entertainment

Britney Spears brings the house down at London's Apple Music Festival

2016-09-28

If the career of Britney Jean Spears has been one of two halves, bisected by her well-publicised personal struggles a decade ago, there was every indication when ninth studio album Glory dropped last month that the pop icon might be about to enter a resurgent third phase.

During her headline set at the Apple Music Festival in London last night - Brit's first UK performance since 2011 - it became clear that the 34-year-old superstar is having more fun than she has done in years as the hysterical crowd (of, it must be said, mostly gay men) at Camden's Roundhouse lapped up hit-after-hit during a 90-minute show that consisted of eight outfit changes and 25 songs from a career spanning three separate decades.

If that sounds like a lot to take in, it was. It spoke volumes about the strength of Brit's discography that just 15 minutes after taking to the stage sporting a trademark tousled hair and leotard combo, she had already blasted through mammoth hits 'Work Bitch', 'Womanizer', 'Break the Ice' and the era-defining 'Piece of Me'. Flanked by a troupe of back-up dancers (including boys who've had us trawling through Instagram ever since) it quickly became apparent that Brit had brought her entire Las Vegas residency show to Camden High Street.

People expecting 90 minutes of live vocals from Britney Spears in 2016 might as well be booking tickets for Michael Jackson's 'This Is It Tour' at this point, but the Princess of Pop proved she can still perform with the best of them as she threw herself into a slew of relentlessly high energy routines that saw her keep step with some of the world's best professional dancers for an hour and a half. With the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino set scaled back to fit into the smaller 1,700-person capacity Roundhouse, the show's only notable change was the absence of 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll', and its accompanying bucking bronco guitar set-piece.  

Harking back to her '90s ingénue days in an all-white number and ponytail, the former Mouseketeer was in was full-on Sin City performance mode as she treated fans to classics like '...Baby One More Time', 'Oops!... I Did It Again' and even 2003's underrated 'Me Against the Music', which saw the audience practically screaming along to every word to Madonna's featured verse.

As well as an unlikely dance breakdown to some of Missy Elliot's greatest hits, Brit proved she was in a playful mood as she addressed the crowd in her signature British accent, asking "Do you guys want to get naughty?" as a spectator was brought on stage to become her (incredibly enthusiastic) b*itch for Blackout's 'Freakshow'.

Glory might have become Britney's most critically-acclaimed album in a decade, but sadly its presence was limited to just two tracks here; sultry, ethereal new single 'Make Me' and the madcap 'Do You Wanna Come Over?' The cheers that opening bars of the latter drew from the crowd, however, indicated that a golden opportunity to showcase more new material to the tens of thousands watching worldwide might have been missed.

That hardly mattered though as Spears made her way through fan favourite numbers like 'Do Somethin'' and 'Circus', and while there was a brief nail-biting moment as a dancer missed a cue for a backflip during In the Zone deep-cut 'Touch of My Hand', forcing Brit to abort the move altogether, she immediately recovered with the breeze of a life-long performer.

While other big name stars from the '90s and early noughties have fallen by the wayside - or turned their hand to chair-spinning reality TV stints - Britney has always possessed the je ne sais quoi that turns stars into icons. The extensive roster of celebrity fans in attendance, including Rita Ora, Sam Smith and Nick Grimshaw, proved that almost 20 years into her career, Britney remains one of the biggest draws in entertainment.

As she launched into a lethal final act consisting of 'Toxic', 'Stronger', '(You Drive Me) Crazy' and the euphoric 'Till the World Ends' one thing became clear: Britney's about more than just music - she's about moments.

Rating: 4.5/5