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Saturday, March 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:57 P.M.

Concert Review
Britney's all flash, no substance

By Pamela Sitt
Seattle Times staff reporter

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It's official: Britney is the new Madonna.

Only Madonna did it better the first time around.

The Material Girl spent much of the past two decades shocking audiences by simulating various sex acts onstage. We miss her Blonde Ambition and cone-shaped brassieres.

Spears, 22, did her best to follow in her mentor's footsteps last night at KeyArena, at one point writhing nearly nude in a clear bathtub while crooning her self-fulfillment song, "Touch of My Hand."

That was the highlight — if you can call it that — of Spears' 90-minute show, part of her Onyx Hotel Tour: a cheap voyeuristic thrill with some lip-synching thrown in for good measure. Smart shoppers could have saved $76 — Spears' highest ticket price yet — and watched the music video for "Toxic" on cable. (You get to see her in a sheer body stocking either way.)

Concert review


Britney Spears, with Kelis and Skye Sweetman, last night, KeyArena, Seattle.
Last night's show was high on spectacle and low on substance, veering crazily from burlesque to fairy tale to peep show. Perhaps it would have been better suited to fellow pop star JC Chasez's new album, "Schizophrenic."

Spears opened the show by welcoming the audience to the Onyx Hotel, saying "Once you check in, you can't check out." Sounds more like the Bates Motel.

(There was even a shower scene involving a peephole in one of the video interludes between acts.)

Wearing a skintight black catsuit — cleavage up to here, hair out to there — Spears rolled onstage on top of what looked like a cross between a mini-Hummer and an industrial refrigerator. It had Louisiana plates.

Later, four male dancers dressed as bellhops — only bare-chested — wheeled brass luggage carts around the stage for no apparent reason other than to advance the hotel theme, which quickly disintegrated with subsequent acts.

Past hits including "... Baby, One More Time" and "Oops! ... I Did It Again" were nearly unrecognizable as jazzy, cabaret-style numbers performed in a corset and ruffly boy-short panties. The one-armed sock look from Super Bowls past was resurrected in this act as a pink lace stocking worn on her left arm.

Songs from Spears' current effort, "In The Zone," included "Outrageous" and "(I Got That) Boom Boom"; she opened with the album's arguably strongest single, "Toxic."

For the ballad "Everytime," Spears sat at a piano — barefoot, in what appeared to be a wood-nymph outfit — and told the audience "there's a young generation out there that's wanting to believe in someone, and they need someone to look up to." Presumably, this person is not Spears, who moments later cavorted on a bed in a pink bra, panties and fishnet stockings.

Fortunately, last night's near-capacity crowd appeared older than Spears' previous teenage fan base, and as she dropped her white terry-cloth robe, they only screamed for more. And for those who missed the show, you can still catch "Britney Spears: Live from Miami," March 28 on Showtime.

Pamela Sitt: 206-464-2376 or psitt@seattletimes.com


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