New Britneyology

The Femme Fatale Live Show – is this the crux of the matter?

Posted by: Karenannanina on: October 26, 2011

The last time I saw Britney Spears at The Odyssey Arena, Belfast was in June 2004. It was much nearer the end of the Onyx Hotel tour than anyone realised at the time. Two days later, Britney would propose to Kevin Federline. A couple of days after that fateful occurrence, she hurt her already-damaged left knee on the set of the “Outrageous” video shoot, and the opportunity for a career-break was presented to her, gift-wrapped. A grim chain of events had been set in motion.

But all of that lay in an unsuspected future. The crowd at the Odyssey was the biggest and most boisterous I’d ever seen there. It was the only time we’ve ever had to queue around the block to get in. The Onyx show was full of joy and inventiveness and energy. Britney looked incomparably sexy, and that was saying something, since there were a lot of beautiful girls in the hall with whom to compare her. The 75-minute show seemed to pass in a flash and we felt royally and fulsomely entertained.

She danced a lot; it was rivetting and we never took our eyes off her for a second, despite the many and varied distractions of her fine team of dancers. She also had backing singers and a full band, each of whom she introduced. At the end, she didn’t milk the crowd for applause – she simply finished the last song and disappeared. By the time we’d filed out of the arena, she was halfway to Dublin.

But now it’s October 2011 and Britney has had to survive some severe rites of passage. Her reputation has been dragged through the mud. Nobody seems to talk about her in the same breath as Lady Gaga, Rihanna or Katy Perry. The local media barely mentioned her. She’s no longer the “It” girl. Yet the crowd at the Odyssey was the biggest, noisiest and most effervescent I’d witnessed since the last time she was there! Without hype, she still managed to fill her arena. Again we couldn’t take our eyes off her. And again her show – 90 minutes this time – seemed to pass in a flash. I tend to get restless after 40 minutes at most shows and start looking at my watch. Not with Britney.

It would be silly to pretend that she’s still the same old girl she used to be. She’s wearing her age well, and is arguably more beautiful than ever. But she’s very much a woman now, not a teenage pop-girl trained to racehorse standards. There is a softness to her body. Her tummy is beautifully flat, but there’s no six-pack now. Her breasts have a natural shape and aren’t that big, and were neither promoted nor emphasized. Her smooth, shapely thighs and curvy derriere were generously displayed. They seemed bigger and heavier than before, but were still quite lovely, and it was both fascinating and rather stirring to watch them in motion only 10 feet away. Somehow the additional softness and femininity made her more alluring than ever.

Britney definitely didn’t dance anywhere near as much as on the Onyx Hotel tour, but she flowed smoothly and elegantly in an endless succession of choreographed moves leading from one set-piece to another. My companion made a telling comment: “This is exactly how she’d do it if she was singing most of the show live.” And from that she concluded that Britney WAS singing most of the show live. And this is the crux of the matter. This is the criterion on which fans seem to be deciding how well she’s been performing on the Femme Fatale tour.

Some believe she’s singing live, many do not. But then, even if she sang “I’m singing this live, btw!” most people would claim it was pre-recorded. Anyway, in a spirit of skepticism, we scrutinized her lips closely throughout the show and didn’t see any visual evidence of lip-synching, except perhaps in “Drop Dead Beautiful” at the point where she introduces Sabi’s rap (Sabi is not present, so there’s your trouble right there.) It was simply impossible to tell definitively if she was singing live all of the time, most of the time, some of the time or none of the time. Brit’s hands-free mic was definitely live throughout, and several times you could both see and hear her uttering little sounds. The versions of the songs in the show were simplified, so there was no need for backing vocals – and no backing vocalists were present. And there was no full band, just two keyboard geniuses.

Britney must be one of the few singers whose show one can review and almost forget to mention the actual QUALITY of her vocals. Assuming she was singing live, she did pretty well – in the “basic bitch” manner that seems to be necessary to overcome the noise, clamor and poor acoustics of live venues, and without the subtleties that so distinguish her recordings.

I really enjoyed the show. I saw nothing to make me think negative thoughts about it. A set list of great songs, no filler, non-stop high-octane action, spectacular sets, dramatic lighting, fireworks, gorgeous dancers and a fabulous, charismatic, sexy star – as they say here in Ireland, “Sure you couldn’t be bad to that!”

