Last night, I went to Webster Hall to go and receive the Teaches from the inimitable Peaches. And, much to my surprise, I was neither punched in the face nor violated by a fat hooker. I did, however, have a complete blast. And I got to meet Anthony (TastesLikeCaramel) and Hannah (SheenaBeaston)! Total douches, truly…I can’t even begin to explain how awful they were.
KIDDING! They’re fantastic. Can’t wait to go see some more shows with those crazy kids. Plus, they’re much cooler than I–they even got to meet her afterwards!
The show began a bit haphazardly: First, Drums of Death (originally scheduled to begin at 8) were stuck at the airport, thus missing their opening performance entirely. Then came the pre-Peaches event: The Naked Cowgirl, a woman of advanced years who sang cheap, sexual ditties while stripping down bare and jumping about. Generally, I was over it (read: nauseated) after the third song–until she lit her nipples on fire. That was kind of fun.
But then, out came Peaches…and suddenly everything turned awesome. The Queen of Nasty rocked out to over twenty four tracks (!), armed with a wealth of tricks up her hairy sleeves for the night’s events: Among them, climbing up into the balcony to scream out a slightly rockier rendition of my personal favorite, “Operate,” a green laser beam shot into the disco ball hanging above for “More,” hairy back-up dancers for “Talk To Me,” six or seven costume changes between songs, and a self-proclaimed blinking “pussy light” for the final few numbers including “Fuck The Pain Away.”
Performance wise, the singer proved completely capable of tackling her hits on pitch and then some…I’m convinced Peaches could be a full-fledged singer after hearing her knock out the riskier singing numbers “I Feel Cream,” “Lose You,” and “Lovertits.”
One major set and two encores later, Peaches had left the stage. Such a performer! Loved, loved it.
Now if only I could feel my legs…
EDIT: Check out more pictures over at BrooklynVegan (including a brief review cameo by yours truly…I’m quite the big deal.)
Quote of the night:
Gay boy to boyfriend: (overheard while leaving the venue) “Can you believe people would pay $180 to see Britney when they can come and see THIS for basically free?!”
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Warning: Picture and praise heavy.
As the video screens start to pull upward along with the black curtains, the silhouettes of a half dozen circus performers slowly fill out across the smoke-filled stage. From above, the outline of a hanging cage begins to poke through the darkness. The crowd surges forward into manic squeals, shrieking at the mere sight of the descending platform. The ringleader stands motionless inside, wearing a crimson ringleader jacket and black riding boots; a long whip grasped securely in her right hand. The cage is halfway down at this point, now slowly rotating for all to see. On her face she wears a cheetah mask, with wildly ornate plumes flaring out from all sides.
The cage touches ground. She steps off onto her mark and slowly removes the mask to unveil a buoyant bob of healthy blonde, shoulder-length hair. Smirking slightly, she raises the whip behind her head and begins: â€œThereâ€™s only two types of people in the worldâ€¦the ones who entertain, and the ones who observe.â€ With a short crack of the whip, the stage explodes with lights and sound. Aerial acrobats suddenly swoop down from giant rings, as dancing clowns and sideshow characters begin to fill the stage. As she begins making her way toward us, I notice an eerie silence from my right. I turn to find my neighbor entirely frozen, mouth agape and hands pressed firmly against her cheeks in utter disbelief. Yeah, Iâ€™d say Britneyâ€™s back.
And so, The Circus: Starring Britney Spears beganâ€”a show that, until only about three months ago, would have seemed more like a cruel joke if offered up in conversation than an actual, conceivable event. Though Iâ€™ve tried (in vain) to evade the overused, cringeworthy â€œCâ€™ word in describing the nightâ€™s events (Get your heads out of the gutter, foolsâ€¦Iâ€™m talking about the â€œcomebackâ€), removing the infamous narrative from the equation would ultimately be to ignore the symbolism behind The Circus: Standing here is a young woman, once reduced to a mere shell of herself only two years ago, drugged against her will and lost in a barrage of shady business partners and barbaric media scrutiny, now standing confidently in the center of a sold out TD Banknorth, an arena that seats approximately 18,000 people. Itâ€™s a reality that lifts the production from the ranks of mere brilliance to a damn near miracle.
