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Dream Within A Dream Concert Reviews

Columbus, OH - Nationwide Arena
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Almost a week late, Britney Spears finally kicked off her 2001 Tour Thursday night after the flu and a kink in her pre-production held her up.
Obviously the fans who flooded the Nationwide Arena expected the concert to be all about Britney - the person, that is. And sure, she explored some personal issues/interests, appearing with a bald head at one point, bungee jumping, and fighting off faceless nemeses, during her performance, but the singing kept true to her promise to make a large portion of the show about Britney, the album. She previewed cuts off of her upcoming release, due November 6.
Last week Spears alluded to sneak peek of her latest project during a press conference. ``I just want my fans to see me in a different light than they have ever seen me (in) before,'' she said. ``This music I am singing right now is such a reflection of me and who I am. Hopefully [the fans] will come to the show and be inspired and have a lot of fun.''
The show commenced with a woman dressed in what seemed like 18th-century pajamas telling everyone what the performance's them would be: ``A dream within a dream.''
Bewildered, the spectators looked on as an almost stage-length screen revealed Britney for the first time. ``Will all my dreams come true?'' she asked before disappearing. After a few more minutes of on-screen oddity it was time to get down.
Britney, dressed in all black, her hair pinned up in a big Peggy Bundy-like puff, hung from a wheel that was placed on a huge platform and lifted several feet above the ground. Spinning in 360-degree turns, she began singing, ``Oops I Did It Again.'' As she was lowered her dancers, dressed in post-apocalyptic black garb crept up.
``You're gonna have to see through my perspective,'' she sang a few minutes later during one of the night's first unfamiliar numbers, Britney's ``Overprotected.'' ``I need to make mistakes just to learn who I am/And I don't wanna be so damn protected!'' While she performed onstage, one of her set's smaller hanging screens showed the pop diva singing baldheaded, then her image morphed to show her with long flowing hair.
During a few spots in the concert, there was so much spectacle it was nearly impossible to keep up with everything. Britney would be onstage dancing in one area (she squared off in a battle with an image of herself on a screen during ``Lonely''), her dancers would be in another then there would be a whole separate collage being displayed on the giant screen.
An enormous music box raised from below, only to open and have Britney act as a toy ballerina who comes to life and sings a fan favourite, ``Born To Make You Happy.'' (Remember, the theme for the evening is ``A dream withing a dream.'')
Every boy in the arena must have experienced deja vu from one of his fantasties as Spears turned seductress with another new song, ``Boys.''
``You're a sexy guy/I'm a nice girl/Let's turn this dance floor into our own little nasty world,'' the now tank-top-clad pop princess sensually vocalized. Before Britney slowed down the pace to perform the ballad, ``I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,'' which she said will be her new album's next single, the 19-year-old said she's going to continue to be unabashed with some of her actions.
``I get a lot of flack for what I wear or what I don't wear,'' she told the crowd. ``I get a lot of flack for what I say and what I don't say, but I'm not a little girl anymore.''
As her keyboardist began playing, clips of Britney at play with her friends were shown, and then she went into her independence anthem, quipping in song, ``Don't tell me what to believe/I'm trying to find the woman in me.''
Less sentimental was her cover of ``I Love Rock n' Roll.'' The fans, a majority of whom weren't alive when Joan Jett took the anthem to #1 in 1982, seemed to be familiar with the cut, as they headbanged and chanted ageless chorus.
A definite performance standout, Britney was getting her own groove on with her dancers, hovering above the spectators on a platform that hung on wires. Head swaying, one hand in the air and swiveling her hips, she stopped gyrating and bungee jumped. Almost simultaneously, two of her dancers who were also harnessed ascended into the sky from the head of the stage as the singer sprung back up from her plunge. An aerial chase ensued as they grabbed at her. You guessed it right - the heroine did escape to do more singing and dancing.
