Every time her name was mentioned by the never-ending, yet extremely fast-paced montage of N'Sync and Spice Girls wannabe bands that opened--blah, blah, blah ... BRITNEY SPEARS!--small children and even their frazzled mothers could not suppress a shrill shriek. Armed with handfuls of blue and green glowsticks ($5 each), every 5-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl and 35-year-old bachelor in the crowd panted with anticipation.
When it appeared to be time for 18-year-old Britney to take the stage, the sugar-intoxicated crowd was confronted instead by "The Britney Spears Experience"--a slickly constructed and target-market tested advertising vehicle. Slam, Britney's jubilant home-boy drummer and tour MC, took instant pictures of the pulsating sold-out amphitheater crowd for his multi-millionairess home-girl with his Poloroid I-Zone camera ($20), while an advertisement showing Spears taking photos of herself with another candy-colored I-Zone appeared on Walnut Creek's jumbotrons.
One could almost hear a drum roll soon after, when Slam stepped aside to reveal an enormous "Got Milk?" ad--a photo of bare-midriffed, problematically big-bosomed Britney laying prostrate, with her head up, smiling knowingly through her milk mustache (milk, $2.89 gallon). Good, wholesome, healthy, beautiful. But wait. How does she get her hair so clean? After a snappy, rock-video-styled ad urged us to "Get Herbal" there was no doubt that this wholesome diva entrusted her tresses to Herbal Essences Shampoo ($3.50; 12 oz bottle). The Britney machine loves you, wants you to be healthy--and wants your mommy's money. You could push these kids over with a feather.
Finally it seemed the show would get underway. With lights dimmed and fans still screaming, still waving both fists of glow-sticks, things began with a high-tech video of Spears, or more exactly, a trio of digitally enhanced, disembodied Britney faces, welcoming us through a CGI tunnel into the "virtual Britney experience." Even the way she spoke of herself in the third person raised the question: How much does she cost?
"I know that I was born to make you happy; thank you for taking this journey with me--satisfaction guaranteed," said the sweet-and-cyber voice of Britney Spears. She certainly was making her fans happy, and she hadn't even begun to sing. We asked an unfazed yet pleased older-than-average audience member the perpetually burning question: Why? "She's a good dancer; she's really pretty and I like her voice," answered Arden Van Vleck, 13, a rock critic's daughter who came to the show fashionably equipped with bright orange ear plugs and trendy black Capri pants. It's that simple.
As the show began, complete with on-stage explosions, Spears appeared, delivered forth from a floating chrome egg. Van Vleck was right, she is a good dancer, as were the six men and two women who provided the backdrop for her glitzy numbers. Fifty-percent bubble gum, 50 percent jailbait fantasy, Britney Spears deftly mixed her performances from sweet to sultry and back again in her one-and-a-half hour performance. Just as she began to get a little too self-consciously naughty for comfort, she'd look directly into the jumbotron camera and give us a wink with a baby-faced smile.
At one point she bemoaned lost love in her pastel bedroom set (complete with storybook pages suspended from the rafters and three large teddy bears) until young men danced into her boudoir, beckoning her to come play. Wearing pajamas and big slippers, bouncing around with her dancing boyfriends and girlfriends, her innocence contrasted sharply to an earlier pole dance done in skin-tight jeans and a pink cowgirl hat ($50 at the merchandise table; plastic). All too soon, the show was ending and with no performance of her latest hit. Oh no! But alas, the title of said chart-topper lent itself perfectly to an oh-so-cute ending--Oops, I almost forgot my hit song.
Despite all of the hype, Van Vleck was quick to put things into perspective. "She has a good voice, but it's not as good as Christina Aguilera's." A point that could easily be argued, but when the concert ended, no one pressed for a second encore. Mom and Dad were broke, and it was past all of our bedtimes.