Opening up the show an hour prior, the Pussycat Dolls took to the stage to power their way through a forty minute set of their most crowd-pleasing singles. â€œThis one here is for all my ladies,â€ Nicole Scherzinger howled before kicking into their empowerment anthems, â€œI Donâ€™t Need A Man.â€ As the Dolls slid down their metallic poles, shimmied, and high-kicked their way around the stage, I couldnâ€™t help but notice the sweet stench of complete and utter irony.
Between songs, the burlesque beauties made sure to keep the crowd hyped until the very end. While the Dolls generally held their own in keeping the energy level high, it was clear theyâ€™d been thanking their lucky sparkle thongs for landing this gig. Launching into the chorus of their recent single â€œWhen I Grow Up,â€ Scherzinger riffed: â€œWhen I grow up, I wanna be famous / I wanna be a starâ€¦be on tour with Britney Spears!â€
Split between four main acts and an encore, The Circus remains true to its name: Incorporating a healthy dose of magicians, aerial artists, gymnasts, ringmasters, clowns, and a fair share of freaks, the show is a dizzying 90-minute powerhouse of nineteen of Britney Spearsâ€™ finest pop anthems set within a three-ring stage in the round.
While the show may borrow its incredibly marketable theme from her latest album Circus (Britney-branded popcorn, balloons, and light-up lollipops are all sold from faux-vending carts), its musical contents are ironically Blackout based (including only three tracks from Circus, as opposed to Blackoutâ€™s eight.)
Accordingly, the show is as manic as the album is most heavily borrows from, such as the â€œHouse of Funâ€ segment, jumping from the Rhythm Nation-like military stomp of â€œBoys,â€ to the girly glee of â€œIf U Seek Amy.â€ Brandishing a giant, glittery pink Super Mario-sized hammer, the star merrily skipped her way around the stage, bopping her dancers over the head and effectively turning the last thirty seconds of the song into a live action game of whack-a-mole.
Never one to shirk her duty in getting dirty, the â€œFreakshowâ€ segment of Circus comprises a medley of some of her most seductive numbers, leading with what Iâ€™d consider one the showâ€™s greater highlights, the â€œSweet Dreamsâ€ video interludeâ€”a gritty raunch-fest featuring Spears and her masked dancers tangled in an orgy of limbs and leather aset to the sound of Marilyn Mansonâ€™s cover of the Eurythmicâ€™s classic. Very â€œMy Prerogativeâ€ meets â€œEroticaâ€â€”very much essential.
Following the interlude is fan favorite â€œBreathe On Me,â€ which finds the starlet taking to the sky inside of a massive picture frame, only to return to the stage and deliver one lucky male fan an impromptu striptease, complete with a few hair flips to the groin.
The deliciously silly, sexual romp then leads swiftly into â€œTouch Of My Hand,â€ Britneyâ€™s self-exploration ode filled to the brim with Madonna-like gestures and poses. The performance also features the tourâ€™s most awe-inspiring visuals, as the star is lifted not once, but twice up into the air during a particularly steamy make-out session with an aerial acrobatâ€”all without the assistance of ropes or wires.
The only drawback to the most provocative sequences of the show was the miserable costume selection, which went from bad (a glittery one-piece with massive boobie tassels), to really bad (a faux-tattoo one-piece with Keith Haring-esque squiggles pasted across Britâ€™s naughty bits.) Thank you, William Baker, for your continued hatred of the female form.
Speaking of outfits, the golden metal leotard worn in previous shows during the rock rendition of â€œIâ€™m A Slave 4 Uâ€ failed to make an appearance in Boston, presumably after a microphone caught the singer colorfully complaining about the costumeâ€™s revealing quality during the show in Tampaâ€”not that itâ€™s anything we havenâ€™t already seen.
Scattered throughout the show were also many moments clearly designed to re-establish Spearsâ€™ public image as the shot-caller. Following â€œBoys,â€ the singer instructs her male dancers to drop down and â€œgive me tenâ€¦real ones.â€ After counting it out, Spears skips up and down the line of sweaty soldiers at her feet, sing-songing along in an army chant: â€œI donâ€™t know what you been toldâ€¦This mama is in control. Sound off!â€
Truly, the mama was calling the shots that night. Whether it can be attributed to creative input or simply to threatening to cancel the tour, Britneyâ€™s getting her way. As anyone familiar with Spearsâ€™ personal tastes might conclude, the setlist comprises nearly all of the singerâ€™s favorites, including â€œBoys,â€ â€œTouch Of My Hand,â€ and of course, â€œDo Somethinâ€™,â€ during which the singer dons a pair of dark sunglasses, drills away at a metal contraption, and flips off the audience several times while images of tattooed pin-up girls flash overhead.