Houses and cars that looked like cut-out crayon drawings were bought out to enhance the playful mood of ``Anticipating.'' Britney must've forgotten that the disco-era throwback cut was brand spanking new, because she kept encouraging everyone to sing along to the chorus, `I been an-tic-a-paaay-ting/This is our song they're playing.'' Although the crowd clapped and bobbed to the beat, Britney had to go this one alone vocally. The crowd did know ``I'm A Slave 4 u,'' which followed. Britney rehashed the jungle setting from her MTV Video Music Awards performance of the cut in September, right down to the green bra top and skimpy skirt. No snake this time, though.
The finale, ``Baby One More Time,'' was the most elaborate performance of the night. A hologram of the singer that towered above the stage was projected, only to gradually shrink until the lights were on Britney. Wearing a plastic cowboy hat, blue hip-huggers and a matching bra top, she and her dancers made their way to the front of the stage, dancing to a techno remix of the song.
As flames and pyro shot up only inches from there where they were dancing, everyone made their way back to a suspended platform. Now with Hollywood rain machine water pouring down on them, the damp troop was lifted out of the elements to make a final wave at the crowd.
As she sang, `Hit me baby one more time'' for the last time, green laser lights forged her signature. The enchanter was signing off.
``I come from Broadway, so I want it to be very theatrical,'' Britney said of her hopes for the tour last week. ``The whole process for me is magical. Hopefully it will be something people have never even imagined or envisioned in their head. I was going through a run-through yesterday and was thing, `By the time I'm 30, there's not going to be anything left for me to do.' "
After the show, the new songs were geting praise. ``I liked them,'' said 18-year-old Jason Mooney of New Concord, Ohio, of the previewed cuts. ``I wasn't quite sure what they were, but I liked them.''
``I'm going to be at the store at eight o'clock in themorning to buy the album next week,'' said 18 year old Jenny Stoinski, who goes to school in Columbus. ``I liked `I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.' She has so much to go through. I'm proud of her.''
Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
TORONTO - Britney Spears, reigning queen of the pop acts, didn't fill Air Canada Centre with her famous bubble-gum presence and pre-teen giggles on Monday night.
Instead, she chose to create a dream-like opus complete with nightmare-esque video montages and thumping beats and breezy day-dreamy numbers featuring blue-moon lighting.
The concert kicked off after a seizure-inducing video montage of the pop diva and random film clips.
``It's a dream come true,'' whispered video Spears as the atmosphere morphed into a bad dream featuring startling pyrotechnics. Her back-up band emerged vampire-like from beneath the stage in what appeared to be coffins and clad in billowing capes.
Spears herself made a melodramtaic entrance - suspended high above the T-shaped stage on a spinning wheel - warming up the audience with an old favourite instead of kicking off with brand new material from ``Britney'', her new album.
The nightmare setting lasted for three up-tempo numbers; ``Oops I Did It Again,'' ``Crazy'' and then the new track ``Overprotected''.
Ever the glamorous popstar, Spears managed to make the first of many costume changes during the first three songs.
The lengthy changes slowed the pace of the show, allowing the audience to fall out of Spears' dreamy-trance for minutes at a time. ``Comedic'' video montages featuring Spears playing the role of a rock-star wannabe clocked in well beyond the funny mark and left the room restless and wanting more of the star herself in person.
But, when Spears did reappear (dressed in bell-revealing outfits), she did her best to fill the stadium with precise dance movements and elaborate sets.
Although the audience responded to her energetic numbers - a cover of ``I Love Rock n' Roll'', ``Stronger'' and ``What It's Like To Be Me'' to name a few - it was a heartfelt ballad that gave a glimpse into Spears' true potential and star power.
Sitting on the edge of a piano bench, the stage absent of dancers and bathed in twilight lighting effect, Spears' photogenic face was beemed throughout the stadium. Looking sweet, sincere and genuinely happy to be there, Spears took a moment to thank the firefighters and rescue personal who helped with the September 11 tragedy before launching into her new ballad, ``I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.''
Unlike the music and attitude that has categorized her in the past, the performance gave Spears a depth she's perviously lacked.
On the other side of the Spectrum, the new track `Anticipating' was quintessential Spears and seemed to suit the star just as well as ``Boys'' did. Decked out in a neon cap, top, boots, and a denim skirt, she and her dancers pranced around the stage in a bright-pink faux-car and skipped around neon and pastel cardboard houses.
