Britney Spears/Nicki Minaj @ Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, WA 06.29.11
What are we allowed to expect from a pop star anymore? How many costume changes does a pop star need before we grab their shoulders and just ask them to be themselves? While watching Britney Spears' set at the Tacoma Dome on Wednesday night, it was hard to not be repeatedly puzzled by lots of questions, and overwhelmed at the spectacle of it all.
Spectacle seems to follow Spears onstage and off, and that's what we show up for, right? Hardcore or casual fan, we're all there to see SOMETHING happen. None of us are even quite sure who Britney Spears truly is to this day, and that makes us even more curious. Whether she's a total train wreck or laser-focused, we're not picky; we just want to see it happen. If Britney Spears has herself figured out, it's hidden behind layers of smoke, lasers, fireworks, ninjas, light-up clothing, and nods to other artists that she tosses off as quickly as a costume change.
Spears' set was enormous; giant video screens moved around through the course of the set, playing backing videos and an attempt at a narrative about a creepy stalker. It was hard to tell if the show was going for a Bond/spy vibe ("Femme Fatale", anyone?), but it felt like Michael Bayleftovers tossed in for a more thematic experience. A large T-shaped stage allowed Spears and her 14-or-so dancers to get into the middle of the crowd for more intimate face time, if you can call it that.
Without even starting the show, Spears' stage was giving nods in U2's direction. Later, she paid tribute to the Immaculate one the best way she could; falling one cone-bra short of re-enacting scenes from Madonna's Truth or Dare during the Britney-worship session of "Boys," and grainy black-and-white videos of men in bondage gear tipped their cap toward "Erotica" during "Slave 4 U."
Considering her roller-coaster of a life, Spears looked fantastic, healthy and happy, and sounded suspiciously perfect at all times. It is entirely unclear if she actually sang a note of any of her 23 songs, but we didn't come out to hear her show off her vocal prowess. We came for the dancing, the props, the costumes. While Spears' dancers were electric and explosive, Britney looked sluggish during her dance sequences, and much more comfortable vamping it up while lounging on things--a couch, a giant metal guitar that shot fireworks out of the headstock, or a car.
Twenty-nine years into a life that has been more career than living, can you blame her? During "How I Roll," Spears and her troupe rolled out in a bubblegum-pink Mini Cooper, and it was hard to not picture Spears as anything but a living, breathing Barbie doll (complete with contemporary dream car). Tossing off outfits as the audience bores of them, soaring through the air on trapezes, scaling fake guitars and motorcycles, and disappearing through trap doors in the stage, filling our eyes and ears with candy, dancing around much to our (purely superficial) delight.
Opener Nicki Minaj's 40-minute set was modest compared to Spears', utilizing minimal costume changes, fewer props, and a similarly hokey "bad guy out to get me" narrative throughout. Had she shown up with just an iPod and a microphone, Minaj would've still owned the room. Weaving quick chunks of her collaboration verses in with her own material, Minaj had the crowd every bit (if not more so) as hyped as Spears', with the entirety of the audience spitting her lyrics right back at her. Minaj is a star on the rise (if not already there), and her multi-dimensionality is among her strongest assets; she exists as a sex symbol who is both a hard-edged, intelligent MC and a playfully innocent joker, never coming off as too hard or too soft. Watching someone who is hungry and passionate about what they're doing get a moment in the spotlight is always a joy, and Minaj's set was an awesome reminder of that electricity coming to life.
Random Notebook Dump #1: Totally curious as to why Britney's "Til the World Ends" had Nicki Minaj on a video cameo, but not coming out for it? If she's in the building, why not get her out there, too, Brit?
Random Notebook Dump #2: The people-watching. MY LORD, the people-watching. If there's a food court in the mall in heaven, it's patronized entirely by this crowd (except for the sassy 16-year-old behind me who almost exploded during Minaj's set and then spent the 45 minutes before Spears' set talking shit on Britney).
Britney Spears' Set List
- Hold It Against Me
- Up N' Down
- Piece of Me
- -My Prerogative video segment-
- Big Fat Bass
- How I Roll
- Lace and Leather
- If You Seek Amy
- -video segment-
- Gimme More
- Drop Dead (Beautiful)
- He About to Lose Me
- Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know
- -video segment-
- Baby, One More Time
- S&M (remix)
- Trouble for Me
- Slave 4 U
- Burning Up (Madonna cover)
- I Wanna Go
- -video segment-
- Till the World Ends