As the media has been quick to pounce upon, the show was indeed lip-synched. Shocking I know, given that Britney Spears has always been known for her vocal prowess and artistic integrity. Itâ€™s truly difficult to believe that people still harp upon the lip-synching gig. I mean honestly, (and trust me, this comes from a loving place) but does anyone actually want to hear her live? While I pride myself in being one of the greatest fans of Spearsâ€™ ill controlled, drowning cat warble, even I would put my foot down at the notion of a live concert.
Nay, vocals should not be the reason one attends the Britney show. The Circus is exactly thatâ€”a circus, an engaging visual experience put on by one of the worldâ€™s most established pop artists, complete with an extensive array of choreographed stage theatrics provocative imagery, and catchy beats. Really though, itâ€™s just good fun.
Perhaps more than just simply being fun, The Circus is very much a lasting statement; further proof that Britney Spears has indeed found her stride along the seemingly endless â€œcomebackâ€ route andâ€”by the power vested in Madgeâ€”will continue to be around for the long haul.
Picking up my gum-ridden program from the floor and wiping off the paper confetti from the brim of my hat at the close of the encore, I was once again struck by the same wanting feeling as I did the first time I saw Britneyâ€”the â€œitâ€ factor she possesses that simply beckons the audience to yearn for more. As I turned for a final word with my newfound friend, one of her high school gal-pals said it much better than I ever could have: â€œThis is the best night of my life. Seriously, this is probably going to be better than my wedding night.â€ Well, I couldnâ€™t argue with that.
After approximately three miserably failed attempts at sleeping on the night of December 1st, it became evident that I would not be getting in that three hours of sleep before the concert. Instead, I waited up patiently until I met up with my fellow Britney buddy, Erica to hop onto the 4 AM train and begin our journey into New York. Contrary to my deepest fears, the train was not delayed, our taxi did not get us lost, and I did not die. Instead, we got there promptly at 6 AM.
Once we got there, we stood in a massive line for about ten minutes, only to find out later that the line was for people standing around hoping to get tickets. As it turned out, the ticket winners could walk right in the entire time. Oops.
After being poked, prodded, and patted down profusely by a fleet of security teams, we were led into the venue and given a paddle that said â€œBritney Spearsâ€ on one side and â€œHappy Birthday!â€ on the other in Circus letters. Cute! We also found out later that the Elizabeth Arden Company was handing out Curious and Fantasy tees somewhere else in the lobby. Anyway, the venue itself was quite fitting: The inside lobby featured popcorn and cotton candy vendors, little gaming areas and bright decorations, and even authentic port-o-potties! Iâ€™m always one for accuracy.
Almost immediately, the madness began. Within just fifteen minutes of getting seated, Jamie Spears and Larry Rudolph casually came out from behind stage to survey the arena with each other, no more than fifteen feet away. Two of the major players in Britneyâ€™s life and careerâ€¦Just wandering aimlessly around me. Our section soon went wild upon spotting them, triggering the entire auditorium to follow suit. Later on, choreographers Wade Robson and Andre Fuentes showed up on stage to survey the floor. They seemed overly interested in one of the hinges on the cage door, which the stage hands had to fidget with until the very last moments of the show. Lynn Spears entered along with Britneyâ€™s brother Bryan, and I saw her assistant, Brett, soon after. Britneyâ€™s babies, Jayden James and Sean Preston, decked out in their signature berets, made a show-stealing cameo around the venue about a half hour before Britney came to perform.
The crowd was truly very warm and loving throughout the two hour event. Clearly, many of the winners were also hardcore fans who rushed to enter their names into the contest. Often times, it was impossible to decipher what the producers and reporters were saying amidst the voice-cracking shrieks of â€œHappy Birthday Britney!â€ and â€œI love you!â€ echoing from ringside.
