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“The last time I was on this stage, I kissed a girl,” Britney Spears said toward the start of her shows at Radio City Music Hall on Monday and Tuesday, inciting major nostalgia among the more than 12,000 fans who came out to see the superstar perform live. “Her name was Madonna.”
Both audiences erupted in deafening screams. It was clear that the Britney Army was anxious to join their scantily clad colonel for a walk (or dance, rather) down memory lane at the famed Manhattan venue. After all, it’s in New York and at Radio City where some of Spears’ most iconic moments have taken place: her cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and subsequent striptease into “Oops!…I Did It Again” in 2000; her stirring strut with a snake for “I’m a Slave 4 U” in 2001; and, of course, her “Like a Virgin”-inspired lip lock with Her Madgesty at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.
Spears’ Piece of Me spectacle — which spanned 248 performances and raked in $137.7 million during its four-year stay at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood — is indeed a celebration of the Grammy winner’s catalog of hits. “Oops” and “Slave,” along with bursts of original music video choreography, are all part of the show’s formulaic magic.
But Spears, whose summer tour will make its way from the East Coast to Europe beginning August 4, breathed new life into her nearly 30-song setlist during two sold-out concerts in the Big Apple this week. Eliminating former numbers like “Everytime” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which involved larger-than-life props — colossal angel wings and a giant guitar, respectively — during Piece of Me‘s Sin City stint, Spears took the opportunity to add in lively interpretations of deep cuts from her 2016 studio album, Glory.
The inclusion of tracks like “Clumsy” and “Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)” not only delighted fans but seemed to be a much-needed creative vacation for Spears, who at 36, could presumably use a break from channeling her inner 17-year-old schoolgirl. (Although, her sexy rendition of “…Baby One More Time” was met with unanimous excitement.)
Judging from Spears’ fervid hair flips in “Clumsy,” the entertainer was thrilled to shake up her act. The grin Spears flashed throughout the meticulously executed dance breaks in “Change Your Mind” showed she is comfortable and confident. Most importantly, it’s evident that she is still having fun nearly two decades into her career.
For Spears’ fans — who have shown support throughout her triumphs and missteps, both professional and personal — seeing their idol happy and thriving is all they need. This was apparent in the seconds before Spears launched into “Gimme More,” the lead single from her 2007 pop opus, Blackout, which opens with her classic line, “It’s Britney, bitch.” During a recent Piece of Me performance in Atlantic City, a fan anticipated the three-word edict and shouted, “Who is it?!” — causing Spears to crack a smile and laugh before making her defiant declaration. In the days that have passed, the moment, which was naturally caught on camera, has gone viral, racking up hundreds of thousands of views on social media.
On both nights at Radio City, the entire crowd solidified “Who is it?!” as tradition, roaring the rhetorical question at Spears in unison. Still visibly amused, but a little less surprised, the singer acknowledged her followers’ new way of worship with an affirming wink and tilt of the head. To a Britney Spears fan, this gesture is a rare connection with the admittedly guarded star.
If someone had no idea who Spears was and just happened to stumble inside Radio City on Monday or Tuesday night, that person might have actually confused Piece of Me for an extravagant church service — one full of synchronized dancing, lasers and confetti; led by a tanned, toned and blonde pop priestess with legions of millennials joyously chanting back every lyric to her Auto-Tuned Book of Psalms. Even Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen, who on Tuesday was brought onstage as the special guest to join Spears in her playfully kinky “Freakshow,” couldn’t help but get on his knees and bow down to Godney (as she’s affectionately known) afterward.
Toward the end of the show, Spears gave a forceful back-to-back performance of “Stronger” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” When “Stronger”‘s introductory guitar chord hit, the energy inside Radio City on both nights was palpable. As Spears, garmented in a glittering red bodysuit, worked every corner of the stage, her assemblage was literally moved. Jumping out of their seats, fans expressed praise with non-stop dancing and a resounding sing-along. For two nights in a row, the Holy Spear-it appeared to fill Radio City Music Hall.
It seems fitting that, at several points during this section, the “Toxic” songstress was lifted by her dancers into the air and, whether intentionally or not, sprawled out like Jesus on the cross as she was carried from one end of the stage to the other. Fifteen years after Madonna passed the torch to Spears, she proved that her ability to entertain — and evangelize — is just as powerful. If any non-believers attended her show, they most likely walked away saved.
“Break the Ice/ Piece of Me”
“…Baby One More Time”
“Oops!…I Did It Again”
“Me Against the Music”
“Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)”
“Scream & Shout” (Interlude)
“Do You Wanna Come Over?”
“Work It/ Get Ur Freak On/ WTF (Where They From)” (Missy Elliott Dance Break)
“Get Naked (I Got a Plan)” (Interlude)
“I’m a Slave 4 U”
“If U Seek Amy”
“Breathe on Me”
“Touch of My Hand”
“Stronger/ (You Drive Me) Crazy”
“Till the World Ends”
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