Britney Spears at Arena, 6/22/11 (VIDEO)

Britney Spears Arena

Wednesday, June 22

When Britney Spears decides to stop touring, she should get a residency in Vegas.

Her Femme Fatale tour, which came to Glendale's Arena last night, was part concert, part cabaret, part circus, and part film. It almost made you forget Spears doesn't sing live.

If you can get past the fact the main attraction at a concert lip-synchs her songs, you would have had a ton of fun at the show. There were costume changes galore, fireworks and smoke, a huge two-story set, and plenty of skin.

Sure, there wasn't a band or anything at the packed (though not quite sold-out) show -- you don't really need real musicians when your tour is more about the eye candy than the music.

The true test of whether or not the show would be successful was the Britters' confidence and stage presence, and the 29-year-old brought it. She looked great, seemed genuinely happy and was on-point throughout the show

The theme went along with the title of the tour, casting Spears as a sexy, rogue criminal on the run. The story was documented in a mini-movie that was played throughout the show, making it a fun story to follow along throughout. It also gave her plenty of time for her myriad of costume changes, ranging from sparkly one-pieces that showed off lots of leg to Egyptian- and Japanese-themed outfits. She looked like a hottie with the body and exuded confidence.

She and her dozen or so dancers made good use of the stage, which included a two-story platform with a massive video screen broadcasting the film and live shots of the cast. If you were bored by her music, there was no way you could be bored by what was going on on-stage. There was a platform that brought Spears out over the crowd, a swing she sat on as a male dancer did acrobatics underneath, and a car with a built-in staircase. She even straddled a giant guitar to the audience's delight.

It was nice to see Spears remember her fans who still provide her with the means to put on such a big show. During current single "I Wanna Go," she brought a big, diverse group of fans on-stage to dance along with her, and a lucky man got a stripper-pole dance from Spears during "Lace and Leather".

It was all enough to make up for the lack of a band, and considering much of Spears' recent music is electronic-based anyway, she got away with it.

It was great to see Spears have such a good time, and she put a ton of energy into the routines. While most of the songs came from her current Femme Fatale album, she didn't disappoint and played many of her older hits as well. It was nice to hear them re-worked, such as the jazzy "If You Seek Amy," the sultry and Middle Eastern-inspired "Boys" and the sped-up "Toxic". She still managed to change it up a little with those songs, even though there was little improvisation in the set.

There was no way to not be entertained during the show, and the energy was upbeat and positive -- just like Spears is when she's at her best.

If only opener Nicki Minaj had brought her A-game, as well. Minaj had to have been just as big of a draw for much of the crowd, and she got a 45-minute set to plow through her hits, both her solo stuff and songs she's had cameos on. It was one of the worst arena performances I've seen by someone of her popularity. It was lifeless, disjointed and robotic, and it's sad more talented rappers aren't up on the big stage she was.

Minaj has said she wants to get her feet wet opening for people before she headlines her own shows. When she does embark out on her own, she needs to act like she's actually invested in the performance. It was impossible to tell if Minaj was singing/rapping live or just mouthing to the backing track, because the few moments she spoke to the crowd, she was barely audible.

Her show was very weird, with a not-scary monster theme and lots of voiced-over dialogue. Minaj barely had crowd interaction, and there were a lot of breaks where she ran off-stage. For such a short set, you'd think she'd want to make the most of it and show off her voice, but she just moved like a zombie. The worst moment was her show closer, "Super Bass." She didn't even sing much of it, instead awkwardly grinding with one of her pre-pubescent-looking dancers.

Her stage set-up and props were also bizarre. For a lot of the show, she sat on a cheap-looking fold-out chair in the middle of the stage -- it was so odd. And she and her dancers tried to spray the crowd with silly string, but it just sputtered out and looked worse than something you'd see at a child's birthday party.

While Minaj should not be known for her writing talent, she is interesting to look at and seems to have a strong personality -- something that could have made for a fun set. To see it all watered down live was a major disappointment, and hopefully she'll take some cues from Spears for her own tour.

Personal Bias: I can't say I respect a singer who doesn't sing live. But this was at least my fourth time seeing Spears, and this was my favorite concert of hers.

The Crowd: Fans in their 20's who have grown up with Spears -- women and gay men.

Overheard in the crowd: "It's as annoying as a Scottsdale nightclub in here," my friend commented, based on the Spears wannabes milling around.

Random Notebook Dump: It's really sad that female icons today rely so much on sex to sell their sound. I saw way too many thighs and more cleavage than I needed to.

Set List:
Hold It Against Me
Up N' Down
Piece of Me
Big Fat Bass
How I Roll
Lace and Leather
If You Seek Amy
Gimmie More
(Drop Dead) Beautiful
He About to Lose Me
Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know
Baby One More Time
Trouble for Me
I'm a Slave 4 U
Burning Up (Madonna cover)
I Wanna Go
Toxic (encore)
Till the World Ends (encore)

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nicki Escudero
Contact: Nicki Escudero

Latest Stories