The dynamic of my own section was amusing: In front, a fleet of overly concerned fans who spent a great deal of the first hour alternating between panicking about a few pieces of dropped popcorn in the ring and cooing over Britneyâ€™s family. â€œLook how cute she is!! Man, Why canâ€™t she be my mom?â€ one of the girls longingly sighed in front of me while staring over at Lynn. Behind me sat the ever reliable catty gays, who were never too shy to offer a poisonous stab of criticism about the physical flaws ofâ€¦Well, everyone. They kept themselves entertained by prescribing loving little nicknames of affection, like â€œbig nose,â€ the dancer. There were also a great deal of fat bitches, tranny bitches, and bitches in general. Later on, Britney was thankfully kept out of their line of fire, apparently meeting their seal of approval. Or, as they put it: â€œGod DAMN, bitch looks hot!â€
Throughout the first hour of the program, we were responsible for breaking into applause about once every ten minutes. Naturally, we all hammed it up for the cameras. I got on for about two seconds, though with the faces Iâ€™m making on screen, Iâ€™d rather not draw attention to the matter. Other than that, there wasnâ€™t too much excitement for that first hour, aside from trying to get Wadeâ€™s attention. Heâ€™s quite nice in personâ€¦Trust me.
At around 8, the lights finally dropped as the dancers took their marks on the stage along with the circus performers. Following a shrill chorus of â€œOh my God, oh my God!â€ from around the arenaâ€”as well as my anxiety-induced nail digging clench onto my friend Ericaâ€™s leg (apologies in retrospect for that one)â€”the spotlight shone onto a blonde-haired silhouette that came dashing out from the back and up onto the cage ceiling.
Let me just say that Britney looked absolutely stunning in real lifeâ€”I cannot emphasize it enough. Her body was toned to perfection: Defined abs, muscular legs, and a butt that could have only been sculpted with the aid of divine intervention. Of course Iâ€™m far from unbiased, but in my honest opinion, I do believe that she is the most beautiful person Iâ€™ve ever seen in my entire life. She was standing only ten or fifteen feet away from me the entire time, and I simply could not take my eyes off of her. Itâ€™s her aura, her presenceâ€¦She truly is an icon. To describe the moment I finally saw her in the flesh for the first time is impossible. Finally being able to see someone youâ€™ve adored and admired for over ten years of your life? No words.
And so, â€œCircusâ€ began. I wonâ€™t really go into detail about the performances because what I saw is essentially what everyone else saw on screen. She did the damn thing, plain and simple. I can say that the beginning vogue atop the cage was utter perfection; the spotlight cast an amazing silhouette, and she looked like an absolute superstar. I donâ€™t think the cameras really captured just how awe-inspiring that moment was.
After the crowd spent a moment or two staring at each other in disbelief, we began to wait for the crew to set up for â€œWomanizer.â€ I sat around waiting, occasionally watching as Lynn, Jamie, and the babies interact with each other. It was unbelievable that I was just watching them in front of my eyes! At one point, JJ grabbed a Happy Birthday sign and began to flail it around in the air, cooing loudly and gigglingâ€”probably one of the cutest things Iâ€™ve seen in a very long time.
Then came â€œWomanizer,â€ which was a similar affair as everything weâ€™d already seen during the European promotional week. Less props and somewhat less dancing, it was essentially was I expected. Most importantly, I got to witness the signature Britney boob-jiggle that leads into the chorusâ€¦Epic.
On a curious side note, after Britneyâ€™s performance of â€œWomanizer,â€ I did see her angrily talking to Larry in the back as they prepared the cake segment. They looked quite serious. I donâ€™t know what it was about, and I donâ€™t want to start any rumors. Chances are she was just being critical about some detail within the performance or something. Whatever it was, she was due out again a few seconds later to receive the birthday cake. And so, like a champ, she turned right back around, put on a big smile, and began her birthday segmentâ€¦Business as usual.
However, as strictly business as she is, she did manage to crack just once: For us! I was lucky enough to be seated directly behind the opening prop for â€œWomanizer.â€ Once she took her spot behind the ring, our section was absolutely going berserk trying to get Britney to look over. She stood there waiting for the lights to drop. Finally, after a few final screams of â€œI love you, Britney,â€ she turned to us, smiled, and quickly waved! Success: We broke the Britney.
