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Britney Spears is the least essential part of her show

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Britney Spears performs during her Femme Fatale Tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday, June 25, 2011.
Photo: Justin M. Bowen

At what point does Britney Spears become completely extraneous to the Britney Spears experience? In concert this past Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, she seemed distracted and disengaged, likely lip-syncing most of her songs while dancing with little enthusiasm. If the music is being piped in by the backing “band” (two guys with keyboards and laptops) and every other dancer onstage is outclassing her by a large margin, just what function does Spears serve? Sadly, the answer probably came from the crowd frenzy that erupted every time the scantily clad performer shook her hips or thrust her crotch: Spears has been reduced to nothing more than eye candy even by the people paying to see her in concert.

Britney Spears' Femme Fatale Tour at MGM Grand Garden Arena

If that’s the only contribution she can make to the Britney Spears brand anymore, well, she fulfills that function extremely well. Spears looked fit and fetching during the entire show, and not having to sing very much probably helped her focus on being sexy. Even if her dancing was lackluster, it was still fluid enough to be appealing, and the talents of the rest of the troupe mostly made up for her shortcomings. Spears aside, the show was an acceptable if unexceptional pop spectacle, with a bit of clever set design, some stylish if incomprehensible video interludes and a soundtrack of Spears’ mainstream pop hits, drawn heavily (nearly half the set) from her new Femme Fatale album.

The vocals generally sounded far too processed to be coming from a live human being, although it’s difficult to tell how much singing Spears was actually doing. The one time she ditched her headset for a handheld microphone, for the ballad “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know,” there was a notable difference in the vocal consistency. Whether Spears really sang or not, she didn’t deliver enough showmanship to set the concert apart from listening to a DJ spin her hits in a club with go-go dancers gyrating overhead. During “Big Fat Bass,” Spears emerged from a speaker box rolled onstage by her dancers; there she was, just another piece of equipment being carted from city to city.

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