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Review: Over the Big Top

Britney Spears pop-rocked the Alerus Center on Saturday night in an over-the-top Big Top performance that had everything -- leather-clad acrobats descending from the ceiling, sexy scantily clad dancers and an amazing-looking star -- but very litt...

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Britney Spears performs Saturday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Herald photo by SARAH KOLBERG.

Britney Spears pop-rocked the Alerus Center on Saturday night in an over-the-top Big Top performance that had everything -- leather-clad acrobats descending from the ceiling, sexy scantily clad dancers and an amazing-looking star -- but very little live music.

Still, who cares? Lip-syncing or singing live, she had the audience right where she wanted them, thrilled and screaming at her "Circus" show.

And what a show. Openers Kristinia DeBarge and Jordin Sparks together spent less than an hour on stage. Then, after a 20-minute countdown on a huge LCD video screen in the round, and about 10 minutes of amazing circus acrobatics and martial arts dancers, fans greeted Britney with loud, frantic cheering as she descended from the rafters on a glittery platform. It was about 9:30 p.m.

She was dressed in a black hooded robe, which two dancers promptly removed, exposing her sparkly dress and black knee-high leather boots. Spears looked curvy and gorgeous, and the first glimpse of her newly toned self sparked another wave of screaming and yelling from the crowd.

Britney started the show with "Circus," the title track from her newest album, surrounded by highly skilled dancers and acrobats. What she was doing was more along the lines of strutting with occasional hair tosses more than a dancing routine.

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Her second song, "Piece of Me," showed her inside a cage on the stage as newspaper headlines alluding to her tabloid past flashed on the video screen. The crowd seemed in awe of the spectacle. Between dancing, stunts, elaborate costume changes and even a video introduction by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, sometimes it was hard to decide what to watch first.

Britney in a gilded cage, dragged from one end of the stage to the other by men in what most resembled S&M garb. Britney disappearing into a magician's booth in one costume, then reappearing seconds later at another end of the stage in a different costume. Britney, singing for real this time, in a tiny purple bra, cut-down denim jacket and black leather pants so tight and low on her hips, they must have been painted on.

After a slow song, Britney brought the dance mood back to her performance when she launched into the pulsing beat of "Freak Show." Extra dancers took the stage, complete with black umbrellas as props to twirl along to the beat.

Later, one lucky guy from the audience was taken on stage, treated by Britney to what looked like the beginning of a lap dance. Before it got too touchy-feely, she backed off and the man was returned to the crowd with bragging rights and a great story to tell friends.

The stage show got more dramatic and entertaining. A slower breakdown part of "I'm a Slave 4 U" was highlighted by big bursts of fire.

In a rarity for concerts, Kristinia DeBarge actually began her set a few minutes before the 8:30 p.m. scheduled start time. The 19-year-old rising pop star, clad in sparkly silver, performed only two songs with four male dancers.

Jordin Sparks, who has roots and family ties in the Red River Valley, came on stage wearing a short black skirt and a black UND football jersey sporting No. 80, the number her grandfather, Jim Wiedmann, wore when he played football for UND in the 1960s.

She told the crowd how excited she was to be in North Dakota -- and showed it too by bouncing along to the music.

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By the time the concert was in full force, the seats in the Alerus appeared to be nearly full. There was a lot of space on the floor as fans naturally crowded close to the three-ring circus stage. The love seats that lined the stage, seats that cost $500, were sold out.

Most people in the audience fell into the age 16 to 30 range, and many were women. Some wore jeans, T-shirts and flip-flops, but there were plenty of short skirts and high heels, leggings with tight racer-back tees, and off the shoulder tunics. There was a strong back-to-the-80s vibe.

There was no early word on ticket sales.

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Presented by Spirit Lake Casino and Resort
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Presented by Spirit Lake Casino and Resort