March 24, 2004
Colonial Center - Columbia, SC


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Skye Sweetnam:

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Skye Sweetnam – get used to the name. The 15-year old Canadian is on her way to replacing the Avrils of the world. It’s just a matter of time. The sprightly singer was a cross between TV actress Leah Remini and Berlin’s Terri Nunn. She was flirty, flaunty and fun. Her album’s due to be released this summer and when it does, maybe the bubblegum market place will see that there’s more to music than pre-packaging. Skye wrote and recorded her own songs before signing and it shows. She can even make all the adolescent clichés feel fresh again (“Boys Suck”). Thankfully, she has a clear awareness of a time when pop music was interesting. This is new wave, retro cool for the Nickelodeon set. The lone cover was a pumped up version of Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” and that fit right in with originals like “Billy S.” It’s a wonder to see a teen performer who knows the value of D.I.Y. and actually performing live! Dare I say it? The Skye’s the limit for Sweetnam.

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“Brit-nee,” “Brit-nee” shouted the crowd in anticipation before the lights even went down. These people were riled up and excited. The biggest star in the world is in town and she’s bringing the most outrageous tour of the year with her. What’s not to be excited about? Even if you don’t like her music, the show’s bound to be killer, right? Well, not exactly. The Onyx Hotel Tour is a confused mixed metaphor of a show (why does a hotel even need a ringmaster?) that doesn’t show any significant growth for the performer despite promises and hype to the contrary. It started off with enough promise. “Toxic” was a flaming (no pun intended), punchy dance number that set itself apart from the routine to come but doing a jazzy, burlesque medley of “Baby One More Time” and “Oops, I Did It Again” does not make them sound any less expired than that pair already has become. The concert was expectedly over the top, but there was nothing that hasn’t been done better by…well…everyone that’s ever put on one of these Vegas rock spectacle shows. You want a fun show? Go see Cher or Bette Midler. They do this shtick better than Britney could dream. Of course, it’s painfully clear that Britney wants desperately to be Madonna. That showed during the orgy-lite scenes and the guy-on-guy dancing, but certainly not in the music. Unfortunately, Britney doesn’t realize the need for material. By the time Madonna had been around as long as Britney, she’d gone from “Holiday” to beyond “Like A Prayer.” That was growth and ambition. Britney’s only ambition seems to be to remain in the public eye. To that end, she wore progressively less as the show went on, at one point stripping down to a nude bodysuit to spend some “quality time” with herself in a bathtub for “Touch Of My Hand.” It all seemed desperate and sad. Britney occasionally smiled, but more often than not, she was more like an animatronic exhibit at Disney World than a real live person. That’s fitting, I guess, since she spent her formative years as a Mouseketeer. To top it off, as far as I could tell, she didn’t sing a note all night. I expected some miming but not the whole show. At least it was funny to note to those who thought she was actually performing that her head set mic was over her nose. I know she’s nasal, but please! Near the end, things picked up. “I’m A Slave For You” was what the whole show should’ve been. It was surprisingly fierce and “Boom Boom” closed with a pyrotechnic flurry. It should’ve ended there. The (pun fully intended) anti-climactic encore of “Me Against The Music” was nothing more than another let down. Instead of taking this mixed up “hotel” on the road, Britney should’ve been looking for Geppetto.

(Chris McKay /

 Britney Spears:

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