Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 | 3:01 p.m.
Pop princess Britney Spears proved that she’s still reigning royalty in the music world when she kicked off her two-year “Britney: Piece of Me” residency Friday night in the new Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood.
For 100 sizzling and satisfying minutes, Britney fired off a barrage of 24 nonstop hits and new songs from her eight platinum albums, danced up an athletic storm and had the 4,600-seat audience on its feet, including a galaxy of stars cheering her on, among them Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Sia, Selena Gomez, Mel B, Serena Williams, Adam Lambert, Kellan Lutz, DJ Pauly D and Mario Lopez.
In Miley’s case, she went “crazy for Britney” with her own dance-along, twerk-along, grind-along, sing-along and scream-along hi-jinks. Britney’s mother, father, sister, two sons and new boyfriend David Lucado also were in the VIP booth area alongside the stars.
It was an amazing and incredible accomplishment because in less than two hours, Britney changed the look of our Strip entertainment scene. For the first time, she single-handedly brought the spectacle of a touring arena show into a nightclub-like theater and pulled off the gamble with a flawless performance.
It was the ultimate Las Vegas spectacular of an over-the-top EDM fest with the marriage of massive music videos to the look of Cirque du Soleil performers. Add the special effects of pyrotechnics, falling rain, driven snow, thunderclaps and two aerial stunts by Britney, and this was a visual feast of the senses. The video walls for the ornate, richly crafted “Circus” set were incredible; nothing like it has ever been seen before.
To shrieks and cheers, Britney arrived in eye-popping fashion — and departed suspended in a golden circular cage. But when she lowered from the ceiling as a snow angel with giant white wings among falling flakes for “Everytime” and “Baby One More Time,” the exuberant emotions were muted in respected wonder. However, it was her near-finale bungee leap 30 feet from the mobile Tree of Life through a curtain of rain that really supercharged the audience.
That wasn’t the only rip-roaring action. She performed inside a ring of fire, high-kicked her way across the 100-foot stage and sang close up to VIP booths at the edge of the anchor-shaped stage that surrounded two general-admission mosh pits. I don’t think I have ever seen in my life more cell-phone cameras flashing like the lasers of the enormous projection walls taking photos and videos.
The 32-year-old mother of two, looking in tremendous physical shape, proved naysayers wrong by looking as fresh after the performance as she did to start it. The sexy gym set using a parallel bar and triangular cages was a choreographed precision workout in its own right.
Fit as a fiddle doesn’t even begin to do her aerobics justice because she was onstage running, jumping, dancing, somersaulting and flying the entire time, save a few minutes for her seven costume and three wig changes, including a glow-in-the-dark sheer leotard and a laced-up spike bustier.
She hasn’t looked this hot in ages and certainly doesn’t need cosmetic makeup for her body, as critics claim, and our spectacular stage photos by Denise Truscello and David Becker of WireImage prove it.
It’s incredible that the sound booth engineers leave her mic on during the show. You can hear her breathing and gasping for air. Yes, there are backup tracks when she’s going through the physically grueling portions of a routine, but that’s Britney singing purely solo in her intimate moments, such as during “Perfume” with her four-piece backing band. She opens the night in a skin-tight, white-sequined bodysuit for “Work Bitch,” both from her new album “Britney Jean.”
Britney Spears Piece of Me/Richard Corey
Britney Spears Piece of Me/Christopher Rauschnot @24kMedia on Twitter
Director Baz Halprin told me post-show: “I have never seen a modern pop artist so disciplined and dedicated to achieving the best. There’s no doubt that she is a perfectionist. She worked every day the last four months without break or rest to deliver that perfection.
“We set out to change what a Las Vegas stage show could look like, and she has certainly succeeded. That was our mission — to have something completely different — and she accomplished that. You can see with what she achieved tonight just how hard she worked for this success.
“I have directed many shows, and this is both the hardest and greatest dancing show of them all. She’s now leading the charge for younger pop artists to take up new-look residency shows in Las Vegas. It’s a revolution, and she’ll get the credit for it.”
Britney even sings “I Wanna Go” with six self-image holograms in one boxed mirrors segment, and her 14 spandex-strong ninja army of military precision dancers — sometimes masked — spin in circular spheres as flames rage. It’s a constant-motion dance marathon amid lavish sets that boggles the mind! “Simply amazing,” a number of Las Vegas dancers told me.
Will.I.Am, Britney’s video co-star from “Scream and Shout,” makes an appearance via new video. During “Get Naked,” Miley was seen grinding and giving face time to the dancers who ran through the theater, startling some of the audience. Miley was so into the crazy of it, I thought she was going to be dragged up onstage for some twerking.
However, after “I’m a Slave 4 U,” it was nearby booth mate Mario Lopez from “Extra” who wound up onstage for “Freakshow” as Britney went looking “for a hottie” for the saucy, lingerie S&M number. It could have been Adam, but she chose Mario, had him cuffed and chained into a harness and led him on all fours on her leash to crawl the stage.
Afterward, Mario told me: “That was a lot of fun and totally unexpected. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen to me. I hope it all looked OK for the fun of it.”
The platinum production reached fever pitch with “Toxic,” “ Stronger” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy” as Britney flew in the air for the finale. For the encore of “Till the World Ends,” rain poured down over her dancers as she went airborne again, exiting in her circular golden cage.
Everybody I asked on the way out used one word to describe the show: “Amazing!” Pauly D told me, “Amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it.” It truly was an amazing production with amazing choreography and amazing video projections — and Britney herself was amazing.
I loved the fact that here was Britney performing in the presence of Miley, Katy and Selena almost as their teacher and mentor who blazed the path to make their own careers so phenomenal. If I had any constructive comment, it would be to slightly lessen her dancing overload and chat a little more with the audience to improve the close-up intimacy.
Moments after the show, Britney summed it up best herself via Twitter: “Wow! That was amazing! The perfect audience for the first show. I love you, Vegas!”
Britney is set for 100 shows, 50 each year through 2015, at the Axis at Planet Hollywood. This first run continues into February, and tickets are already on sale for the April-through-September shows.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Catering to the young and modern crowd, Planet Hollywood is a one-stop shop for entertainment with its massive shopping mall, slew of restaurants, spacious casino and clubs.
The ambiance of the casino is retro-chic meets high-tech with black granite floors throughout and colorful LED lights throughout the space. The theme carries into the 100,000 square-foot casino with 250 flat screens topping off slot machines. The casino is also home to 87 tables, a sports book and a poker room.
There's also the Miracle Mile Shops, one Vegas' largest malls, with 140 stores including BCBG Max Azaria, bebe, Urban Outfitters and The Discovery Channel Store.
Following an afternoon of shopping, guests can satisfy their appetites at one of the gourmet restaurants in Planet Hollywood, like the non-traditional approach to steakhouses at Strip House or check out the exotic Far East motif at KOI restaurant and lounge. And if guests are still looking for more, they can spend the after hours at Privé, Triq or Krave nightclubs.
Perhaps one of the resorts biggest attractions came in March with the addition of "Peepshow." The naughty twist on the story of Little Bo Peep is modern-day spin on the run-of-the-mill Vegas topless review. The "Peepshow" stage has seen visiting celebs like Scary Spice Mel B, "Dancing with the Stars" Kelly Monaco and Playboy's Holly Madison.