Please excuse Christina Aguilera for not being in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Thursday to accept the Best Female artist trophy at the MTV Europe Music Awards. It's not like she was just out partying somewhere.
OK, so maybe she was at one of Hollywood's hottest annual shindigs, but she was working. Really. And Europeans will be happy to know what she was working on.
"This is like a rehearsal for us," Aguilera told the star-studded crowd at Moto 8, Motorola's end-of-the-year bash.
With her first European tour since 2003 kicking off November 17 in Sheffield, United Kingdom, Aguilera kicked off the rust with a six-song preview at the Hollywood Palladium event.
"It's my most inspired show to date, so I'm really excited," Aguilera told MTV News at the event. "[Expect] lots of amazing circus elements and throwback elements to the past and the areas that I am inspired by. It's just an interesting show to watch and to be a part of and to use your imagination."
Thursday's show lacked the circus elements but featured a nine-piece band, three backup singers and a half dozen dancers bringing her cinematic songs to life.
The set kicked off with Aguilera — in a half-buttoned pink dress shirt, black vest, undone bowtie and black fedora — strutting onto stage just as her band segued from intro music to the opening notes of "Ain't No Other Man." Like the video, the performance was packed with choreography and enough of Aguilera's signature wails to remember why she's always stood out from her pop-starlet contemporaries.
Unfortunately, Christina doesn't talk as loud as she sings, so it was hard to hear her between-song banter, but Aguilera introduced the next two tracks — the funk fest "Back in the Day" and the old-school R&B homage "Understand," both from Back to Basics — by describing her latest album as a tribute to the music she loved as a child.
Seizing the opportunity for a natural transition, Aguilera then launched into her cover of the Patti LaBelle hit "Lady Marmalade," with her backup singers perfectly handling Pink and Mya's parts. (No one attempted Lil' Kim's rap, however.)
"This is the song you probably know me for the best," Christina announced as her thunderous band slowed down for "Beautiful." "Fighter" followed and featured an extended sing-along, ending the show with the same pomp and circumstance as it began.
Those who caught the show included Paris Hilton — who stood in her VIP booth cheering along — Pete Wentz, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Locklear and David Spade.
Aguilera will bring her tour of the States beginning February 20 in Houston (see "Christina Aguilera's Heading Back On Tour For 41 North American Dates").
On November 29, Christina will perform alongside Taylor Hicks, John Legend and Sting for the "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" special airing on NBC.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.