The Circus: Part II / by Deborah Clague

Video from 'The Circus Starring Britney Spears', taken on September 12, 2009 at Alerus Centre, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Review below. View is from the second row in the stands (reserved seating, floor was general admission). Sound quality was poor in person as well because of all the screaming...'cuz hey - it's Britney, bitch.  

Mid-afternoon Saturday, I passed by Alerus Centre and realized that the circus had indeed already begun. Hours before doors opened, concertgoers formed a line that snaked around the buildings perimeter while enterprising businessmen aggressively hawked t-shirts and other unlicensed merchandise. The police presence didn't care - they were too busy escorting a middle-aged man carrying a "Britney Spears is the Anti-Christ" placard off the premises.

From the time I got ready back at our hotel to the time spent walking back to the arena, chants of "Britney, Britney" filled the air. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I felt like I was transported in time to ancient Rome, about to witness a pagan sacrifice or something (instead of more blood the crowd cheering for more blonde). There was Dynasty-level dressage on show with pearls and sateen a plenty. I felt completely underdressed...or should I say overdressed, as there was also an abundance of high heels and short skirts. This was definitely going to be an event to remember, if not for the concert, for the sheer enthusiasm of the fans. 

My seat offered a very good, unobstructed view of the three-ring stage. A countdown started after the opening acts finished their set and as I watched the seconds make their way to "0", I wondered what reincarnation of ultimate pop star I would encounter tonight. There's been Lolita Britney, Pregnant Britney, Gas Station Britney, Pantiless Britney, Bald Britney, Bad Weave Britney, Badder Weave Britney, Britney on a Gurney and, of course, the KFed era which miraculously in retrospect seems downright innocent. I wouldn't have to wait long for my first glance of the tabloid fixation: as various sideshow performers diverted everyone's gaze, a large group of people wearing black cloaks walked past me making their way to the stage including one Ms. Spears. It was the best part of the night and completely humanized her. Here was one of the biggest stars in the world within 5 feet of me just getting ready to do her job like anyone else. 

The concert was your standard pop spectacle with lots of lasers, pyrotechnics and glittery costumes. Britney is well-known for lipsynching so I wasn't expecting much there (but she did appear to belt out a live cover version of "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morisette). I was looking forward to watching her dance, and was disappointed that most of her moves were just hair flips and textbook booty shakes. It wasn't exactly this but it was still nowhere near this. The back-up performers were ace though. I normally never bring a camera to a concert wishing instead to live in the moment, but for some reason this one was different. Watching the show through a viewfinder seemed natural. Perhaps Britney's destiny is truly to live her life through a lens. 

While it was hard to make out most of the songs because of the omnipresent screaming, I also have to fault Alerus Centre. It definitely was not built for concerts. Overall rating: ***1/2 out of *****.