36 Responses to "The Femme Fatale Live Show – is this the crux of the matter?"

Hey guys, this is Briconic, I decided that from here on out I’m must going to go by my real name, Brian. 🙂

I love this review, Karen. It pretty much hits the nail on the head…I too believe that her performance style for the current tour fits to accomadate the fact that she IS singing live a good deal of the time throughout the show. Do I think she’s singing live on every song? It’s hard to tell…if she IS singing live on some of the songs, then the playback is so loud that it’s hard to actually tell. But I do believe that her decision to sing live was probably made in an effort to show people that she can do it. Does she sound great? Like you said, it sounds good in the “basic bitch” manner in that she’s able to carry the tune; obviously she doesn’t have the quieter, more comfortable atmosphere of the studio to really deliver the vocal tics and the tiny little nuances that make each song undeniably Britney, I, for one, couldn’t have been happier with her delivery for the most part; when I saw her in New Orleans I had hoped that her singing live a good majority of the time (I think it falls into the “most of the time” category in this case) would silence some of the skeptics and haters who like to go on about how lazy she is and how her fans are idiots for letting her get away with it. Like you said, when I go to some artists’ shows I’m usually bored within an hour; with Britney I stay riveted from start to finish. Say what you will about her current style of dancing but the girl HAS done what she set out to do; she now looks at the bigger picture, seeing how every small detail can make the show better,. In doing so I think her choreography is based on what fits into the show the best, and not vice versa; in other words, Britney is still the star of the show, but she wants to make sure everything and everyone else featured in the performances are as bombastic and entertaining as she is.

By the way, I really liked your description of Britney’s body…some fans have viewed the changes her body went through after childbirth as a negative thing. I’m in the minority when it comes to believing that she actually looks better and more feminine when she’s a bit softer. While it’s everyone’s prerogative as to how they want their bodies to look, I’ve always thought the female form was lovely when it had a softer, more rounded appearance to it. Britney embodies that perfectly. She is nowhere near being “fat” like some people like to declare, but she is not as hard-bodied and toned as her Dream Within A Dream tour days, when her stomach looked hard enough to wash clothes on.

Urgh, Karen, would you mind erasing that last incomplete line at the end of my post? I didn’t realize that was still there. Thanks. 🙂

Done! Now that a comment has been approved under your new name, your future comments should appear automatically.

As always ur so right!!

I would have loved to seen the Onyx show at the age I’m at now, more so than any of her previous tours. It seemed to me she was really trying to mature her image with that show, between the cabaret act and the Boy George lookalike and his segments. Of course, if I had seen it in in ’04 that would’ve made me 15 and I probably would not have appreciated everything as much.

If the FF show seemed more like a Vegas spectacle, then Onyx Hotel was more New York–it felt a little grimier and not quite as polished. Plus she was pushing ITZ with that tour, which has some of my favorite tracks in her discography. I would have loved to seen them performed live.

Ah well, no regrets!

I completely agree with you about the the ITZ tour and album:)

I never got to see Onyx live, but i was at DWAD, that’s her best tour in my opinion, and i was at FF and i loved every second of it, major improvement from Circus, which i was also at and, i know i’m in the minority but i could give a fuck less about live singing, i’m going there to be visually entertained and she delivers with that!! If all i wanted was the music, i’d save my $$$ and just stay home and listen to her albums.

Also, my friend who went to FF with me, i wouldn’t even consider her a fan, just a casual listener and she said the show was great, that Brit didn’t stop moving, so i think fans need to stop over-analyzing every single fucking detail of the show, cuz all their doing is ruining the experience for themselves, it’s like, just relax and have fun, it’s a concert, not a science experiment, lol, stop analyzing!!

I’m actually a big fan of the Circus tour still, though I can’t deny that Britney was more ambitious and more confident going into this tour. Circus did certainly have a rocky start. But I thought by the end of the tour it was really polished. Plus I really appreciated the kind of gothy circus cabaret treatment the “freakshow” set of the tour got. Besides the HIAM jacket/cape combo, which is absolutely gorgeous, I prefer the Circus wardrobe as a whole.

