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britney spears is back, bitches

Last night, Britney gave her first international performance in five years at Apple Music Festival, and i-D was there to witness the true comeback of a pop icon. Here's nine things we learnt...

by Alim Kheraj
|
28 September 2016, 4:45pm

Apple Music Festival 10, London 2016

Her last few records may have been met with indifference and her recent live performances chastised, but last night at Britney Spears' first UK show in five years, the pop music icon proved that she's got more to give. There's always trepidation when you hear that Britney Spears is performing live, and usually it's completely justified. For the last 10 years, the pop star has hardly delivered when it comes to a live scenario. The move to Las Vegas, the graveyard of pop's great icons, for a two-year residency, Britney: Piece of Me, seemed like a sensible and intelligent way to wrap up a nearly 20-year career that provided the world with monster hits like …Baby One More Time and Toxic.

Yet, three years into her residency and the opposite has occurred. Rather than bowing out gracefully, Britney Spears has, it seems, been reinvigorated. Her latest album, Glory, is the most accomplished collection she's released in years and a string of live TV performances have proved that well, Britney is back. 

1. Britney proved that she was there to work, bitch…
As the show began, pounding bass and a troupe of semi-clothed dancers pound up-and-down the stage before Britney appears complete in full Vegas showgirl attire, including a top hat. "You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work bitch."

And work she did. Filling up the first segment with a string of newer hits, Work Bitch, Womanizer, Break the Ice and Piece of Me, Britney grinds, shakes and sways her way around the stage, expertly hitting each mark and keeping the audience's attention firmly rooted on her.

2. The show was a masterclass in pace and pleasure...
There's no fluff, ceremony and it's light on talking, but Britney brings a little bit of Las Vegas to NW1; it's all about pure pop pleasure. Songs like …Baby One More Time and Oops!...I Did it Again are given gloriously modern and rockier makeovers, amalgamating into one joyous sing along.

3. Although the crowd sorely missed Madonna…
Complete with props, Britney performed her 2003 duet with Madonna, Me Against the Music, nailing the track's high energy choreography. While Madonna's vocal was removed from the rendition, the crowd were relentless when it comes to paying homage to two pop queens, and they sang her part as if Madge was there in the room.

4. Everyone was rooting for Ms. Spears…
The thing about watching Britney Spears live is that you're constantly on edge as to whether she'll pull it off. It's an anxiety that no other popstar can lay claim to; it's uniquely hers. Yet because of this, it's all the more satisfying when the pieces fit together. Minor hiccups like a failed dance move during In the Zone album track Touch of My Hand, a moment of pure erotic bliss, and various lip-synching faux-pas melt away when you see just how much she's loving it. There's a little bit of all of us in Britney, and we love it when she succeeds.

5. Old Glory-ously mixed with new…
Performing two new tracks from latest album, Glory, Britney proved that she still has what it takes to create forward thinking and electric pop music. The bouncy Do You Wanna Come Over? was met with rapturous cheers, the complex dance routine highlighting that the days of Britney's laboured movements are way behind us.

Likewise, new single Make Me… slots perfectly next to sultry classics like I'm a Slave 4 U, and Britney's face during the performance gave away glimmers of pure joy.

Apple Music Festival 10, London 2016

6. Fear not, Britney can definitely perform outside of Las Vegas…
Having seen Britney's show in Las Vegas, I was initially nervous that the comfort of the stage at the Axis theatre in Planet Hollywood might prevent her from fully translating her greatest hits show to a smaller stage. I was, thankfully, proven wrong. In fact, Britney seemed to thrive off the smaller crowd, whose devotion was insurmountable. Yes, audience interaction is at a low and Britney plows through the set with military precision, but last night the star felt less guarded and more self-assure.

7. The finale proved just exactly what Britney Spears is all about…
Closing the show with a quadruple whammy of Toxic, Stronger, (You Drive Me) Crazy, and Till the World Ends, it became apparent as to what a Britney Spears show actually means. If you're looking for high art, then you're in the wrong place; if you're looking for show stopping vocals, you've got the wrong Queen B; if you're craving intimacy and humour, then Adele's your girl.

Instead, a Britney Spears show is to be taken at face value - massive incredible pop songs performed by the woman who recorded them, complete with steamy dance routines, far too many lasers and pyrotechnics. It's all about fun, entertainment and putting on a show.

8. The show was more than just a tie-in with Apple…
For the first time in five years Britney Spears felt ready and willing enough to give a performance that pushed her out of her comfort zone. The size of the venue only made the experience more profound. Rather than a 20,000 capacity arena, 1,700 people (and a live stream) got to see a music legend find her footing and hit the reset button. In what may have been her smallest show in 17 years, the singer paid homage to her past, but ours as well. Then she proved that she's finally ready to take that next step forward.

9. The comeback is upon us…
In her 2008 document, Britney: For the Record, following her highly public personal troubles and the tightly plotted narrative that surrounded the steady re-stabilisation of a celebrity empire, Britney Spears laments the fact that her team keep calling her return to pop music a "comeback".

"I don't really like it when they say 'the comeback'," she claims. "I've been here the whole time. I've taken some time out for myself… I haven't been completely in the spotlight, but I've been doing what I've always done."

It's odd then that almost 10 years later we're still calling the return of the Britney Spears a "comeback". Yet this time, it truly feels like one. 

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Text Alim Kheraj

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