Of course, following the birthday celebration was the announcement of Britneyâ€™s new tour: The Circus: Starring Britney Spears, which launches in March in New Orleans. Diane Sawyer, who continued to prove her incompetence as a host as the morning went on, threw off most of the crowd when she asked Britney why the first tour date was so important. â€œItâ€™s home,â€ Diane hinted to her. â€œOh, yesâ€¦Weâ€™re starting the tour in America.â€ Britney responded, slightly confused. â€œWell yes, but itâ€™s your hometownâ€¦New Orleans!â€ Diane responded triumphantly. The awkward confusion on Britneyâ€™s face afterward was priceless.
The glittery, pink gumball rolls down the path, picking up speed as it winds itself around the twists and turns of the metal track. Suddenly, its path straightens, heading straight toward us. The ball flings itself off the tracks from sheer inertia, spinning faster and faster as the screams grew to shrieks. Finally, the impact: The ball smacks into the massive LED screens in a smokescreen of glitter and dust. As the speckles disappear, the screens glow, spelling out â€œC-A-N-D-Y.â€
Itâ€™s Wednesday, October 15th, the first night of Madonnaâ€™s two concerts in Boston on the Sticky & Sweet Tour. I am standing on the floor level, next to my friend Michael. We are fifteen rows from the catwalk. Both of us, equipped with our glittery home-made outfits, are screaming at the top of our lungs. Slowly, the blinking screens turn inward to reveal a casual, smirking Madonna, seated luxuriously atop a â€œMâ€ shaped throne with cane in hand. She might have been singing, but at that moment, I donâ€™t think anyone could have heard her.
The Sticky & Sweet Tour symbolizes Madonnaâ€™s final circuit around the world under contract with her longtime label, Warner Brothers, before moving onto her new label. In a way, the event marks this finality, as images of Madonnaâ€™s videos and performances over the past twenty-five years flash across the giant screens throughout the night. Many of the dance moves are reminiscent of past tour moments, and Madonna injects many fan favorites into the mix.
But this is Madonna, an artist that refuses to stay put in time. As a result, many of Madgeâ€™s classics were glossed over with a fresh coat of relevance. While I generally consider myself a purist for her original material, I found the updated editions to be excellently crafted. â€œVogueâ€ benefited from a nice sprucing-up with the horn-heavy back beat of her latest release, â€œ4 Minutes,â€ while â€œBorderlineâ€ underwent an incredibly convincing rock-and-roll reinterpretation, harkening back to Madgeâ€™s rock roots in the â€˜80â€™s with Emmy and the Emmys. â€œMusicâ€ encountered a fresh club reinterpretation, incorporating samples of Fedde le Grandâ€™s â€œPut Ur Hands Up 4 Detroitâ€ and Indeepâ€™s â€œLast Night A DJ Saved My Life.â€ And while youâ€™ll never convince me that a guitar-fueled rendition of â€œHung Upâ€ could be somehow greater than the glittery synth sounds of the original, Madge still managed to rock it out on that purple electric guitar during the showâ€™s closing moments.
Early into the show, Madonna pulled out her guitar, strumming her way into an electrified version of â€œHuman Nature.â€ While she sang, Britney Spears flickered on-screen for her cameo video montage on the monitors above. Throughout the song, Britney is seen through multiple surveillance cameras, dueling out her demons inside of a broken elevator. Losing her cool, she begins rolling around on the floor, screaming, and pulling at her hair manically as the camera films her every moveâ€”The perfect metaphor for the pop starâ€™s chaotic life experiences. As the track winds down, the two superstars come together for one gloriously timed moment: Just as Madonna ends with a sizzling â€œIâ€™m not your bitch!â€ Britney appears on screen, devilishly utters her famous line, â€œItâ€™s Britney, bitch.â€ The stadium briefly exploded, my vision briefly clouded, and I had myself a momentâ€¦Enough said.
