedly hip-hop or techno instead of Mickey Mouse Club. Britney co-wrote most of the songs on the album, and she got great music producers like Moby and R. Kelly to collaborate on the tracks. The CD is also more overtly sexual than her past albums, which I find refreshing.

My expectations for the concert were mostly formed by watching countless specials about her on E! and VH1. Everyone seemed to say that this time Britney would attempt more intimacy and less acrobatics. Commentators also said that this show would be sexier, which is not surprising based on the nature of her new album.

The actual Britney experience was fantastic. I screamed like I might had my mom let me go to a New Kids on the Block concert or to a Luke Perry meet-and-greet. I reminded myself of fans at a Michael Jackson concert in Asia. I was overwhelmed that Britney was right in front of me, with only a barricade and a large event staffer standing between us.

One thing I wasn't prepared for is how beautiful she is. She always looks good in her professional photos and on TV, but she is even prettier in person. She smiles a lot on stage, and it makes you believe she is having a great time. Also, her body is gorgeous. She is not an über-thin celebrity that you want to force-feed. She has beautiful curves, and you can see the muscles in her arms and abs.

The show was less of a spectacle than the last one, but it was hardly an informal acoustic show. Britney still had her fair share of stunts like having her dancers drop down from the ceiling, but there were a lot fewer. Instead, she opted for more low-key dancing—which is her strength. It was still a circus, but it was less Barnum and Bailey and more Cirque du Soleil.

Not surprisingly, the most memorable part of the show was the most R-rated. During “Touch of My Hand,” Britney wore a sheer, sequined bodysuit. Then she climbed into a “bathtub” and simulated masturbating while her dancers mimicked her below. Then for the song “Breathe On Me,” she made out with one of her dancers on stage. More than one parent escorted his young daughter outside for this section, but while they were walking out of the audience, you had better believe their eyes were glued to the stage.

Despite the excitement, there were some big problems with the show. It's no news to me that Britney's singing could use some work. Her engineers play the album tracks under her voice for most of the show, so it sounds like she sings great, but on ballads, she sings all alone, and it ain’t always pretty. When I saw the show, my favorite song was “Shadow”, but when she performed live on Showtime from Miami, that song was a definite low point. Secondly, I was disappointed when she made out with her dancer during “Breathe On Me”. I mean, I saw tongue, and we just witnessed her kiss with Madonna! I wonder how Britney will continue being successful without maintaining her virgin/vixen image.

In the end I still love Britney, and I always will. Most people either love her or hate her, but I think everyone at the show had a good time, even the guy next to me who had been dragged by his buddy. His friend was the one who knew all the songs, but by the time he left he was singing and dancing and yelling and applauding like the rest of us. Britney is the type of entertainer for whom the quality of her performance depends on how you perceive her. If you look at her and hate her for being a big money, sell-out, MTV pretty face, then so be it. But, if you go to see her looking for a good time, you will get it. Even though I hate to admit it, the bullshit that Britney wrote about an onyx sending out whatever light you put into it might be true, especially when it comes to her new tour.

Related Links:

  • Britney's Official Site

    Comments [post a comment]

    Posted by christine haycook on Wednesday, April 21st, 2004 at 12:10 AM
    joy - i for the most part agree with you: the show was fabulous, her abs were fabulous, being 5 feet away from our idol, hero, and role model was fabulous - britney was FABULOUS! but, how can you think that her "virgin/vixen" image will be tarnished and therefore kill her success by her kissing madonna or a dancer every now and then? she can kiss whoever she wants - hopefully next time she'll pull a lucky someone out of the audience and kiss them (fingers crossed!) - as long as she turns to the audience at the end of her sluttagious number and beams us one of those adorable little "thanks y'all!" smiles to let us know she's still just a girl from kentwood putting on a show. that's her trademark - it's even in the "everytime" video - sure she dies, but at the end, out of nowhere, she comes up out of the water and gives us that smile. and that is how she'll maintain her image, giving us a little sex appeal, but always at the end, flashing us the girl next door, so-happy-you-came-to-see-me smile. she rocks my face off. a lot.

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