Remember that concert that made your heart race like a 13-year-old boy on a first date? Sweaty palms, the anxiety of anticipation and no expectations? For me, that concert was Whitney Houston in 1987 at Sandstone Ampitheater in Bonner Springs, Kans. It was her first tour when “How Will I Know?” was a #1 hit. I was so in love with Whitney, but now I know it was simply diva worship. She didn’t dance, she just skipped around the stage and sang her face off. There were others like Madonna, Cyndi, Pebbles, but it was Whitney who always captured my imagination and made my heart race.
So let’s talk about Britney Spears. My heart has never raced for her. Sure, a fantastic dancer once upon a time, lots of well-produced pop songs and dancefloor anthems, but the girl doesn’t sing well, I feel like she’s a product, not an artist, her tabloid life has been one train wreck after another, her irresponsible string of marriages a slap in the face to her gay fans. Lip syncing and half-ass dance moves were my expectation of seeing her perform the Latin America leg of her worldwide Femme Fatale tour. Now I’ll put all my preconceived notions aside and relish in helping my friend Ramses realize his lifelong dream of seeing his Whitney Houston for the first time.
Estadio Unidad La Plata was the venue. It’s where Madonna and U2 played, and it’s an hour outside of Buenos Aires, and we took a bus. It’s a cavernous open stadium that holds more than 50,000 people. It’s three times the size of Madison Square Garden, and it’s nearly packed. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than being in the throngs of that mass of people on the floor. People were being pulled from the crowd by paramedics from heat exhaustion during the opening act, Almost Angels, the Argentinean version of High School Musical. Yes, I’m really here.
While the faux Angels performed, a number of Argentine celebrities made there way in and out of the crowd and it was fascinating to see fans swarm all over the floor to wherever the latest celebrity popped up. I gathered the Argentine are starved for celebrity sightings, and they are a screaming people. Wow, it was loud. With great relief, I witnessed it all from the stands, above the fray. Finally, at 9 p.m., lights out and Brit Brit appeared singing “Hold it Against Me.” As expected, lip sync, uninspired dancing ensued. “3” was fun, as was “Piece of Me.” “Big Fat Bass” is a great song, but by this point, it became a game to sip my Quilmes every time Britney sat down. It’s like her entire choreography was designed around where should could sit on her big fat bass. Ok, that’s not fair. Britney looked gorgeous and her body was in top form, perfect. The constant sitting and singing was just really, really amusing.
“Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know” was her only ballad and she sang it from a swing that moved up and down, with a trapeze artist dangling from it. I think this was the one song where she had to really sing. She did alright and the crowd loved it as they sang along. My favorite moments were when she was relieved from having to dance and just bounce like a pogo stick. “I Wanna Go” was a great moment. Not only an excellent song, but her dancers brought up a number of fans to dance with her. While she was still guarded by her real dancers, it was cool to see her more relaxed and it seemed as if she was having more fun. “Boys” was Ramses’ favorite moment and one of his favorite songs. “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” the Rihanna cover of “S&M” and “I’m a Slave 4 U” were all fun. She saved the best for her encore, which featured “Toxic” and my all-time favorite Britney song, “Til the World Ends.”
In the end, I gained a little more respect for Britney, mostly because she inspires a lot of excitement the way Whitney Houston did for me when I was a teenager. So Britney’s not the best singer. Whitney’s not the best dancer. They’ve both have had their fair share of troubles, as we all have, so who the hell am I to criticize Britney? There was a kid in front of me wearing a Britney Spears t-shirt that he had made. I’ve never seen a happier kid, clapping off beat, both arms flailing uncontrollably, like two overzealous fist pumps, dancing like no one was watching him, and singing along to every word. Normally, that kid would have annoyed me to high heaven, but not tonight. He was a reminder of why I love music and the thrill live music gives people like me. Keep on dancing kid, until the world ends.