Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj live in L.A. on the Femme Fatale Tour: EW's review

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Image Credit: Splash News

As I walked through L.A.’s Staples Center for Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale tour last night, the lack of parochial-school uniforms, blonde wigs, and spandex jumpsuits—the sartorial choices of Britney fans of concerts past—had me worried.

The packs of twenty-something females—with some gay men and dutiful boyfriends mixed in—here to see Britney looked to be dressed for a night out in Vegas; certainly a far cry from Gaga’s wig-happy Little Monsters and the diehard Britney fans of yore.(Eleven years ago, some babysitting money, combined with an impassioned plea to my mother, earned this former teenybopper a ticket to her unforgettable “Oops!… I Did It Again” tour.)

Mere minutes after the the singer’s first sultry utterance of “It’s Britney, bitch,” it was obvious that my first instincts were very, very wrong. She opened with a sexed-up rendition of  her single “Hold It Against Me”; singing from a Game of Thrones-esque iron chair while a gaggle of beefed up “hot cops” grinded against her.

Britney’s back, alright.  And with her slim waist, her dangerously toned legs, and most importantly her engaged, wide-eyed smile, she looked happy to be there with us—the crucial element that has been missing from so many Britney shows of late.

The actual ‘storyline’ to Femme Fatale is pretty limited, and really only comes up on video montages during Spears’ many costume changes. Britney has a dangerous stalker who resents her for her femininity, her elusiveness, and most of all, her fame. Brit’s mission, as she’s chosen to accept it, is to bring this mother down like the sexy assassin the videos tell us she is.

The onscreen story didn’t really work, but the high-concept visual performances, combined with the aesthetically remarkable sets, more than made up for the less-than-stellar overall concept. Plus, we got to see Britney’s tour-toned body in sexy Barbarella costumes, so the woman-on-the-verge theme had its upsides.

The stage show included a permanently-moving runway and a revolving elevated platform, and the elaborate sets featured everything from giant speaker cabinets for “Big Fat Bass” to sparkly jail cells and cages for “Up N’ Down.” My personal favorite set piece was the Pepto-Bismol pink Barbie convertible that Brit and her dancers used to cruise down the stage and striptease over the very happy male audience member they picked to ride in the front seat.

Britney wisely stuck to tracks from her latest album (which her fans seem to have already memorized), with a few of the classics squeezed in to satisfy those of us who fear change. Of the newer songs, “How I Roll” and “I Wanna Go” were standouts, the former for its bubblegum fun and the latter for the uproarious fan participation on stage.

The main drawbacks to the show were Britney’s complete lack of verbal audience interaction (two utterances of “how you doin’, Los Angeles” do not count), and her obviously diminished dancing ability. People have come to expect and accept a heavy amount of lip-synching during a Britney show, but the loss of the remarkable dance ability she once had was a disappointment. Her very talented and freakishly limber dancers do their part, but Britney just doesn’t seem to have the energy to produce the moves that once earned her the reputation of a natural-born performer.

The empty, dead-eyed girl from that painful 2007 MTV Video Music Awards performance is long gone, but Spears spent much of last night’s concert perched above various set pieces and crooning on swings to avoid the undoubtedly difficult task of dancing the night away. Her decision to sing Madonna’s “Burning Up” atop a giant guitar, for example, was questionable.

Notable exceptions were the return to the original choreography for “I’m A Slave 4 U” (my favorite part of the night), and the show-making finale of “Till The World Ends,” which included everything from red light-up vests to an elevated Britney descending over her adoring fans in angel wings. And confetti, lots of confetti. Nicki Minaj joined Britney on stage for a truly jubilant performance, and our heroine seemed to be enjoying every moment.

Nicki herself brought as much fun and energy as she could to her budget-limited performance, developing a Femme Fatale theme of her own as her alter-ego Roman battled a villainous dancer wearing the Saw clown mask. The crowd reacted well to most of her set, particularly her encore of “Super Bass” and a visually and vocally impressive performance of “Moment 4 Lyfe.”

She did spend a lot of time singing offstage, and didn’t seem to do any live singing at all during some of her chopped-down songs, most noticeably in the completely pre-recorded “Monster.” The drawn-out fight sequences between Nicki and her dancers had the crowd passively checking their Twitters, but whenever she emerged from her spaceship in a new piece of alien bondage attire, the crowd went wild. She hasn’t quite mastered the ability to rap through an hour-long stage show, but the girl has an undeniably magnetic stage presence.

What do you think, readers? Are you willing to give Britney another shot, or are you saving your hard earned dollars for Taylor or Katy this summer?