The song was peppy and fun and aimed straight at the under thirteen crowd that may have been overwhelmed by the pyrotechnics and dark beats that peppered the performances of her new up-tempo tracks.
The sweet, bubble-gum pop was swiftly replaced by Spears' grown-up alter ego. The neon top and cap were thrown away and the denim skirt peeled off to reveal a barely there skirt, knee-high neon green boots, and a tiny green bra-top.
``Anticipating'' faded into her latest single - `I'm A Slave 4 U''. The song, her outfit, and the performance landed on the bad side of sleazy and Spears disappointingly abandoned the sheer likeability she reveal through, ``Boys'' and ``Anticipating'' in favour of breathy moans and cleavage-revealing dance moves.
After climbing a pole above the stage and bending over to give the audience a shot of her (are they real or aren't they?) breasts while finishing up the last verse of ``Slave'', the show was over.
But it just wouldn't be a Britney Spears show without the song that made her the mega-star she is today.
Perhaps the most impressive stage-effect used by popstars (so far), the centre of the stage was transformed into a tornado/space-ship landing through lighting, lasers and noise. Then the atmosphere softened, and Spears emerged from underneath the stage her encore.
As her platform rose, the tornado transformed into a rainstorm and Spears, writhing around in the water, serenaded the crowd with a remixed verison of ``Baby One More Time''.
One part Celine Dion power-ballad, two parts dance mix, the new verison of ``Baby One More Time'' was fun and orginial. Coupled with elaborate choreography and sets, which included a suspended platform carrying Spears and her dancers, the finale was a fitting end to her dreamy, melodramatic show.
``It was a just a dream. A dream within a dream,'' whispered video Spears from the large monitors.
Although flawed and overdone in places (the ``dreamy'' atmosphere could have been achieved without the lengthy video montages and the entire show could have done with a bit less cleavage), Spears gave the audience what they wanted.
The show was the visual spectacle pop fans have come to expect in the wake of *Nsync and The Backstreet Boys, and Spears catered to her fans' expectations of elaborate dances and, of course, a rendition of ``Baby One More Time''. It also gave a glimer of hope to those who want the pop diva to become the next Madonna. For a few minutes here and here, Spears showed actual talent and the potential to be able to truly perform and connect with her audience on an intimate level instead of acting as the pop-puppet and marketing tool for tweens that she's often accused of being.

Las Vegas, NV - Mandalay Bay Events Center
LAS VEGAS - In the city of sin, Britney Spears behaved.
There was no dissing of Justin Timberlake during the opening night of the second leg of the Dream Withing A Dream tour. No cigarette smoking. No ...whatever vice the rumor mills have her doing this week.
Things may have changed in Britney's well-chronicled life since the last time we saw her onstage - and that's only if you believe the gossip - but there were no signs of it Friday at Mandalay Bay. The 20-year-old headliner was the same pop princess she was at 19.
Nearly every part of Spears' 90-minute show was the same as it was when she launchd the tour last November save for a few production details, updated remixes, and a new song, or at least part of one.
About midway through the eye candy that is Dream Within a Dream, after fireworks capped off a vigorous verison of ``Stronger,'' Spears sat down on a piano bench next to one of her keyboard players (the one who resembles Elton John). Instead of addressing the flack she has taken for her revealing garments, like she did on the first leg of the tour, Spears told her adoring fans she wanted to update them on her life. Don't hold your breath: She didn't reveal the status of her relationship with Timberlake or go into other nitty gritty details, but instead talked about feeling overwhelmed and writing songs as therapy.
Spears then sang a few verses of a new ballad before segueing into ``I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman'. The new song, for which Spears did not announce a title, was similar to the fan favourite that followed, but with a bit more traditional R&B flair, a la Alicia Keys.
The `intimate portion' of the evening (if that sounds cliche, it's because it was) seemed to resonate the loudest with the nearly sold-out arena (seats behind the stage were still avaliable for $50, half the regular price), if not for being the biggest deviation from the show most of them probably already own on DVD, then for being the only real chance to see Britney concentrate on singing.
