First Night: Britney Spears, 02 Arena, London
The last time pop star Britney Spears took to the UK stage, in a 2009 tour to promote her Circus album, she was criticised for miming and a lack of personality.
Tonight, on a tour of her latest, and seventh, studio album Femme Fatale, the global superstar who turns 30 in December and has sold close to 70 million albums worldwide, is still lip-synching, auto-tuned to the max, and seemingly unashamedly so. There's no pretence of a live band as a backing tape is played out on a visible laptop by two digital instrumentalists. But everyone knows that it's all about the pop spectacle.
The problem is that tonight's show is not really spectacular enough. Spears' own dancing seems lacklustre, compensated by an impressive cohort of dancers that surround her.
Tickets were slow to shift for this tour but her devoted fans seem determined to have fun. The second half of the show takes it to a new level with I Wanna Go, the album's lead single, a highlight which has whole crowd pogo-ing. "Good job, guys that was amazing, wow!" she exclaims rather robotically.
In the stomping finale, Till The World Ends, Spears is raised on a swing and angel wings burst from her, as shimmering fireworks fall from the stage top like magical stars. She is still a show-woman, but in a world with Beyonce's vocals and Lady Gaga's inventive outlandishness, the bar is constantly raised.
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