Britney Spears stuns Vancouver fans with demand to stop smoking pot

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      At GM Place on Wednesday, April 8

      Well, that was weird. I can honestly say I’ve never been to a stadium show by a major touring act that ground to an utter standstill after just a couple of songs, but that’s precisely what occurred when Britney Spears appeared at GM Place.

      What made it even more glaring was the fact that the star was given a buildup so mythopoeic that Jesus Christ himself would be well advised to take notes if he has a comeback tour in mind. After 15 or so minutes of presentable but not stellar juggling and tumbling by members of Big Apple Circus and a video introduction by professional bitch Perez Hilton, Spears finally appeared, appropriately enough, to the tune of “Circus”. Attired as a ringmaster (or at least what a call girl might wear if you paid her to dress up like one), a whip-brandishing Brit-Brit descended from the rigging on a platform to join her dancers, some of whom wore lucha libre masks and PVC briefs, while others looked like the kind of clowns that make kids piss their beds.

      The Mexican-wrestler dudes pushed a writhing Spears around the stage in a gilded cage during “Piece of Me”, while hidden fans blew her platinum-blond hair extensions around. The rest of the show seemed destined to carry on in a similar vein—with Britney being rolled about on various circus-themed props while her dancers did all the heavy lifting—but then darkness fell.

      The lights went down, the speakers went silent, and we waited. And waited. After a few minutes, the murmuring crowd grew louder, and speculation ran rampant. Was Britney coming back? Was she still in the building? Had she perished in the wake of some horrific wardrobe malfunction? Then the curtain came up, but there was no one on the stage. A nervous-sounding female voice—not Britney’s!—came over the public-address system to inform us that the show had been stopped due to inordinate amounts of cigarette and marijuana smoke in the air: “The performance will not continue until the air clears.” According to a statement posted later on Spears’s official Web site, “Crew members above the stage became ill due to a ventilation issue.” Fair enough.

      After a 25-minute gap, during which listless audience members resorted to doing the wave to stave off butt-numbing boredom, the concert started up again as suddenly as it had stopped. Illusionist Ed Alonzo sawed Spears into three pieces and then made her disappear. She came back, but the Big Top conceit fell by the wayside when homiez on pimped-out low-rider tricycles arrived to provide the star with yet another prop to ride around on during “Boys”.

      Spears did very little that could even charitably be described as dancing. When some conveyance or another wasn’t relieving her of the need to move under her own steam, she mostly just strutted about the stage, almost invariably clad in something that barely covered her ample ass cheeks. And a lot of the time she wasn’t there at all. During the seemingly endless costume changes, we were treated to such transparent time-fillers as martial-arts demonstrations, dance solos, and—most surreal of all—a video of Spears mouthing the words to Marilyn Manson’s version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”.

      You could tell she was lip-synching in that case because her mouth was moving while someone else’s voice was coming out of the speakers. Mind you, even when her own voice filled the stadium, that was no clear indication that Britney was actually generating the sound. I became convinced that her headset microphone was merely a prop, a speculation that was all but confirmed when she spoke for the first time all night—into a handheld mike, which she also used when an oversized parasol lifted her into the air during the ballad “Everytime”.


      "Don't smoke weed!"

      Either that was one of the few times she genuinely sang during the concert, or she’s just really damn good at sounding exactly like her records. I’m leaning toward the former, but what does it matter? No one dropped $125 to hear her sing anyway. The masses gathered at GM Place paid for the privilege of being in the same room as the former Mouseketeer. They wanted spectacle, and they got it, even if the woman at the centre of it all seemed oddly absent.

      The Guardian’s Michael Bracewell once described stoic Pet Shop Boys keyboardist Chris Lowe as “possibly more famous for not doing anything than almost anyone else in the history of popular entertainment”. I wonder if Bracewell has ever been to a Britney Spears concert.


      See also, Problems at Britney Spears’ Vancouver show may have been caused by more than pot smoke.




      Apr 9, 2009 at 9:47am

      Ha ha. What an awesome review! I laughed out loud reading it. At the risk of sounding like a total suck up, I'd wager that your take on the concert is a zillion times more entertaining than Britney herself. (I wasn't there this time Seen her Britness before.) All night, I kept hearing snippets on the news about the show being stopped, but no more details than that. So this super timely online review filled in the gaps in a way no one else in town did so quickly. And the way you tear the curtain back and strip away Spears's sexy mystique by describing industrial fans blowing her hair extensions around is priceless. You remain one of the Straight's most fabulous writers. Thanks for the marvellously entertaining review.

