Britney’s ‘Piece Of Me’ tour came to London last weekend, and it was a bit emotional… For any of you that witnessed my, uh, slightly over-excited Twitter feed on Sunday, you’ll know what to expect from this post.
Look, I can’t help it. I’ve been a ‘ride or die’ Britney fan for nearly 20 GODDAMN YEARS, during which she has suffered under the glare of vicious media attention that gleefully exploited her, profiting from her pain and heartbreak, stalking her every move while denigrating everything about her, grossly obsessing about her sex life and either leching over her appearance or criticising it. She was hounded until she broke. Then they tried to shift the story to a cautionary tale. Each step of the Britney Narrative was sensationalized for money, with barely any consideration for the human being behind the headlines.
That she is happy and healthy now is a goddamned miracle in itself. I think that’s why I was in floods of tears from pretty much the second she strutted on stage like a boss. It’s Britney, bitch. She’s back. And all those folks that wanted a piece of her?
I last saw Britney years ago during her ‘Circus’ tour, and looking back, it felt a bit like she was going through the motions. She was being kept busy. Now, since her successful Las Vegas residency, it felt like this was a tour she chose to do for herself, and for her fans. It felt like she was ready to get out there again. For all Justin Timber-Snake-In-The-Grass’s snide comments about Vegas residencies being like retirement, this was more like re-charging for Britney: regular hours, regular time with her family, little of the disorientating travel between venues, and yet the medicinal cheers of her supporters. We love you, Britney. We only want good things for you, Britney.
It’s not a comeback, because Britney never really went away, but it’s a return to form. And holy crap, she is in the shape of her life. Her stage outfits are held up with magic and rainbows. And she can wear WHATEVER SHE BLOODY WELL WANTS TO.
Britney doesn’t sing live. She barely does crowd banter. She never really seems at ease talking to a crowd, or to the press, so she rarely does it. We know this going in. It’s not what she does; she holds herself back personally, and goes all out in her performance. There are boundaries. Interactions are on her terms. GOOD FOR HER. She has, in the past, elected to sing one song live, usually a ballad, but the ‘Piece of Me’ tour is wall-to-wall bangers. Plus without any ‘Britney can’t hear you, cheer louder’ nonsense, there’s MORE TIME FOR TUNES.
Her back catalogue is almost 20 years of hits, and she adds a few twists here and there, like some playful combos, and some new mixes of ‘Baby, One More Time’ and ‘Toxic’. You might not know all of them, but you can be damn sure you’ll know some of them, and even if you don’t consider yourself a fan, be honest and you’ll have a favourite. You’ve probably danced with giddy abandon to more than one.
It’s pure nostalgia much of the time, with some of the original choreography in places, and even a montage of music videos set to ‘If I’m Dancing’ during one of the set changes. Some of this nostalgia has a very knowing tone to it, like when she pauses at the start of ‘Gimme More’ before dropping her now iconic catchphrase, “It’s Britney, Bitch”. It’s a loaded song to perform, conjuring memories of That VMA Performance she was utterly slated for, back in 2007 when she wasn’t well. I like to think that people would be kinder if something like that happened now. Or at least less awful. When she started this song at the weekend, it felt like a reclamation of it — not so much ‘Gimme More’ as ‘I Got This’.
In the last part of the show, ‘Stronger’ feels like a reassurance to the crowd, like she’s telling us she is OK now. We hear you, Britney.
Joy is incredibly powerful, and when the world has gone to hell, we need to seek out and treasure moments of joy. This was right up there. There is something magical in the outpouring of emotion that comes from seeing someone you have loved for decades living their best life, and celebrating that with thousands of like-minded fans. Why spend all that money going to an arena tour if it isn’t for love? And so, you can mock my love of cheesy pop tunes if you like. I don’t mind. Just don’t talk shit about my Britney.
You do you, Brit. You never went away, and neither did we. And you still put on a damn good show. Love you.
I have two requests for the comments: first of all, favourite Britney songs (you know you have them). Secondly, who would fill your heart with so much joy that you would skip, squee and then sob if you saw them perform?
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