"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Friday, August 28, 2009

Not A Blogger Vs. The Britney Spears Concert: Live At Madison Square Garden (8/26/09)

"It's Britney, bitch."

In the past ten years of my life, I have approximately thought for about 9.58 seconds(or approximately the amount of time that it takes Usain Bolt to run the 100 meter dash) about Britney Spears’ music in any context other than “what is this terrible noise and why is it screeching from my car radio?” (Fuck It! I’m a hater.) Let’s put it this way: my iPod currently has 12,541 unique songs on its hard drive. I have at least, one song, by virtually every major act of the last 50 years in my ever expanding collection of (“illegal”) music that is clogging up space on my hard drive. I have two Jim Jones albums, three Young Jeezy albums, an assortment of songs from some lame ass indie rock bands my friends keep pushing on me, and a Kenny G Christmas album on this joint. I’m nothing but eclectic, motherfuckers. With all of that choice, I still don’t have one single solitary Britney Jean Spears song on this piece of technology. (Not even “Toxic.” I know! Blasephemy...) That’s how little I’ve thought about her music over the last decade.

You see, I’m old school. I operate on the guiding principle that any respectable teenage male must not only refuse to listen to music produced primarily for the enjoyment of teenage girls (and consequently, kitsch-loving gay men) but fiercely deny that I would ever be worth listening to lest my fledgling sexuality be subject to the mocking of my peers. (That it how it was and that it how always shall be.) I partially attribute this steadfast dogma to forcing myself to listen to rap-rock (I know. Fail.) in the late ‘90s as a way to counteract the goofy, chaste preppiness that I was being assaulted with when I watched TRL when I came home from a hard day of underachieving at high school. However, I was also a horny teenage boy during this period which meant I was very interested in Britney Spears from a deeper “philosophical” standpoint. Britney Spears was the hottest hottie since hot came to Hot Town. Of course, I’m a Britney Spears “fan.” I spent a good portion of my teenage years “philosophizing” on how Britney would look naked over the internets. (I know. Win.) Britney Spears represented the first sex symbol of my youth that was roughly my age. To my young teenage mind, it wasn’t inconceivable that had luck plucked me from my drear suburban existence and placed me in contact with Ms. Spears that I could make her my girlfriend. I could care less about her music but her music videos... I could watch those all day as long as I was alone in a dark basement with nobody home. Pardon my euphemism. Granted, these days, Britney is better recognized as walking human catastrophe than anything remotely passable as a sex symbol but nevertheless I have fond, fond memories of when Ms. Spears was gyrating on stage in various states of undress at the VMAs when she had her fastball. I’m sure I have pictures of it buried deep within my hard drive. So when my friend who works for Madison Square Garden offered to buy a group of my friends cheap tickets for the Britney Spears Circus Tour at MSG, my instant response was “Yes. A thousand times, yes. Cop me a damn ticket. Hell the fuck yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Now, of course, I won’t pay to go see Britney Spears in concert. No way. I won’t even go to a Britney Spears concert by myself even it was free. But with a bunch of my idiot, drunken, drug-addled friends? And with the promise of beer and the glorious potential of a massive trainwreck? You can’t possible contain my enthusiasm for this. I live by a guiding set of rules in my life and if offered the chance to see a potential cataclysm in person, I do not pass up on the offer. Britney Spears. Concert. 2009. Madison Square Garden. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. What I didn’t see was a trainwreck. What I saw was far more awesome.

Now because none of us gave a fuck about the opener, the thoroughly mediocre American Idol sycophant Jordin Sparks, we met up at a spectacular seedy dive bar, The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge, on 37th and 8th at 7 p.m. before the show to start out night of debauchery. Most “dive” bars in Manhattan are these consciously crafted pseudo-hipster places with impossibly attractive bartenders and period paraphernalia picked by interior decorators in the hopes of invoking some “authentic” form of New York atmosphere circa Neveruary 1940 Question Mark. Basically, the look is so you can pretend you aren’t at one of these douchebaggy Upper East side joints but so they can still charge you Upper East side prices. This place isn’t like that. It’s a damn dive in the purest sense of the word. Upon entering the front door, you can instantly see this place has not been remotely changed roughly since its opened. The interior looks like the Copacabana circa that scene in Goodfellas in ‘62 and the few people that are actually in the bar look like they roughly have been patronizing the place since the Copa opened. Tiki torches, bamboo piping, and fake palm trees are the modus operandi for this place. Basically, if there was ever a place for a bunch of twenty-something hipsters to ironically attend a Britney Spears concert in 2009, this place was most assuredly it. We arrived ordered our drinks, passed out the tickets and talked Britney before (I shit you not, people.) being kicked out of the bar because the health inspector had shut down the bar... while we were in it. I’ve been in lot of dirty establishments in the hopes of feeding my insatiable craving for alcohol since I moved to New York. I have never been in one that required to immediately be shut down out of health concerns. Clearly, this would be a night to remember.

Upon being removed from the Wakamba Lounge out of fear that we might be infected by government-created nano-robots or something (and copping myself a delicious piece of street meat at the cart in front of the arena. Cuz lord knows, I ain’t paying 20 bucks for a hot dog in the damn Garden.), we made our to the Garden to catch the beginning of the show. The first thing you should know if you are a straight male attending a Britney Spears concert is there will be a sea of young women in various states of revealing clothes and the only other creatures with a penis in the vicinity will be far more concerned with other penii than providing anything remotely passing as competition. The demographics skew like this. 90% female, 9% gay men, .9% straight dudes being dragged to the show by their girlfriends, .1% Me. I might have been the only single, straight male in the entire concert which depending on how you look at it is either creepy, extremely uncomfortable, an opportunity or hilarious. Personally, I thought it was all the above. Luckily, any creepiness and discomfort was alleviated by, the fact, that I was drunk so it evolved strictly into being an opportunistically hilarious.

