Britney Spears / Columbia, SC / 03-24-2004

Britney Spear’s Onyx Hotel has an hourly rate. At least that’s the kind of image that the pop darling is trying to portray. Obviously trying to outgrow her teen pop days, Spears brought her “more adult” performance to Columbia’s new Colonial Center. The show started with a ringmaster, looking like a cross between Boy George and Batman’s nemesis The Penguin,. welcoming everyone to the hotel. Someone please explain to me why a hotel would have a ringmaster. He would pop up between songs and try to pump up the crowd or be funny. He failed at everything he attempted. He was just annoying and unnecessary.

Spears opened the show with her most recent single “Toxic.” This song was accompanied by enough flame columns to make KISS proud. Things basically went down hill from there with the exception of a few interesting moments. During the middle of the set, the screens displayed a video clip of Britney entering the Mystic Lounge which segued us into the next portion of the show. The stage was made to look almost like a 1950’s diner complete with small tables and patrons. It was in this diner that she performed jazzy/lounge almost unrecognizable versions of her first two hit singles “Baby, One More Time” and “Oops I Did It Again.” This was probably the most musically interesting part of the show.

The stage design was beautiful with multi-levels that doubled as video screens which often just displayed colors making it look more like a part of the lights. Britney performed “Shadow” from atop a swing hanging from the middle of the stage while a dancer on each side of her swung/dropped/dangled from the fabric attached to her costume that was stretched to either side of the stage.

Soon after, the video screens displayed a video clip of Britney in a white bathrobe preparing for a bath. When the onscreen Britney dropped her robe, the onstage Britney appeared atop the center platform beside a clear bath tub. She dropped her robe onstage and was wearing a skin colored body suit. A bed was wheeled out on stage for one of the male dancers to lie on.and chairs were brought out on the other side for dancers to sit in. In no time at all, everyone on stage was getting to know themselves a little more intimately while Britney sang her ode to masturbation “Touch of My Hand.” During “Breathe On Me”, Britney climbed on the bed with the dancer and they made out while female dancers made out with other female dancers. Yes, male dancers did indeed make out with other male dancers. While this may seem provocative for a Britney show, it came off as nothing more than being lifted straight from a Madonna show.

The set closer “(I Got That) Boom Boom” was a fun ride with its use of the flame columns and confetti cannons. The encore “Me Against The Music” seemed almost a let down after the “Boom Boom.”

Ultimately, the Onyx Hotel show was an entertaining experience. It didn’t really matter whether or not Britney sang or lip synched, played piano or “finger synched.” This show was less a concert and more of a completely choreographed performance. The late teens/early 20s crowd seemed to enjoy themselves and for what it’s worth, I did too.

-Benji McKay