Reinvigorated, lip-synching Spears wows N.Y. fans

Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:30pm EDT
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By M. Tye Comer

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Britney Spears must make other pop singers angry.

Beyonce, Pink, Justin -- none of them would dare use pre-recorded vocals during their live shows, despite the complex choreography of their performances.

Madonna and Janet are guilty of using backing tracks to carry some of vocal weight, but certainly not all of it. Hell, even the Pussycat Dolls sing live.

But Britney? She is, and always has been, about blatant, unapologetic lip-synching. Case in point: at the New York stop of her anticipated comeback tour, Spears used her actual vocal chords only three times -- twice to thank the crowd, and once to sing a ballad (though the vocals during that number were questionable, as well). Even the spoken bits in the show came from a DAT. Somewhere, Ashlee Simpson has a dartboard with Brit's face square in the bull's-eye.

Of course, none of this bothered the 16,000 fans that turned up to cheer the resurrected icon at Nassau Coliseum Wednesday night. Britney merely paid lip service to her songs, but the audience members screamed the words to every hit at the top of their collective lungs -- even if it was obvious they were the only ones really singing.

Why does Britney get a pass when so many other pop stars keep it real? Has her audience become more forgiving after watching their heroine publicly wrestle with her personal demons over the last few years? Perhaps, but sympathy alone doesn't fill arenas to the rafters.

The truth is that vocal prowess has never been the fuel that powers the Britney Machine. Singing simply isn't the point. Spears is an entertainer; a put-on-a-show kind of girl. And despite what happens behind the curtain, Britney's Circus tour is indeed quite a show.

Focusing largely on material from her last three albums, Spears' first outing in five years is a dazzling, racy, in-the-round spectacle that's a little Cirque de Soliel, a little Skinemax, but all Britney at its core. Designed to play up her biggest strengths (i.e., her well-honed dance skills) and distract from her shortcomings, the highly choreographed show features an over-the-top array of acrobats, magicians, clowns, and no less 12 dancers on stage at any given time. The scale of the concert is so massive, in fact, it at times threatens to eclipse its star. Still, despite all of the smoke and mirrors, the most alluring aspect of the show remains Britney herself.   Continued...

<p>Singer Britney Spears performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York on December 2, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>