Sunday, November 11, 2001

To Britney, singing is a fantasy

Great show if you don't mind lip synching

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Britney Spears performs at Firstar Center Saturday night.
(Brandi Stafford photos)
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        The encore was a rainstorm that soaked the star and her eight dancers. Before that there flashpots, fireworks, lasers, fog, bubbles, airborne platforms and hurricanes of confetti. Saturday night at Firstar Center, Britney Spears' concert packed more technical wizardry than Harry Potter, but almost no actual singing.

        Of course, this wasn't a reality show. The theme of her “Dream Within a Dream” tour is fantasy, so there were elaborate costume and sets for every song. And lots of dancing.

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        Madonna and Janet Jackson set the MTV diva rules in the '80s — you can't sing and dance at the same time, so lip synch.

        Britney danced all over — and, several times, suspended by bungee cords, metal cables and a metal gondola, above — her elaborate metal stage. Her voice was consistently strong and clear.

        But when she stopped to address her crowd of mostly young teen-aged girls (dressed seemingly for Lolita open auditions), her voice was suddenly that of a hoarse, breathless, little girl.

        If it wasn't quite a real concert, it was a great show. She opened the night dressed like Stevie Nicks' younger sister, performing “I'm Not That Innocent,” as she spun 360 degrees on a metal grid. Joined by her dancers in the same witchy pirate garb, it looked like Halloween again.

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        It was non-stop from there, for the next 85 minutes. There were splashy '70s-style clothes for the disco party of “Anticipating”; an un-funny Behind the Music takeoff for “I Love Rock 'n' Roll”; and cavegirl garb for “Slave 4 U.”

        Even a simple ballad like “Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know” required she ascend on a hydraulic platform over a bed of fog.

        She turned serious, telling the two-thirds full arena how proud she was of the way the country has “come together” as she introduced her new ballad, “I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.”

        The show is a “live” version of her upcoming HBO special, debuting Nov. 18. Maybe that will get her career back on track. Her lagging ticket sales have been matched by her new Britney CD. It sold 600,000 in its first week; Oops! I Did It Again sold more than 1 million. Broadway, here she comes.

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        O-Town opened with an energetic 45 minutes. The boy band, featuring former University of Cincinnati student Dan Miller, got its start as the made-for-TV group on Making the Band. To make up for its synthetic beginning, the quintet has adopted the roughest look of the pack, wearing T-shirts and jeans. But the dancing and hormonal songs (“Every Six Seconds,” “Liquid Dreams,” “Girl”) are boy-band business-as-usual.

        Fans' spirits high as Britney appears

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