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      Apr 9, 2009 at 11:03am

      This is an excellent review of the concert. The 1/2 hour of blackness due to "ventilation issues" was barely an problem. The air had gotten pretty smoky and I have to admit, I could see the stage much easier after the hiatus. In true Vancouver fashion, we amused ourselves performing the wave or calling out "charge" to the organ fanfare. This being said, the concert was so fragmented that the break seemed scripted. 3-4 minute pauses in the show - sometimes with performers, sometimes with nothing on stage so that she could change outfits caused me to shake my head. The most I saw her hustle was when she needed to get off stage to change.

      I was dazzled by the number of cameras at all times directed towards the stage. I found myself taking pictures of the crowd as the view screens of a thousand cameras were brighter than those on the platform at times. Everyone wanted a "piece" of Ms. Spears and seemed unfazed by her lukewarm performance.

      The large screens showed clips of Britney's music videos which were distracting and a bit frustrating as it threw her live lack-of-performance into sharp contract against the animated and lively dances in her videos. I was thoroughly disappointed. I went to see a mega star show and saw...a circus. I was relieved when she finished (complete with white-trash/soccer mom send off) that the lights came up with no encore. No one really seemed that inspired to clap anyways.

      The Pussycat Dolls were a good opener but also helped to disappoint any slave-Britney fan. The girls tore up the stage, and performed animated coordinated moves while they rounded their metal stage (complete with burlesque poles that remained unused). The crowd was so pumped when they left the stage that cheers erupted when a 1 minute Candies ad featuring the pop-princess herself was projected on to the big screen. It's too bad that they weren't the reason why people had paid up to $500/ticket (ew). Next time La Diva comes to town, stay at home with your records and youtube. I know that's where I'll be...when I can bring myself to listen again.

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      John Lucas

      Apr 9, 2009 at 1:55pm

      I didn't have space to mention the Pussycat Dolls in my review. I actually found their dancing to be grotesque, but on the plus side, at least Nicole Scherzinger appears to be singing live (and doing a decent job of it), at least most of the time. The others might just as well have been clutching Hitachi Magic Wands instead of microphones.

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      Apr 9, 2009 at 3:00pm

      Yes, the PCD show was pretty odd. I particularly liked the sequined golf pants on the lead singer (Nicole?). I was so distracted by them that I must have missed the singing and gyrating.

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      Apr 10, 2009 at 1:34pm

      Nobody does it better than the Georgia Straight in totally shredding a performer. My the world has become a vicious nasty place; it seems like its OK to totally destroy someone and shred 'em. But really whats the point? I'm surprised her beaver wasn't mentioned again; its so macho male bitchy. I was at the show and was mainly there to see Jamie King the same director and choreographer of Madonna's tours do his thing. The sets, lighting and dancers were amazing. What did you expect; I'm sure Madonna was lip syching also. The staging of the show was something everyone should see; the effects were great.

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      Apr 11, 2009 at 1:07pm

      Believe it or not, but, Madonna does not lip-synch during her live shows. Plus, she does far more dancing and performing than Britney who's half her age.

      I'm sure most of the "smoke" was generated by Britney's own smoke machines. They use them all the time to create that smoky, misty atmosphere, which helps to impair visibility so you can't see whether Britney's lips are truly in synch with her pre-recorded voice.

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      Apr 11, 2009 at 10:59pm

      Concerts at GM Place are getting out of control. If someone was blowing cigarette smoke in your face, you'd be offended. I get sick of people blowing skunk or crack or heroin into my lungs at concerts. Vancouver needs to grow up and respect others health and space. Perhaps an indication of 'not getting it' is simply being too stoned to know the difference. Wake up weeders, there's somebody out there.

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      Apr 12, 2009 at 9:47pm

      "Wake up weeders, there's somebody out there."
      Yes..and they have a giant twisted stick up their ass.

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      Apr 13, 2009 at 12:48am

      I can't believe John Lucas took time to mention that Ed Alonzo performed illusions without mentioning that he used to be the motherfucking waiter on Saved By The Bell! You went to the Max and you were getting a hamburger with a side of magic!

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      John Lucas

      Apr 15, 2009 at 10:17am

      I guess I just figured everyone already knew who Ed Alonzo was. (Okay, maybe not.)

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