SAN DIEGO — Britney Spears’ Onyx Hotel Tour made good on its promised titillation at Tuesday night’s kickoff — with lingerie, elements of S&M and bump ’n’ grind gyrations — again and again and again.
A flamboyant emcee in a purple top hat, glittery eye patch and jacket with tails introduced the show. The production about to be witnessed, he declared like a circus ringmaster, would take the audience “where fun-filled fantasies keep you on your toes” and where “your body will be privy to many a titillation.”
With that, Spears’ dancers made the first of many dramatic descents from the San Diego Sports Arena’s rafters and the band kicked into her latest hit, “Toxic.” Britney herself arrived moments later — first on one of the video screens that comprised nearly every vertical inch of the two-tiered stage set, and then in the flesh atop a wheeled metal platform.
Wearing the same tight black bodysuit she squeezed into for rehearsals the night before (see “Britney Checking Into Onyx Hotel Wearing Rubberlike Outfit” ), Spears led her eight dancers around the stage, up and down the silver platform, and into the second song, “Overprotected,” before taking a break to say hello to the crowd.
“Goodness,” she said in a Louisiana drawl. “What’s up, San Diego?”
While she was making small talk, her male dancers were backstage changing into leather pants, backward suspenders over bare chests and bellboy hats for a “Boys” number in which they wheeled the girls around on luggage trolleys. It would be one of the few points in the show when the “hotel” part of the theme was clear. At other times it was easy to find yourself checking out, like when the emcee did a Rod Serling impression for a “Twilight Zone” spoof or when a video clip showed Britney wandering around a lush, garden paradise.
The night’s first video clip featured Britney following a mysterious woman down an alley, where she was shown the way to a place called the Mystic Lounge. Spears’ band then kicked into lounge mode, performing a subdued jazzy medley of “… Baby One More Time” and “Oops! … I Did It Again.” Carrying a microphone with a bullwhip attached to it, Spears came out wearing frilly pink lingerie with a black corset-like midsection and black stockings.
Her backup dancers, mixing undergarments with fedoras a la “Cabaret,” did her “Stronger” video one better by lining up silver chairs for Britney to walk on and systematically moving the last chair to the front of the line until she’d made it across the stage.
Out of breath and quite sweaty (lip-syncing isn’t the only thing giant video monitors are bad at hiding), Britney paused after “(You Drive Me) Crazy” to joke, “There’s a lot of cute guys here. Who knows, maybe if you’re really lucky I might marry you” (see “Britney Spears Married In Las Vegas, At Least For A Little While”
She would touch on her quickie marriage again moments later after changing into a short, rainbow-colored dress and sitting down at a flower-covered piano for her upcoming single “Everytime.”
“I don’t know if you guys know what’s been going on with me, if you read the press,” she said. “The past six months have been like a roller coaster with a lot of ups and a lot of downs. … [But] everything we experience makes us realize how beautiful life can really be.”
A few songs later came In the Zone’s other ballad, “Shadow,” and the night’s most impressive dance move. With Britney sitting on a swing, long strands of cloth draped on either side of her were raised up to reveal a pair of dancers in nude-colored body stockings. The men crawled their way up, wrapping themselves in the cloth as they climbed ever higher above the stage, and once they reached the top they let go and went unraveling downward, stopping themselves just before gravity made ex-dancers out of them.
The thrills only increased as the video setting up “Touch of My Hand” appeared, in which Britney was shown lounging on a bed before blowing out some candles, letting her bathrobe drop to the floor and getting into a tub filled with bubbles and rose petals.
The crowd erupted when she performed the same disrobing onstage, revealing the diamond suit from her “Toxic” video. As her dancers stripped themselves and each other down to their underwear, Britney sent the crowd into an even bigger frenzy by enjoying, well, the touch of her hands. Slowly. From point A to points B and B.
Re-emerging for the equally libidinous “Breathe on Me” in a less expensive — though no less revealing — outfit consisting of a pink bra and panties, Spears cavorted on one of the stage’s two beds with a male dancer, thrashing her sizable blonde mane to and fro. With everyone already dressed like Frederick’s of Hollywood mannequins, it was the perfect time to slip on trench coats for the R. Kelly-penned “Outrageous,” which features the lyric, “Trench coat and my underwear/ Let’s go with this freak show.”
But a freak show of another kind colored the finale, “(I Got That) Boom Boom.” Since the Ying Yang Twins weren’t there to give the song its Dirty South flavor, Britney went for the next best thing — Mardi Gras. Tossing out bead necklaces and shooting confetti cannons, Spears thanked the crowd twice and said goodnight.
Everyone waited in their seats, though, wondering what the big encore was going to be. How was Britney going to top the Dream Within a Dream Tour’s dazzling waterfall number? (see “Britney Goes Bald, Plays Tiny Dancer, Gets Caught In The Rain At Tour Kickoff” ). It turned out she wasn’t.
Red lights flashed as sirens blared and warned of a “system malfunction.” “Matrix”-like green graphics scrawled vertically on monitors. Then as flames burst, Britney walked out in a red pantsuit for Rishi Rich’s Desi Kulcha remix of “Me Against the Music,” eventually taking off the jacket to reveal a shiny red bustier but performing one of the more straightforward numbers of the night.
When the music stopped, the lights came on and a collective cry of “Awwww” was heard amongst the disappointed crowd as Britney’s dancers and bandmembers awkwardly made their way offstage.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.