Oh don’t get me wrong, i thought Circus was an amazing show and i really enjoyed it, it’s just that she seems to be more into this tour, than she was with Circus, which is understandable, Circus was her first tour in years and right after a mental breakdown, so it kinda makes sense that she seemed to just be going through the motions with that one. As for the costumes, Circus had some really cool ones, but i think i like the one’s on this one more, i tend to disagree with the fanbase a lot of times, the outfit on this tour that i like the most, is the one that majority of the fanbase hates, lol

haha is it the denim shorts? Everybody hates those by I think she rocks em.

She has the ass for denim shorts!

Haha, yup the bra and denim shorts, i think she looks hot!!! And since the second we saw that outfit, i immediately thought it was the one outfit that screamed Britney, so to hear that Fe tells the fans on the backstage tour that it’s Brit’s favorite outfit, does not surprise me at all!!

I always thought that that outfit was supposed to be a shout-out to her southern roots…the Daisy Duke cut-offs with the bikini top look kind of screams 70’s southern imo. All she was missing was a pair of cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat, lol! But I liked the outfit on her, I’m sure it’s a lot more comfortable than some of the other costumes she wears for the tour as well.

the denim shorts and purple bra is the best outfit !!! they’re sooooo much more flattering than her other outfits and like CSK81 said they’re SO Britney 🙂

I bet it’s the Toxic outfit, right? 😛

Karen, I`m glad you enjoyed the FF tour 🙂 Seems like I`m the only one who was disappointed, lol.
I think it was hard to tell how much she sang live… my guess would be about 60%, which is not bad.
There were several moments when the lip-syncing was obvious like in Womanizer and DDB, but other than that it was not an issue or a distraction.

I think many fans are still uncertain in evaluating the show. We’ve gotten so used to all-dancing, all-miming shows from Britney that nobody cares if she’s singing live or not, SO LONG AS she dances like crazy.

For years, we’ve wondered how the fanbase would react if she sang live and did a similar amount of dancing to other singers. But they can’t move on and accept this new Britney without some assurances that she’s keeping up her side of the bargain and genuinely singing live.

Well said Karen. I will definitely be giving the show a second chance on DVD.

She is not singing live. She hits the same “live” notes at every show at every venue. The extra ad libs in Up and Down and Drop Dead Beautiful are even overlapped on the lead vocal.

GOOD WRITE UP THO, but I don’t agree with it.

I don’t know that I believe that she wasn’t singing live at all. Obviously there are songs where it’s obvious she’s not singing live (such as (Drop Dead) Beautiful and Womanizer, like Kara said) but there are other points when it’s not so obvious. At any rate, I do believe that she is singing live during a lot of the show, even if the playback is really loud.

She is singing atleast 60% live!! You can clearly hear her ur just one of them fans!!

Mikey, I would actually EXPECT a professional singer, singing in “basic bitch” mode, to hit the same notes every night. Without elaboration, ornamentation or extemporisation they would simply be the RIGHT notes. The notes of the song. That argument doesn’t fly with me.

I believe people are lipping when I see them doing it – otherwise I remain agnostic about it. I already conceded the point about DDB, but there was a particular reason for that and Britney even looked quite uncomfortable doing it and turned away from the audience. I’m pretty sure Britney THINKS she’s singing live on this tour – licking her lips, trying to moisten her mouth – definite signs of somebody singing.

But you begin with the hypothesis “She can’t sing, so she can’t be singing”. I don’t.

I wish you added the VERY first thing you told me about the concert when you told me how SEXY Britney looked 😉 =D =P

And now… HOW ABOUT POSTING SOMETHING IN SUPATROOPA??????????????? =P

I’m composing a mega-article in my head as we speak! And…. what was the first thing I told you? Was it obscene?!

Btw, speaking of the tour and Brit’s videos (in the previous debate) there’s a rumor floating around that she may release a new single with video that will contain footage from the tour to promote the tour DVD. Smart move!
It’s said to be BFB or DDB. Personaly, I’d prefer HIR, but BFB and DDB were also fun numbers:)
I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted her to do one of those tour videos for a singe. What do you guys think of this… yay or nay?

I would have no objection, but then I’m just a simple-minded fan and all the conspiracy theories tend to fly over my head.

