Based solely on the celebrity response, you'd have to think that Britney Spears' Femme Fatale show last night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was pretty damn unassailable. However, Shirley Halperin of the Hollywood Reporter was certainly able to find fault with the performance, saying that the singer "doesn’t quite have that spring in her dance step anymore" and "requires a constant barrage of visual distractions while she mostly lip-synchs along to her hits." It wasn't a totally negative review—Halperin also calls the show "entertaining" and salutes most aspects of the general production—but it was mostly less than complementary of Spears herself, concluding that while seeing her live still invites a rush of nostalgia, her present state is "a stark reminder of how harsh the present can be."
One would expect that Britney's fans would be suitably irked by such a review, but perhaps the fan who took the critique the most to heart was Britney's own manager, Adam Leber. A few hours ago, Leber went on a tear tweeting his response to the review, citing numerous minor factual inaccuracies with the review (what exact costume Britney was wearing during what song, whether she was sitting or standing, etc.) as evidence that Halperin didn't know what she was talking about, ultimately challenging her "Were you even in attendance?" Leber continued to say that Halperin was in the overwhelming minority in her opinion, and that nearly all other responses to the Femme Fatale have been positive ones:
Most importantly,the only reviews that matter are already in.The fans overwhelmingly LOVE the show and they tend to get their facts straight— Adam Leber (@AdamLeber) June 21, 2011
But how valid is this defense? It's true that for the most part, fan response to the show has been positive, but fans are the least impartial group of critics possible, their opinions likely set from the first time they plunked down that sizable amount of cash for their tickets. A more reliable gauge of fan approval for the tour is whether the fans are buying tickets to it at all—and as reported by Hitfix, sales for some show dates have been so slow going that Live Nation has started selling them in heavily discounted deals on Groupon, including 1400 tickets for the Sacramento that went for nearly half price.
And as for the media sources that Leber cites as having loved the show, only one of the four (Rolling Stone) has any kind of reputation for being objective when it comes to dealing with pop megastars. The other three, particularly Perez, are outlets so dependent on the cooperation of celebrity artists like Britney for their day-to-day content that they would never dare lose their connection with them by giving one of their shows a bad review. And some other critics writing for less-biased institutions, like Matt Kivel of Variety, also had some issues with Britney's performance, while others like Jim Harrington of the San Jose Mercury News, ended up panning the tour altogether. (Leber addresses Harrington's review, but dismisses him as being "50 something" and points out another negligible inaccuracy in his show description.)
Though it seems like certain aspects of Britney's Femme Fatale show—the production values, the songs, how in shape Britney looks compared to performances earlier this year—are drawing praise that's close to unanimous, it looks to us like the tour on the whole hasn't quite been the slam-dunk victory that Leber is trying to portray it to be. And if he plans on mounting a similar Twitter defensive every time a partly negative review of the show is written, it might be a long tour for him.
(For more Femme Fatale tour discussion, be sure to come back tomorrow, when comedian Chelsea Peretti will be checking in for us with her take on the L.A. stop of Britney's tour.)