By Jacqueline Monahan
Photos by Stephen Thorburn
On Tour Now: Britney Spears Brings the Circus to Mandalay Bay
Working moms are nothing new, but this one descends from the ceiling into her own three-ring circus. She’s carrying a whip and wearing tall boots while her gang of clowns dressed in the black leather of bondage fetishists scamper around their queen. It’s been five years and she wants to remind you that you still love her, or at least like her, baby, one more time.
Britney Spears has finally entered the arena (the Mandalay Bay Events Center, to be exact). The crowd’s already been warmed up by opening acts Kristina DeBarge (daughter of James, from the musical family of the same name) and her remake hit Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye, along with 6th Season American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who does a multiple song set including “Tattoo.”
A Perez Hilton video introduces Spears in a gossipy way as the music roars at club level, heavy on the bass and percussive beat. Spears is in command of her troupe, which throughout the 90-minute concert includes clowns, hip-hop dancers, harem girls, acrobats, aerialists, little people and a double amputee that bounces like a ball on a trampoline with her partner. A man becomes the spoke of a stainless steel metal ring as he rolls around the stage in a graceful example of a human wheel.
There are strobe lights, smoke, and red and purple filters bathing the three rings that run the length of the Events Center. Spears makes sure to cover all of her vast entertainment territory, giving the audience face-time with her no matter where they sit. Her constantly changing traveling apparatus turns and rotates her like a dessert display in a vintage diner, as her mane of golden hair seems to move more like a fluid as she sprints, rolls, or floats from one side of the stage to the other.
Opening appropriately enough with “Circus” and then into “Piece of Me,” without missing one pounding beat, Spears begins a series of costume changes that progresses from sexy to even sexier. She rides around in a cage, fills up a large, gilded photo frame from top to bottom with her body, dances beside a golden pole (hey, it could have belonged to a merry-go-round, you know) reclines on a velvet sofa and perches on the handle of an enormous, suspended umbrella. She dresses like a police officer, a harem girl, and a lingerie model – a fantasy in skin-tight bling surrounded by her crew of coordinating dancers and acrobats.
Song performances prominently feature work from her last two albums Circus and Blackout, including “Radar”, “Freakshow”, “Hot as Ice”, “Boys”, and “If U Seek Amy”. Gauging audience response, these are wildly popular dance tunes that prompt some in the crowd to shake it along with Spears – and that’s saying something.
The concert is divided into themed segments with titles such as House of Fun (Anything Goes) and Freak Show/Peep Show. Spears’ notable hits, “Baby, One More Time”, “Slave 4 You” and “Toxic” crop up in the Electro Circ portion of the show, sending the crowd into outbursts of adulation and nostalgia – well, as much nostalgia as can be mustered for the early work of a 26-year-old.
Aside from the music, Circus performers fill the stage with energetic hijinx, brandishing swords, on stilts, in the air, and popping up from below via trapdoor. A ‘Sweet Dreams” video plays on the large jumbo-tron, as does a rapid video/TV retrospective of Spears’ career, including the now-infamous Madonna kiss, which brings one of the largest roars to spill out of the crowd that evening.
An encore features her latest hit, “Womanizer” with Spears attired like a sexy cop, mirrored shades, boots and clingy metallic body suit. A shower of sparks cover the stage as metallic confetti rains down on the crowd in shades of sliver, red, and gold.
And just like that, the Circus leaves the building, gearing up for its run on the other unsuspecting continents of Earth.
Australia’s next, and that country’s no stranger to boomerangs. Throw them away from you and they come right back, reminding you how much fun they are to have around. Just like Britney.
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