Great idea if she’s planning to use it to promote the tour DVD, but I’d love another short-form video from Britney before the end of the era. I’ve been so impressed with her video output over the past year that I’m addicted, lol. It’d ‘be great if she went ahead and gave either “Up n’ Down” or “Gasoline” the single treatment next…I love DDB and BFB but they were never good choices for singles imho. I love HIR but after the risk that they took with “Criminal” and how it doesn’t seem to be paying off thus far (the song’s having a hard time on iTunes and radio) I’m pretty sure they’ll play it safe with single 5 (if the rumors are true).

Oh, and can’t forget “Inside Out!” That would be my obvious choice for the next single. I still have hope that it will get its chance to shine. 🙂

I think “inside out” is the strongest song left on the album. I’m just nervous that people would think it sounds too similar to the HIAM and TTWE. My second choice would be “Trip to your heart” but I’m not sure how well it would hold up as a single. But truthfully I like it better than “big fat base”, “drop dead beautiful” or “trouble for me”.

I’ve always thought “Inside Out” was one of the best songs on the album. I’d have had it out as a single long before “Criminal” – which even the fans knew was not going to be successful.

I personally love “Trip To Your Heart” but I would worry that it’s just a bit too trippy and out there for radio stations to take to. It’s not immediate catchy; it’s a slow burner. It took me a few listens before I could get into it, and I’m afraid that that would be the case with radio…but attention spans are short and they won’t take the time to listen to the song and appreciate its nuances like a Britney stan/fan would.

I don’t think we have to worry about DDB getting the single treatment because it allegedly did not do well when Jive sent it to radio to test the waters. BFB is fun but I never liked it for a single, and while “Trouble For Me” is one of my favorite standard tracks on the album I don’t think it has much commercial appeal.

Honestly the best choices for singles would be (obviously) Inside Out, which is just different enough from her previous singles that it doesn’t sound too “samey” while maintaining a thread of continuity with the first three Femme Fatale singles. If they decide to ignore IO completely as a single though then that leaves “Gasoline” (which I think could be a sleeper hit) and and the bonus tracks…which probably wouldn’t get released since that would alienate the people who are buying the standard edition album.

Don’t get me wrong, I like “Criminal,” but if there were going to be six singles on the album like Dr. Luke wished then I would’ve have saved it for the final single, kind of as a “good bye” to the era. I love the video for it though, but I was always nervous about its chances at success (at least in the U.S.) since it sounds so different from 90% of everything else on the radio right now.

“Criminal” would’ve needed a rap by Nicki Minaj or “feat. Rihanna” to stand any chance in today’s musical environment.

I actually DO think the bonus track “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” has great chart potential and could compete with anything else out there. Maybe they could do a Limited Edition Re-release with the existing bonus tracks plus some new outtakes for bonus-deprived territories?

Yes, I agree with your sentiment regarding “Criminal.” It was one of those songs where they took a gamble and it would either experience immense success because it was so different or it would fail for the same reasons. Interestingly it has continued to gain audience at radio, although it is nowhere near as big at radio as the first three singles were during the same time span. At this rate top 40 is doable but that’s only if it can keep gaining for a few more weeks, since every format except for pop has pretty much ignored it.

I like “Don’t Keep Me Waiting,” and if Britney were going to take a chance and do something different then this would be my ideal track to do it with. I love the alternative edge it has to it, and Britney sounds powerful on it. As far as the Limited Edition re-release, I’d love it if that were the case and I’m actually still holding out hope that RCA may get some of the numerous songs Britney recorded for Femme Fatale out of the vault and throw something together in time for the holidays. If they do that though, I don’t know if any of the existing bonus tracks would receive single treatment solely ‘due to the fact that they’d probably release a newer song as a single to promote it.

Speaking of outtakes, is there any chance we may get an In-Depth regarding some of her newer tracks? I’d love to hear your take on the “Leaktember” tracks as they were some real gems!

Leaktember 2011? I don’t have downloads for ANY of those tracks, and I’d need to hear them a few times.

Yeah, there was “Everyday,” “911,” “Dangerous” (my personal favorite), and “Abroad.” They’re all pretty good, all but “Everyday” are uptempo and none of them sound similar at all.

there’s also “rockstar”

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  • Karenannanina: I agree with you about the residency. It's the road to irrelevance for an artist. But a new album would be a golden blessing for her fans. Her albums
  • George: Spot on thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I don't... really care whether she does the residency or not? As long as there is new music, I'm fine. P.S: G
  • Sarah G: You should write an In-Depth of Glory or even Mood Ring (that's a groovy tune)