Another highlight occurred half-way through during â€œSheâ€™s Not Me,â€ an angst-heavy kiss-off track against the sneaky seductresses that try to weasel their way between Madge and her man. Donning a pair of cheeky, heart-shaped sunglasses and drenched in sugary-sweet sarcasm, the singer skipped around the stage and crooned the track as dancers rose up from the catwalk floor, dressed in Madgeâ€™s classic looks. She skipped over to the statuesque imposters, plucking at their lifeless bodies and ruffling their outfits. Once the track takes it’s brilliant turn toward techno, Madonna got a bit mental. Taking the wedding veil of the â€œLike A Virginâ€ Madonna, Lady M went over to the â€œExpress Yourselfâ€ Madonna, smothered her face with a sinister kiss, and choked out the girl. The music was now bursting through the arena, pumping with a hard synth bass, causing Madge to go ballistic: Thrashing, gyrating, and smashing the floor of the catwalk, almost as wildly as the crowdâ€™s noise.
The Middle-Eastern tinged gypsy section was perhaps the weakest part of the night, including a fairly hum-drum folk performance by Madgeâ€™s colorfully adorned dancers and musicians. Luckily, the moment was surpassed quickly as the lights dimmed for Madonnaâ€™s controversial interlude, the â€œGet Stupidâ€ video. As has become standard with all Madonna concerts, the montage depicts images of dictatorship, genocide, and political corruption, invoking the crowd to get active and take responsibility for the country. Anything you say, Madonnaâ€¦Just come back to us.
As if to revive the crowd, Madge soon launched into her classic, â€œLike a Prayer.â€ As sirens and horns blared from the speakers at maximum volume, mystical text blurred across the screens in Arabic, Japanese, Hebrew, and English. A stomping drum beat kicked in, as a drifting chorus of â€œâ€¦And it feels like homeâ€ wove itself around the stadium. Madonna dramatically paced the stage, the crowdâ€™s hands shot up and waved from side to side, and the drum beat continued to grow stronger. The performance might have been the closest Iâ€™ve ever been to encountering a religious revival. Also, I think I saw God, though it might have just been a back-up dancer.
I must say, while the crowd had its moments, its behavior was generally atrocious. Of my own row, there were only three people dancing. The rest stood motionless, their eyes wandering and weaving through the surrounding crowd. Some even carried on conversations as the performances were happening! No toe-tapping, no swayingâ€¦Nothing. Now, considering the price I paid for floor seats (better left unsaid, really), I was utterly astonished by the complete indifference displayed by the audience. That applies especially to the creeper sitting to my right, who spent the majority of the concert texting his boyfriend on his Blackberry when he wasnâ€™t staring blankly at my face as I danced. (Flattering!)
I wasnâ€™t the only one who noticed. Always the charmer, Madonna found different ways to let the audience know how she was feeling: â€œWake up, Boston! Am I boring you?!â€ sheâ€™d taunt, pointing out into the lukewarm crowd. â€œThen stand up, motherf*ckers!â€ Clearly, her Madgesty was not having it either.
Of course, there were a whole host of issues crawling up Madonnaâ€™s fishnets that night: There was a definite problem with the microphone testing before the show, causing the show to start around fifteen minutes late. Worse yet, the air conditioners were blowing in full force. For those unaware, air conditioning is one of Madonnaâ€™s greatest performance pet peeves. She doesnâ€™t like the cold air blowing during her shows. I think it has something to do with her vocal cords? I donâ€™t know, but come onâ€¦They donâ€™t call her a diva for nothing.
Oh, and then thereâ€™s that whole divorce thing. Six hours before show time, Madonnaâ€™s publicist announced that Madonna and Guy Ritchie were separating after over ten years of marriage. Our thoughts wandered that day: Would she cancel the show? Throw things at us? Break down and cry? Our concerns were left unanswered until â€œMiles Away,â€ a song written about Guy. Before opening, Madonna looked out into the crowd. â€œThis song is dedicated to the emotionally retarded,â€ she said sweetly, â€œMaybe you know some people who fall into that category–God knows I do.â€ With a quick smirk, Madge drove into her guitar with a distinctly bitter undertone I donâ€™t ever remember the track having.
Minor set-backs aside, the concert was essentially perfection. Madonnaâ€™s dance moves were spot-on; her voice as flawless as a studio recording. No matter how intricate the choreography, the woman belted out each note effortlessly, and with a great deal of satisfied confidence. Two hours moved as a two second powerhouse of stage presence, charisma, and energy wrapped inside of a rock-laden theatrical extravaganza. More than anything, Madonna proved herself, as she has for her entire career, to be one of the greatest entertainers of our time. Iâ€™d go on further, but Iâ€™m holding my tongue in order to avoid running the risk of sounding absurd.