Tim de LiSLe GiG of The week
Open Air Theatre, Scarborough On tour until Sat
At the English seaside, among the sad, shuttered shops, there are now plenty of posters for gigs. In Skegness there’s the Great British Alternative Music Festival, featuring the sounds of the late Seventies. In Margate the retro theme park Dreamland puts on dance-music weekends. In Blackpool there was meant to be a gig this weekend from Mariah Carey, though she may not have known what she’d signed up for: her website listed it as being in London. The show was cancelled anyway.
In Scarborough things are going more smoothly. The Open Air Theatre has had a lively summer season, featuring Lionel Richie, Gary Barlow and now Britney Spears. Like Mariah, Britney may well be hazy about the geography. At Brighton Pride three weeks ago she managed to yell ‘What’s up, Brighton?’, but only after asking one of her dancers where they were.
Greeting the crowd in Scarborough, she plays it safe: ‘Hey UK!’ She is on what could be a tricky mission, bringing Las Vegas to Yorkshire. Her show, Piece Of Me, which ran for four years on and off at Planet Hollywood in Vegas, has become a world tour. Tonight it faces a challenge seldom found in Nevada: heavy showers.
The women of East Riding are all dressed up with ponchos on top, but it would take more than rain to get Britney into an extra layer. At 36, with sons of 11 and 12, her idea of a costume change is still swapping a black bra for a red one. If she were a brand she would be Victoria’s Secret, saucy but safe.
You can see why she turned to Vegas. Never mind the dollars (137 million of them in total revenue), there’s the structure. The show is a series of dance routines with some music attached, and Britney, who was three when she embarked on dance lessons, looks happiest when she falls into line.
Whether she’s singing live is debatable, as ever, but at least some musicians are visible this time. The material they pump out is mixed. Baby One More Time is still Britney’s greatest hit, and it’s nearly 20 years old.
Her only other classic is Toxic, which is briefly reinvented as a misty ballad before turning back into a Bhangra-tinged banger. Otherwise, the highlight is something I’ve never seen before: lasers in the rain, sparkling like silent fireworks.
The crowd lap it all up, so Britney gets one star for that – she’s an entertainer. There’s another for unflagging energy – she’s a trouper. The third star is for being here after her meltdown of a decade ago. She’s a survivor. britneyspears.com