Steamy Britney Set Brings Holiday Concert To An Anticlimax

Abrupt performance after long wait leaves some L.A. fans upset.

LOS ANGELES — Don’t mess with Texas. The assorted talents of four Lone Star State songbirds — Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Jessica Simpson and Hilary Duff — stole the spotlight Friday from another Southern belle, KIIS-FM Jingle Ball headliner Britney Spears.

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Britney, however, did little to win over the capacity Staples Center crowd, who waited 40 minutes for her 20-minute show. (Thanks to the revolving stage, the set changes that preceded hers averaged just 10 minutes each.)

The three-song set was about 15 minutes shorter than Beyoncé’s and ended oddly with Britney walking off the stage toward the end of “Me Against the Music” while her dancers finished. The house lights then came on, leaving no hope of an encore and officially capping one of the first major radio station festivals of the busy holiday season.

What seemed to anger the audience most — even the girl with the homemade “#1 Britney Fan” T-shirt left frowning — was Spears’ lack of interaction with her fans. Not even a “Thank you” or “Good night.”

Fans have since flooded the Britney message boards with grievances. “I love Britney tons, but I lost so much respect for her tonight,” one fan wrote on WorldofBritney.com. Others wondered if something went wrong, but a Jive Records spokesperson said Monday (December 8) the performance was always scheduled to be 20 minutes.

Britney, in a strategically sliced black top and white fur cape, opened her set with “Toxic,” emphasizing the steaminess of the song with come-hither looks and erotic choreography. Some of the effect was lost, though, by the obvious and sometimes off-sync lip-syncing and a stagehand running out to fix a prop.

The tempo slowed slightly for “Breathe on Me,” but the seductive vibe continued, with Spears slithering around her backup dancers, who grooved to the track. The eye candy had the audience intrigued, but Britney could have had them at hello — if she’d said it.

Beyoncé, on the other hand, was extremely personal, conversing in between and during every song, even singling people out. “How you doing there in the yellow shirt?” she asked, pointing.

The singer made a grand entrance, with pyrotechnics exploding over screens flashing with what seemed like hundreds of magazine covers featuring her. The band segued from introduction music to “Crazy in Love,” during which footage of Jay-Z rapping his verse took over the screens.

Adorned in a glittery white shirt dress, Beyoncé announced she was feeling sexy and asked the audience to sing along to the “Love to Love You Baby” sample her DJ was spinning as she launched into “Naughty Girl.” “I’m going to sing you something I sang as a young girl,” she said next, before belting out “Silent Night.”

Beyoncé then went “old school,” singing along to her voice for a medley of Destiny’s Child hits the DJ tossed on, including “Survivor,” “Say My Name” and “Independent Women Part 1.” The band then returned for “Me, Myself and I” and “Baby Boy,” which began with Sean Paul’s part tracked but ended with the dancehall star taking the stage himself, singing and dancing with his co-star.

Paul, who also brought along a band and some scantily clad dancers, performed before Beyoncé, packing his short set with hits, including crowd favorite “Gimme the Light.”

“These are the people who’ve been calling and requesting, so it’s cool to perform for them,” Paul said backstage. “And we network when we’re here, ’cause that’s definitely where you meet a lot of artists. I’d like to meet [J. Lo], for real.”

Jennifer Lopez, the evening’s host, introduced Paul as well as Jessica Simpson. DJ Rick Dees, who joined the beauty from the Bronx onstage, killed downtime before the latter by coercing Lopez to sing “Jingle Bells,” a move she quickly regretted. “They’re not feeling it,” she said, a couple of lines in. “They want Jessica Simpson to come out here.”

Simpson’s simple acoustic show contrasted the big productions of the night and was highlighted by commentary explaining each song. “That song was about self-esteem. Always believe in yourself,” she said of “In This Skin,” before singing her current single, “With You.” “I wrote this next song for my husband. He’s a good man. Thank you for requesting it and putting a song I wrote on the radio.”

Simple Plan, the only rock band on the bill, embraced the chance to liven up a pop party, commanding the crowd to get on its feet for their entire performance. “You can not be seated,” singer Pierre Bouvier insisted as he sprinted across the stage.

Backstage, the group was just as excited to be there. “It’s kinda cool to go from Warped Tour to this,” drummer Chuck Comeau said. “It keeps it fresh.”

“Hilary Duff is opening for us tonight,” added guitarist Sebastien Lefebvre, smiling.

Duff, who was introduced by JC Chasez, did her best in those shoes, beginning with “Girl Can Rock,” accompanied by a surprisingly rocking band. Dressed in black leather pants complete with chains, she then showcased her more familiar pop side, including current hit “So Yesterday.”

Kelly Clarkson, who played between Duff and Simple Plan, used a similar strategy. She opened with a song that let her band rock out a bit, “Miss Independent,” before slowing down and really putting her “American Idol”-winning pipes on display with torch songs like “The Trouble With Love Is.”

Fabolous, in fatigues, and Thalia, in a sport coat and striped tie, opened the show with quick but energetic sets that provided some different-flavored appetizers before the pop feast to come.

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.