We arrived at our seats just as the giant clock counting down on the huge circular video screen in the center of the arena reached one. This being the “Circus Tour” and all (I guess because her last album was called “Circus” or whatever. I didn’t listen to it.), the gigantic stage in the center of the arena is set up like a three-ring circus (obviously, dumb-asses) complete with a ringmaster, creepy Gacy-like clowns and surprisingly brolic contortionists. As the lights dimmed, a few acrobatic set-pieces (including a legless woman on a trampoline) primed the audiences for Spears entrance. Britney descended from the rafters on glittering swing in some sort of diamond corset. We were off.

The first thing you’ll notice at the show is that Britney is not the dancer she used to be. Britney never sung with anything remotely considered skill so dancing used to be what set her apart from the rest of her teeny bop clones. Instead of elaborately choreographed dance routines that she used to execute flawlessly when she was in her prime, Britney sort of vamps and struts around the stage while her backup dancers work their asses off to make her look good. It’s sort of the equivalent of watching a veteran NBA shooting guard who has lost his ability to blow by defenders and get to the rim. Britney is settling for jump shots and while she certainly understands how to work a crowd, she is not the performer she once was. I suppose it’s understandable considering she’s had two kids, snorted up a pharmacy worth of drugs, and had a complete mental collapse over the last couple. I suppose if I married Kevin Federline then I’d probably lose my ability to crossover Shane Battier, too.

To make up for, the show pulls all stops on a visual overload of orgiastic, optic delights. There is literally not a portion of the stage that is flooded with dancers, clowns, and pyrotechnics to keep you visually in awe. Basically, there is enough flashing lights to leave a Japanese anime fan in a permanent epileptic coma. (Eat your fucking heart out, Pokemon.) To me, Britney’s music has always been irrelevant to the visuals she’s placing forth for the viewer. Britney’s primarily a visual artist working within a musical context. She’s always been selling some type of image rather than her actual music. She’s always known this and her handlers have always known this. Think about her music videos over the years, you can better remember her outfits than you can do the actual songs. The red catsuit from “Oops! I Did It, Again” and the futuristic stewardess outfit from “Toxic” are more memorable than the songs, themselves. It’s reason that she consciously chose to sex up her catholic schoolgirl look in the “…Baby, One More Time” video. You are supposed to remember the visual before you even begin to engage with the song. It’s how she sells her stuff and the “Circus Tour” is selling the visual in plenty. It’s mind effin’ blowing with all the stuff that is going on around you.

Britney does most of her hits over the course of the show and because they are so damn ubiquitous you sing-along. You just enjoy herself. Its all fantastically well executed. Its really an odd feeling to sing along to “Hit Me Baby” with 20,000 aging, twenty-something former teeny boppers but its undeniable. Britney, after all these years, is a damn professional and she knows her audience. You are in the presence of master of live performance and she will have you singing and dancing along even if you are a jaded hip hop head like myself.

We forget because she’s been with us for a decade and has moved into the Michael Jackson zone of bizarre pop iconography but Britney has managed to execute a pop career that rivals any pop star of the last century. She’s sold 6 platinum albums, made hundred of millions of dollars, had countless hits and continues to be a giant in pop culture. She’s going be with us until the day she dies a botoxed Elizabeth Taylor figure or collapses in inevitable heartbreaking fashion at a young age. There really isn’t a third option for this girl. I caught her performance when she was starting to lose what made her great in the first place but could still recognize the sexpot of my youth. It was like watching the last blazing glory of a dying phoenix. I wonder what she’s got in the next act of her life but perhaps… it’ll be stronger than yesterday.


Christopher said...

"Heaven on Earth" and "Womanizer" are good also.

Black Sabbath (The Dio Years) was playing at the same time, was there any sound leak or did you run into any middle aged metalheads?

DocZeus said...

Sabbath played Tuesday and I went Wednesday. But upon thinking about it, that would have been the craziest experience to see those two crowds run into each other as their collective shows spilled out.

That would have been amazing.

Rap Music said...

I don't really like Britney.....she seems a little loopy

Jonathan said...

"Britney’s primarily a visual artist working within a musical context. She’s always been selling some type of image rather than her actual music."

"Britney does most of her hits over the course of the show and because they are so damn ubiquitous you sing-along."

These quotes are contradictory.

Glad you had a good time. I wouldn't pay to see Britney (well, not on my present income), but I definitely envy you for being able to see this.

DocZeus said...


What I mean is that you know the songs because they've been beaten to death in your ears out of sheer repetition. You know the words simply by osmosis. I've never set out to listen to a Britney Spears song in any context but like I know the words to Baby One More Time, anyway. That doesn't mean Britney isn't primarily a visual artist. Her videos were always for more interesting than her music. Like the "Oops! I Did It, Again" video is far better than the actual song.
Same for a lot of her earlier stuff.

Badmon3333 said...

This might be the greatest concert story ever, if only for the part about the bar getting shut down.

Hip hop Honeys said...

never been bothered with Britney

soft tabs online said...

Britney is my favorite singer, for me she is the queen of pop, is a hit with their songs, the blog is very interesting thanks for sharing