Read more:
Weird Al’s Lady Gaga parody ‘Perform This Way’: Watch the (disturbing) video here
Katy Perry and Robyn take a sweet-toothed teenage dream tour to New Jersey
Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ controversy: Video production company says it was ‘blindsided’ by YouTube removal

Comments (90 total) Add your comment
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  • Lady Gaga

    Britney has beat me once again. Sorry lil monsters.

    • LOL

      Why would anyone pay to see Britney? She doesn’t sing live.

      • Katheryn

        i saw britney twice, once on her second tour back when she did actually sing some, and again on her circus tour a couple years ago when she mimed the whole thing. i love britney, i always will, but i agree, i wouldnt pay out to see her again if she’s going to mime badly and by the sounds of it, dance badly too. but there will always be a place in my heart for her!

      • AK

        She definitely sings live on the Femme Fatale Tour. Not all of it, unfortunately, but she’s working her way back from the completely lip-synced performances of recent years.

      • Kelcie

        I wish people would stop acknowledging that Britney lipsynchs. That’s a given! You know what your getting with her, and the dancing? She’s almost 30!

      • Jo

        Until YOU can prove that YOU can dance and sing at the same time, DON’T say s***!! She’s a performer! People go to see her… no one really pays attention to her singing live or not… her REAL fans would go to support her, not criticize her..

      • brey

        why would anyone read articles about the person that they hate??

      • @Kelcie

        “and the dancing? She’s almost 30!”
        -
        -
        #0 is not that old. Ever hear of Madonna, Cher or Tina Turner? Why can they do it but not Britney?

      • @Jo

        Until YOU can prove that YOU can dance and sing at the same time, DON’T say s***!! She’s a performer!
        -
        -
        But that is exactly the point – Britney is (allegedly) a performer and should be able to do these things. A lay-person does not have to claim to do these things since that is not their profession.

    • Jude

      Gaga, you are in a league of your own. Britney puts on a spectacular show!!!

      • Kirana

        that gma performance was so rindessepg. she looked like she was in rehearsals, or like someone had wound her up inside a box and then opened the lid and let her out.also wtf would that even feel like to have so many people cheering for you, when you know that they’re only cheering for a contrived, fake version of you. like, how alone would that make you feel? that they don’t even have a chance to like the real you b/c you can’t show them, and even if you did they wouldn’t notice, because the real you can never be as loud and bright as this pretend person they love so much.i really loved it when she shaved her head. i think i would’ve gotten along well with that britney. 0

    • Rachael

      is that really you lady gaga?!? o_o DONT SAY SUCH A THING:( youre monsters are always here for you 2 support you!!!!!

  • Jason

    Katy perry’s actually a worse singer than britney… but i’ll give her props for singing live more often. Secondly, Katy doesn’t have the stage presense britney does. Sure Brit can’t dance like she used to, but she’ sure as heck can dance better than katy. Taylor… she can sing, but lacks the presence as well. Femme Fatal was amazing!

    • ebby

      Taylor Swift? Gak! Flat! I can’t tolerate her singing live. Her poor back-up singers are always trying to follow her around as she’s searching for the right key.

      • xx100

        I’ll take Taylor Swift singing live with her enormously catchy songs and great production over a lipsynched concert with little dancing from the star any day of the week. Britney’s concert still seems so teenager instead of what you would expect for growth from a 30 year old woman. Madonna is in her 50′s and is outdancing and singing Britney.

      • Tim

        Madonna is also a freak of nature. How many women in their fifties look or move like her? Aside from that, yeah, I think Britney’s dancing pretty much stinks up the place now. That’s one special thing she had going for her that for whatever reasons, she no longer has. At 30, Britney should still be able to dance like she did ten years ago. She’s still a very, very young woman. Don’t understand it.

    • Brian

      Katy Perry is worse than Britney!??? BLASPHEMY! Seriously, stop trolling and actually listen to Perry live – her MTV unplugged is genius. TROLL.

      • Surawit

        (i.e. rorepting on the rorepting). The McGann’s class might be a factor in their own ability to drive the media on this story, but to accuse everyone else of class prejudice sounds very politically correct to me.The reality is, that this case is so extraordinary, both in the details of the abduction, and the media frenzy that followed (they met the Pope) that it doesn’t fit into any conventional narratve in a way that the gang crimes in London and (most recently) Liverpool would do. This makes it a far more attractive story to opine upon in the newspapers, and discuss down the pub. Psychology, society, xenophobia, paedophiles, the EU, the media, class, the detective story, legal systems, even feminism are all appproached that can be crowbarred into this story. And if the McGann’s did have something to do with the death it would be even more extraordinary, not least because of the sheer size and duration of the charade.

