I was having potato soup at a restaurant in our office building last Thursday night when a friend phoned me ever so randomly.
“I have a VIP ticket for you to Britney! Can you cover for us?” she—who works with the telecom brand sponsoring the Manila leg of Spears’ Piece Of Me Tour—squealed.
“What time?” my sore throat-nursing, not-exactly-a-Britney-fan self could just answer. Deadpan.
“Eight!” she said.
I looked at my watch, and it was only 10 minutes before.
Crazy, I told myself, only to later check on Waze how much it would actually take for me to whoosh there if ever I confirmed. Fifty minutes from our Quezon City office, it showed. Concerts featuring international stars usually start late, more so if they’re within the Philippine time zone. Hence, my answer to her invitation, “Pwede.”
All roads—including mine, as it would turn out—led to SM Moa Arena that night. Filipino fans, most of whom were seeing her for the first time, filled the venue fast. A.k.a. “Almost sold out” even with the steep ticket prices—SVIP were at P28,350! Luckily, I got mine for free. Unluckily, though, I went alone with no friend from the immediate audience section in sight.
I actually made it in time for Britney’s opening song, the one where she mentions Bugatti and Maserati. Of course, I knew the pop star’s songs—I listened to “Toxic” and “Me Against The Music” on Myx Daily Top 10 in high school every morning before, strangely, CAT. I didn’t bother knowing a lot of her songs after her head-shaving episode around 2007—or, her entire Blackout album, as my dear friend and Chalk’s editor-in-chief Elaine clarified later. I only got bits of her songs later on in college, the tipar songs I’d come across in college shindigs. The once-insensitive and repulsive side of me had gone on to not care about Britney as a pop culture icon anymore, thinking her motherhood has contributed to her depreciation.
Back to that night, I stood like a tree stump through Britney’s “Work B*itch.” My lonesome yet clingy self was scanning the area for a familiar face to be my concert seatmate. A few steps away, I finally caught one. And then two. Nadine Lustre and James Reid, two subjects I’ve interviewed for several features before. The two of the biggest young stars in the country at Britney’s Piece Of Me. Together.
The crowd roared to welcome the pop star, who in her 25 year-old-career, was only performing at a Manila stage for the first time. Britney, still hawt at 35, was busy lip-syncing to “Womanizer” when I found myself inching my way onto Nadine. The usual beso and greeting happened before I went on to tease James, “I didn’t expect you to be here!”
James coyly smiled, pointing to Nadine, who then answered on his behalf, “Sinamahan nya ko!”
A little after “Break the Ice” and “Piece of Me” (blame research), Britney finally sang something nostalgic to my era, “Baby, One More Time” and “Oops, I Did It Again.” This got everyone in the crowd singing, no, dancing more. Nadine for her part couldn’t even help herself but bust some move. James, meanwhile, was unexcitable. He only got to smile during the few times some fans from the audience asked for a photo-op.
From our area, I watched and then laughed at Nadine who almost always failed getting a good snap of Britney performing. “Everything’s blurred!” we’d tell each other in between trial-and-error shots.
I think it was at “If You Seek Amy” when JaDine told me they were leaving, around 16 numbers and three or four costume changes after she came out on stage. I thought I had gone back to my earlier predicament of watching the concert alone, until they decided to stay and finish the next song.
I’d get to watch the rest of the concert on my own, something both planned and unplanned. I’d get to finally hear her sing my generation-familiar songs like “Stronger” and “You Drive Me Crazy”—which she then finished with an encore of “Till The World Ends.” (“Sa Singapore, walang 'More!’ eh,” a fan behind me even theorized earlier regarding a previous leg.) I still found the concert as enjoyable as it was perplexing—was her lyrics performed with super sexy gyrating supposed to objectify women or men? It remained a beautiful mystery, as I also kept myself busy observing the rest of the baes and bekis of my country dance to their childhood dream.
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Banner image by Jana Jimenez | Special thanks to SMART