The rest of the show was far more about the dancing and the spectacle. Despite taking several months off, Spears didn't miss a step, looking as well as rehearsed than ever. Some things, such as a few of the ``thank yous'' appeared a bit too practiced, but no one seemed to mind.
Either because they had already seen it or were still lost in it, the audience didn't pay much attention to the whole Dream Within a Dream concept video that began the show. It was when Spears appeared strapped to a moving wall like a knife thrower's target that the building erupted. It helped that the band had already gone into a remix of ``Oops!...I Did It Again'' that enlivened the orginial with an insulin shot of funk.
Spears continued into `Crazy' and the rest of the winning formula that is the Dream Within a Dream set-list, complete with all 13 different costume changes and stage props that vary from a giant music box to a Flinstone-like car.
Theatrically, there were a few changes. Video screens did not have as prominent a role on the stage (the bald Britney was axed completely), except when the real Spears danced with a video of herself.
Musically, the biggest difference was ``Boys'', which was replace by a new remixed verison, persumably the one Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes has done for the `Austin Powers in Goldmember' soundtrack Spears didn't talk about the remix, which is also her next single and video, but she did wear a new outfit for it that was a tad more shagadelic than the suspenders she had previously worn for the number. ``Overprotected'' was also remixed for the second leg of the tour.
For the grand finale, the waterfall was back, and it's still quite possibly one of the coolest (and sexiest) stage effects ever. Undoubtedly the loudest screams of the night came when Britney's cowboy hat first hit the water. It's just one of those moments that you can see over and over and still find gripping.
Although the rest of the night seemed mostly like a rerun, there was one huge difference: the opening act. Rather than snag another `TRL' favourite, Spears handpicked soulful up-and-comer Nikka Costa.
Costa - who noted her godfather is Las Vegas legend Frank Sinatra - and her party starting back-up band had a hardtime luring in the pre-teen crowd that was still outside purring over thenewest Britney posters, but the older women and men in the crowd, ranging from high schoolers to grandparents, were grooving along by the second song.
A cover of Sly & the Family Stone's ``Thank You'' didn't get the response Costa had hoped for, though her own ``Like A Feather' had people dancing in the isles.
Wearing Lenny Kravitz glasses and a floral-patterned dress over cut-off jeans, Costa didn't appear to have much in common with Spears, but as she sang, ``Everybody got their something.''
Spears' Dream Within a Dream Tour continues Tuesday (May 28) in Vancouver, BC and is scheduled to run through July 28 in Mexico City.
Hamilton, ON - Copps Coliseum
HAMILTON - Britney Spears is still dreaming. And blowing it up real good.
The 20-year-old pop superstar's pyro-heavy Dream Within A Dream Tour, which first came to Toronto's Air Canada Centre last November, returned to the area last night to play in front of a sold-out crowd at the Copps Coliseum.
Like that earlier ACC show, thousands of her screaming, mostly young female fans were treated to plenty of video vignettes, flames, explosions, and fireworks. And that was just during the opening song, a rocked-up verison of Oops I Did It Again.
Still, to be fair, it did feel like the explosions had been toned down considerably since their laughable frequency at the ACC show.
Elsewhere, however, it was almost the exact same concert - right down to the set list.
``What's up Canada?'' Spears screamed early in the evening and that was about as orginial as her stage banter got.
The night was big on costume changes - anything tight and midriff bearing all the better. Plus add in the aforementioned effects with green laser lights and confetti, and props - including a rotating wheel platform on which Spears was strapped to, hidden trap doors out of which she would appear and disappear, a giant ballerina jewelry box out of which she emerged to sing Born To Make You Happy, and an elevated moving platform on which she and four dancers performed I Love Rock n' Roll.
Oh, and did I mention the non-stop dancing with the ever-strutting Spears and her eight-person troupe making full use of the long catwalk for almost every song?
Just last week, Spears topped Forbes' list of the world's 100 most powerful celebrities pulling in a cool $70 million in the past 12 months, drawing over 10 cover stories and attracting nearly one million hits on her Web site.