    • Cat

      Katy isn’t a good singer but at least she has some semblance of a voice unlike Britney.

    • Dante

      Taylor is the ONLY solo female artist today that is selling out STADIUMS and shows in MINUTES! Yes, that’s right!! When did Lady Gaga ever play a Stadium in the US? Taylor’s Speak Now tour blows her Fearless tour out of the water. She is so creative. If you haven’t been to one of her concerts, you should experience it first before commenting. I love her voice, and she sings well live at her shows. The atmosphere is always electrifying.

      • Inscrutable

        You’re so used to poor singers, when one comes along that can sort of kind of sing, it seems like you’ve found the voice of an angel. However, those with objectivity can clearly see that as with a political race, all the most popular albums are merely detestable with one or two being less detestable than the others; they all are evil puppets who have sold out to gain the help of corporately-funded professional psychology majors who find subtle ways to control your styles and tastes.

    • CB

      Yeah right.

      Taylor Swift and Katy Perry do not have great voices. Like Rihanna, they’re mediocre at best.

      But no one, and I mean no one, has as poor a singing voice as Britney Spears.

      I like Brtiney. She can dance, and she can put on a great show. But seriously, she could not sing to save her life.

    • lindsay

      @ jason, i totally agree! katy perry is cute and her songs are catchy but she CANNOT sing! anyone that thinks differently should check out ANY of her live performances on youtube! anyways, i was also at the femme fatale tour and it was PHENOMINAL! even my 48 year old husband loved it! people want to talk about how britney can’t sing and how she can’t dance like she used to and i have this to say- after 13 years in the business, there is a reason why this girl is still selling out arenas and churning out # 1 hit records, songs and videos. not only that, but she’s influnced newer pop stars like lady gaga and miley cyrus and i can’t even count how many other pop stars have copied/emulated her, including christina aguilera, jessica simpson, willa ford, brooke hogan and even heidi montag! britney has got it all-sexiness, charisma, stage presence andthe bottom line is NOBODY can put on a show like her! period. and britney CAN still dance and is a ton better than alot of other pop stars today, including katy perry and rihanna. it’s like mariah carey-in the 90′s, her voice was untouchable but by the 2000′s everybody started talking crap and saying she couldn’t sing anymore when in reality she can STILL sing her a** off. she’s not as good as when she first started but she’s still absolutely amazing and better than practically anybody else around. anyways, that’s how i feel about brit-she’s not as good as when she first started (but then again, i wouldnt expect her to be. peope have unrealistic expectations and think everything should be the same at 30 as it was at 18 i guess) but she can still dance! britney is a natural born performer. it’s in her blood. anyone who’s been to any of her shows past or present can attest to this. i guess it doesn’t really matter anyways though because she recently got a lifetime achievement award and has NOTHING left to prove! she’s a superstar, a legend and has had some of the most iconic performances EVER and people love her so much that even her supposed “meltdown” didn’t affect her sales or popularity. all you haters can keep talking about how she “can’t sing” or “can’t dance like she used to” but there is something about miss britney spears that the world just can’t get enough of and that’s why she has endured for 13 years and there is no signs of her slowing down anytime soon!

  • Drew

    I went and loved it! She isnt Britney circa 2001 anymore, but Britney 2011 is still a lot of fun to watch! How I Roll was maybe my favorite. And i enjoyed Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know just because its been ages since she’s done that and it brings me back.

  • Alexander Nevermind

    @ Lady Gaga

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your tour grossed over $200 million. The 4th highest grossing tour ever by a female. Britney is giving away tickets on Groupon.

    • Gaga4573

      I love Gaga, but Britney still has extremely popular shows as well, and every artist gives away empty seats. Gaga has done it before as well.

  • PN

    It’s good that she focused on most of the songs of her new album Femme Fatale in the concert, place those songs in a live setting. And also mixing her old hits with the new in the show. I loved Madonna’s Burning Up from her first album back in the ’80s and like that Britney’s acknowledging one of her early music influences in the concert by performing it!

  • Gaga4573

    Britney is a billion times better than Taylor and Katy obviously. I would much rather see someone who has good music than two crap artists. She looks amazing, and she shows that she is this decade’s pop queen

  • Tish

    @Lady Gaga
    You have nothing to be ashamed of when your songs are still in heavy rotation on radio stations and downloaded on the web and when your first album is only a couple slots below Brit’s current album.

    • Drew

      Its really not necessary to flood this article w/ comments on how great Gaga is. This isnt about her, its about Britney.

  • ebby

    You know who also can’t dance better than Britney? Lady Gaga. Watch Britney’s old stuff and compare it to The Gags. No contest. I wish Gags would just stand around in her freak show costumes and sing while her dancers do the show behind her. Then she wouldn’t fall down as much.

