LAS VEGAS — True to her word, Britney Spears poured on the cheese during opening night of her “Piece of Me” Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood, where she raced through a whopping 23 hit singles in just 90 minutes.
“Cheesy is good,” Brit said in her E! documentary, which aired Sunday night and chronicled the development and rehearsals of the show. “Extra cheese and simplicity.”
We’re not so sure about the “simple” part of that. Spears delivered on her signature style of larger-than-life production, blaring beats and rapid-fire dance moves, whirling through seven costume changes and even a couple of wig changes. Spears donned her signature curly blonde bob for “Circus,” but pulled out a sleek, brunette hairdo for “…Baby One More Time.”
Kicking things off with “Work Bitch,” Spears set the tone for the high-octane event early. If you weren’t on your feet dancing on your own accord, she was going to make you. Several times she teased the audience: “I can’t hear you,” and the 7,000-seat auditorium obliged her every whim.
For the nostalgic Britney fan, rejoice in the fact that “Piece of Me” is more of a look backwards than forwards. During “Gimme More,” Spears appeared to recycle a great deal of choreography from her 2007 Video Music Awards performance. And on “Circus,” she offered basically a live rendition of her Francis Lawrence-directed music video. For “Everytime,” she was held high above the stage on a set of wings — a move reminiscent of her “Oops!… I Did It Again” Tour (for those of us who are old enough to have been there… and who will remain nameless). There was chair dancing to boot, but sadly not during “Stronger.”
There was plenty of new glitz and glamour to keep things “fresh,” as Brit likes to say. Not only did we see waterworks during “Toxic” (and the epic tree swing, as already seen on TV), but also during “Slave 4 U.” Spears joked to the audience, “I got so wet! Thank you.” Though she opted to cut Britney Jean’s “Alien” from the set list this time around, Spears did offer up a heartfelt rendition of her latest single, “Perfume.” It was one of only a few moments that the pop icon found herself alone on that stage (she also performed “Lucky” solo), and ultimately it felt like a missed opportunity. Where Spears could have poured her soul into the song, without dancing or pyrotechnics to distract, the sound didn’t stray far from what we’ve heard on her album.
That’s not to say her vocals weren’t live. At times, her sweet voice shone through the backing, or we could hear her catching her breath between numbers. Other times, we’d watch her run up a set of stairs while her voice didn’t miss a beat.
Katy Perry, DJ Pauly D and Miley Cyrus were among the famous faces in the crowd (make that VIP section) on Friday, and Miley even got in on some of the show’s action. One of Spears’ dancers singled the “Wrecking Ball” singer out of the crowd during a set transition, and the two got a little touchy-feely at the edge of the runway. But the biggest VIP of them all was Mario Lopez, whom Spears handpicked out of the crowd to join her on stage for “Freak Show.” The “Extra” host was a great sport about it (um, who wouldn’t be?) when Spears’ dancers dressed him head-to-toe in leather bondage gear and demanded that he crawl on all fours across the stage.
Will.i.am was also on hand —only digitally #8212 for a brief snippet of “Scream and Shout,” appearing on a larger-than-life jumbotron as dancers flitted in front of him. Spears, for her part, was absent during this bit, but quickly emerged donning a brightly colored neon getup and launching into a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Boys.” (Pharrell Williams was not involved in the set, but his vocals were played as she performed.)
If you’re looking for a powerhouse vocal performance in your Vegas entertainment, head over to The Coliseum for Celine Dion. But Britney fans will find no better show on the strip than “Piece of Me.” What ultimately felt like a greatest hits marathon — with plenty of glitter on top — is sure to please the die-hards, and even those who have never shelled out money for a Spears album are likely find themselves singing right along. Let’s be real: who hasn’t heard of “Toxic”?