Britney Spears Wembley Arena

Llike a footballer in drag, pop princess misses every chance
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The Independent Culture

The time may have passed in a nanosecond, but Britney Spears has packed a lot of living into the two years since she last took her show on the road. Heartbreak, heartache, and alleged breakdown, marriage, divorce and reinvention - the pink-clad princess of pop has lived the kind of emotional roller-coaster that would ordinarily underscore the life of one four times her young years. Sure enough, the colt-limbed Lolita who once writhed lustfully along school corridors urging us to hit her "One More Time", has taken more than her share of blows. And few are as to any doubt as to who might be to blame.

Hence, it is with some degree of trepidation that the audience, an extraordinary demographic made up of ageing tweenies, pre-teens, over-excitable dads and homosexuals, greet the leather-clad dominatrix who opens the doors of the Onyx Hotel, "where all your darkest secrets" will be made real. And not without good reason because, from the start, the show is an erogenous zone in search of a climax. For all the pyrotechnic trickery and flamboyance on show, Onyx Hotel is singularly underwhelming and Britney's performance has the sexual charisma of a soft toy.

Sure, the terrible blonde locks, the pneumatic bosoms and the breathless nasal vibrato that has become her signature style are intact. Britney can't help feeling that, at only 24, Spears is already a spent force. Britney's stage antics are only faintly reminiscent of her idol and sometime best friend Madonna, whose infamous 'Girlie Show' set the standards for young female pop stars seeking to make the transition from pop tart to sex bomb. Just as Madonna did 20 years ago, the show bears the same wanton contrivance.

But where Madonna had the charisma and self-assurance to manipulate and control her audience, Britney seems to flounder in the same context. She squanders opportunities to reconnect with her audience, by offering a jazzed-up "Oops I did it Again" trussed up in a pink corset that makes her look like a footballer in drag.

She makes all the right moves but behind all the grinning, gurning, and vocal gymnastics on display, her eyes are dead. It's been a "roller-coaster journey" that has led to the Onyx Hotel tour, but once there, you can't help feeling that she can't wait to check out.