    • SaraS

      Gaga’s an amazing dancer.. some of that choreography is ridiculously hard. It just doesn’t look as cool or sexy as Britney’s in 2001, but that’s because of the choreography not the dancers.
      Gaga also didn’t fall while dancing dipsh*t, she fell while getting off of a piano. She was PLAYING. Y’know, some artists play instruments…

      • Aaron

        I find it comical and sad that SOOOOO many people would defend anything that Gags produces, and I mean defend to the DEATH. Like nothing she does is wrong (including being a complete and utter freakazoid). SaraS, is her poop better than Britney’s too? Sheesh. You Gags cult followers make ME gag.

      • Inscrutable

        Most who play the piano play it well enough not to fall over while playing it. Perhaps she needs a tutorial on sitting.

  • jets

    Brittny doesn’t write her own songs, has always done whatever her managment has told her, who are more concerned about money above all else; she doesn’t play any instraments, has never sung great, is a overrated dancer, and now doesn’t even sing live or dance. It’s great people are entertained by her, but let’s not delude ourselves into beleiving she’s some great musical artist. At least Gaga and Katy Perry write their own songs, and artistic vison comes form their own minds and not men in business suits.

    • Fabe

      Britney does write her own songs. Haven’t you ever looked at the writing credits on the songs in her albums. Selena Gomez just recently recorded a track penned by Britney as well. Know your facts before you start dissing.

      • asher

        She doesn’t write many though, and I don’t think she wrote any at all on Femme Fatale (except a bonus track for the Japanese deluxe edition).

    • P7

      What’s an instrAment? Is that like the cousin-in-law to an instrUment? Don’t feel bad, Britney. I can’t play an instrAment either, but at least you can play the piano, which last time I checked, was an instrUment.

      • Classy!

        Lol!

  • Annie

    Wow britney is good but katy and taylor are better? There are a whole lot of people out there with bad taste in music! wow

    • Dante

      Lol, just because people don’t like Britney’s music (which is so generic and not actual ‘music’ in my opinion) doesn’t mean that they have bad taste in music. It’s called an opinion.

  • KC

    All of the broads mentioned are horrible.

  • Lindsay

    I LOVE BRITNEY!

  • UGH

    Haha.
    I like how people respond @ Lady Gaga.
    Dopes.

  • Eric

    Titney sings?

    • Kris

      That’s Twitney to you.

  • Kris

    Britney Spears? Taylor Swift? Katy Perry? Pathetic, pathetic, and more pathetic. This generation is so hooked on these disposable non-entities that I just have to laugh. It’s not even music. It’s static. So glad I grew up in the 80′s and got to experience real music and real singing before the industry was taken over by Auto-tune, backing tracks, and singers who don’t know the first thing about singing. Sure, todays female singers are entertaining, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. I will concede that there are some decent female singers out there today–GaGa, Adele, Leona Lewis, Pink, Christina, etc, etc.–but for every one of them there are 50 like Britney and Swift. So sad.

    • kelly k

      On one hand, I agree with you. At the same time, when you were growing up in the 80′s experiencing “real music” people would have probably said that music was pathetic and disposable.

    • Jonathan

      @Kris – you are ignorant if you think Taylor and Britney are anywhere NEAR the same. Taylor writes all of her own music, often solely herself, plays various instruments, has earned several Grammy’s, and sings live while seeming to improve each time. Britney doesn’t sing live, co-writes maybe a song or two here and there (none on her recent album), barely dances, won a Grammy for a dance song that was more for the producers than her, doesn’t do live interviews…come on now, do those two artists seem relatively comparable?

      • dee123

        Oh please you’ve been drinking WAY too much kool-aid Swift is just as manufactured as Brit-Brit.

      • Jonathan

        @dee123 – or you just have delusional conspiracy theories about the music industry. Pretty sure you can’t fake writing credits, if nothing else.

    • SaraS

      I agree with you, even though I do like some of Britney’s songs. Listening to the radio you can tell how bad it’s gotten with all the factors you mentioned Kris.

    • Dante

      @Kris, none of the artists you mention have ever won all the BMI songwriting awards they’ve been nominated for, Taylor has. Taylor wrote/cowrote all of the songs on all her multi-platinum albums, how is this manufactured? Singing styles are subjective, Taylor’s voice is not powerful, she never claimed that, but who said that one needs to be a screaming over the top singer to have your music mean something to someone? Words in a song last forever and go deeper than JUST singing. That’s why Taylor’s so popular. When it comes to Britney however, no comment.

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