She starred in her first feature role earlier this year, playing a sweet girl wholoses her virginity on a road trip with two friends in Crossroads. Spears also made one of the most talked about commercials with a Pepsi ad that aired during the Super Bowl.
Personally, however, there's been more bad news than good.
Last month there was some suggestion Spears might cancel her tour after her mother started divorce proceedings against her father.
And the breakup of Spears and her longtime boyfriend Justin Timberlake of NSYNC earlier this year has also taken its toll on the pop singer.
But she was all smiles last night, singing (lyp-synching?) her little heart our for an hour-and-a-half making sure to include all the familiar songs and trying in vain to keep her beautiful, long, blond hair off her pretty, if sweaty, face.
The only time that Spears let on that life has been personally difficult was when she trotted out a new bluesy song as she sat on a stool beside her piano player in the middle of the circular stage.
``Honestly, a lot of times, I just feel overwhelmed,'' she said.
Then it was back to the uber hits like the ballads, I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman and Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know.
Phoenix, AZ - America West Arena
PHOENIX --  Despite a few tecnical glitches, Britney Spears' performance Wednesday night in Phoenix came off like a clockwork -- perhaps a little too perfectly for some concertgoers who were watching closely.
Spears delivered an energetic, well-choreographed show spotlighting huge hits, an impressive stage show and a big absence of anything close to spontaneity in her 90-minute set at America West Arena. The 20-year-old pop superstar nailed her challenging dance moves almost robotically as she lip-synched many of the faster songs in her set.
This concert was all about entertainment -- the kind you see on a well-rehearsed music video -- and little about the actual songs. Most in the audience simply stood and watched the Britney spectacle (which is certainly a thing to behold). Few were actually dancing or moving to the music, because that was a secondary consideration.
After all, this was Britney Spears in the flesh, a phenomenon that photographers and talkshow hosts salivate over around the world.
The special effects, including fireworks, simulated rain, flames and lasers, were dazzling -- except for when an elevated platform refused to transport Spears across the arena during her cool cover of Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'n' Roll. Spears was supposed to end up jumping onto bungee cords after the fireworks-spewing platform dazzled the audience. A few in the crowd murmured as the song ended and Spears and her dancers were unceremoniously rescued from the platform via stepladder.
But Spears' undeniable star power was on full display. Her dozen costume changes, which ranged from skin-tight spacesuit to hip-huggers and midriff-baring shirts to jungle bikini to glittering evening gown, drew as much reaction from the crowd as her musical selections.
In fact, Spears' Dream Within A Dream show has varied minimally since she took it on the road a year ago. Wednesday's performance veered little from her HBO concert special in November.
The many faces of Spears appeared, from music-box ballerina in a medley of older hits, including Born To Make You Happy and Sometimes to the semi-raunchy temptress in Boys to the complex character of I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman to the retro hippie chick of Anticipating. She delivered them all with a cool precision that begged the question: Was this just one more show on the factory line, or did Phoenix register in its own way? (Don't hold your breath for a "yes" answer to the latter query.)
There was a little for all the age groups at this show (give Spears credit, she pulls 'em in from age 5 to 50): the cute girl driving a cute car across the stage, the provocatively -- clad young woman complaining about being Overprotected and the prom-date vision on the smoking pedestal begging Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know.
The shooting flames and loud fireworks that Spears brought to a Las Vegas date last month were noticeably dialed back, due either to technical problems or the fact that they scared some preteens at the earlier show.
Fortunately, the cutting-edge choreography, which included dancer Brooke Lipton of Phoenix, was not reined in. Spears' and her eight-person troupe threw down some of the most precise dance moves in pop music today. Costume and set changes for both the star and her dancers kept this aspect fresh throughout the evening.
Spears' did a respectable job of singing I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman, initially accompanied only by piano, but when her six-piece band kicked in, it sounded as if piped-in vocals may have been added. After the concert, some in the audience agreed that it appeared that many of the vocals had been synthesized, but they voiced satisfaction with the overall entertainment value.