Having spent the last five years watching Britney: Piece of Me, Britney Spears’ Las Vegas residency show, through Instagram stories and shaky YouTube videos, there’s a checklist that mega fans hold in their heads and their hearts and this mega fan here will tell you that that checklist was ticked, underscored, ripped into shreds and then thrown into the air like confetti at her first Dublin show in seven years last night.
Plucking her favourite songs from a back catalogue spanning 20 years and choreographing the show so that every single hair flip of her golden mane is applauded like she just landed a quadruple jump in the final ice skating heat at the Olympics, Piece of Me portrays a Spears that is comfortable in the spotlight again. Kicking off with her 2013 single Work Bitch and reworking the stone-cold classics … Baby One More Time and Oops!… I Did It Again into a mini-medley, she takes us on a high-paced journey of her very best singles and most loved album tracks. And every time she ties up her hair into a ponytail, a move from the coveted checklist that fans have since christened ponyography – we know that she’s feeling it and feeling herself. And we live off that. Like magpies hypnotised by a shiny object, we look for the smallest glimmer of happiness in her movements because you can’t go to a Spears show without worrying that this is what she really wants to be doing with her time.
One of the biggest icons to come out of the great bubblegum pop era of the late 90s, if she was to give it all up tomorrow, it would be totally understandable but she genuinely seems to be thriving right now. When she bought her Femme Fatale Tour to the 3Arena in 2011, it felt as if Spears was simply being guided around the stage by her dancers, either pushed around on props on wheels or carried around by a team of beefy men, but now she is fully back in the game and prowls the stage with ease. Of course, she’s occasionally thrown into the air and flung around to show off just how nimble she’s become. Those yoga Instagram posts of hers aren’t for nothing, you know. Having had every element of her life torn down, there are moments when her confidence feels shaky but this tour has played a huge part in rebuilding her superstar status.
For a Monday night, the 3Arena is pulsating. Knowing that her management picked an attractive man from the crowd to act as her submissive during her performance of Freakshow, an album track from 2007’s Blackout that is now an essential part of her live show, we prepare for the dizzying climax of the night. When the beats of Breathe On Me slink into action, the thousands of heaving, sweating and possibly drunk bodies melt into one, only to fall apart when the jittery Toxic rushes into Stronger, a song that carries a bigger statement now more than ever before. With confetti erupting from the stage – real confetti and not the shreds of paper from our discarded checklists – Till the World Ends closes the show triumphantly.
When it comes to Spears, context is everything and the Piece of Me Tour is a celebration. With her journey to hell and back, Spears earned every right to sneak off to the Philippines, as Piece of Me goes, but she fought back instead. Against all of the odds, this living legend has survived the ever-changing tide of pop music, the cruel glare of the media and – most importantly – she has found a way to succeed in an industry that wrote her off 11 years ago.