Britney Spears Has Sell-Out Crowd Shrieking And Singing Along

Teen pop star covers Madonna, Janet Jackson, Journey on first headlining tour.

ATLANTA — Seventeen-year-old pop sensation Britney Spears

mesmerized 5,000 young fans at the Atlanta Civic Center on Thursday as

she played material from her quadruple-platinum album ...

Baby One More Time and songs by such influences as Madonna

and Janet Jackson during one of her first headlining gigs.

The sell-out audience, populated largely by teen and pre-teen girls,

shrieked and wailed with every hip wiggle, every variation in vocal

inflection and each costume change from Spears. Despite having only one

album of material to draw from, Spears came across as an assured,

confident entertainer during the hour-long set, the third performance of

a summer-long North American tour.

"We came all the way up from Orlando [Fla., about 440 miles away] to see

this show and it was awesome!," Margaret Campbell, 13, said. "Her costumes

were incredible, and the show was worth the drive."

Against a backdrop of billowing linen draped across a rope latticework,

Spears' five-piece band was perched atop a platform raised approximately

10 feet off the stage. From the center of the platform, a staircase,

framed by a swirling, Dali-esque handrail, descended to the stage.

The show began with six dancers performing to a funky, bass-heavy groove,

while snippets of Spears' talking could be heard. Spears then appeared

atop the band platform, wearing a pink vinyl midriff-baring tube top and

a pair of white vinyl pants with sewn-in pink kneepads. Her hair was

pulled into a bun atop her head, with a long blond ponytail extension

clipped on. Every inch of exposed flesh was dusted with glitter.

She started by running through several songs from ... Baby

One More Time including "Soda Pop" (RealAudio

excerpt) and "(You Drive Me) Crazy." The album, released in

January, has made Spears an instant star; it quickly hit #1 on the

Billboard 200 albums chart and has now been in the top 10 for

nearly half a year.

Each song was supplemented by intense choreography from the dancers, and

Spears danced, too, whenever she wasn't singing. Eight mechanized

spotlights mounted on the band platform followed the petite singer

around the stage.

"I thought it was a beautifully decorated stage," said Leslie Hicks, 41,

from Cartersville, Ga., who brought her two teenage daughters. "The whole

show was very professionally done."

After a few songs, two of Spears' dancers pulled a young fan identified

as Dustin from the audience, and Spears asked the crowd, "Have you guys

ever been in love?" The audience screamed a resounding "Yes!" and Spears

proceeded to croon her ballad "Born to Make You Happy" to Dustin.

After quickly changing into a white tube top and denim overalls, Spears

returned and sat on the steps by herself. "I used to have a boyfriend,"

she began, and the crowd howled as if in disbelief.

"Oh yeah, I did," she reassured them, "and he really broke my heart. I

don't ever want to feel that way again." She then sang "From the Bottom

of My Broken Heart."

Spears appeared to be singing over a pre-recorded track at times, but

during some songs — including a cover of pop-rockers Journey's 1982

hit "Open Arms" — she obviously handled the vocals by herself.

Though Spears sang confidently when she was in the lower register, her

voice was thin when she reached for high notes.

Her bandmembers provided a loud, synthesizer-driven groove, capably

reproducing the tracks from Spears' album, and occasionally doing their

own thing — filling one costume change, for example, by playing rap

duo Eric B. and Rakim's "I Ain't No Joke."

After the band played Madonna's "Vogue" while Spears' dancers moved to

the music, Spears appeared at the top of the stairs in a pink minidress

and feather boa and performed a truncated cover of Madonna's "Material

Girl."

The band then segued into Janet Jackson's "Black Cat," as Spears ripped

off her dress to reveal a black leather halter top and a black leather

miniskirt. She sang faithful versions of both "Black Cat" and "Nasty."

But the loudest response of the evening was for Spears' encore, her

chart-topping song "... Baby One More Time" (RealAudio

excerpt). Wearing black thigh-high socks, a spangled pink tartan

miniskirt, a visible black bra and a sleeveless pink oxford, Spears

brought down the house.

Tina Shuford, 9, stood in her seat and sang along word-for-word at the

top of her tiny lungs. "This is my favorite song," Shuford said, as

"... Baby One More Time" came to an end. "I wish she'd keep

singing all night long."

The evening was hosted by Johnny Wright, the manager credited with

discovering Spears, the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync — Spears opened

for the latter group in late 1998 and early 1999. Several of Wright's

newest finds, including singer Michael Fredo and the group Boyz-N-Girlz

United, opened for Spears.