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Concert Reviews:
Aguilera's Show Bigger Than "Basics" At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, April 9, 2007

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AUBURN HILLS -- Eight years ago, Christina Aguilera sang about "What a Girl Wants."

On Monday night at the Palace, she was all about what a girl wants to be.

Aguilera cheerfully played a variety of roles during her 90-minute Back to Basics Tour performance. She was Peggy Lee and Marilyn Monroe, an Andrews Sister and, yes, even a little bit of Madonna. She was a torch singer and a dominatrix ringmaster, a flirt, a vamp and a glamorous '40s vintage starlet, complete with a chaise lounge and feathery boas.

At the heart of things, however, the 26-year-old Aguilera -- a New Mickey Mouse Club contemporary of Justin Timberlake's and Britney Spears' -- is the same powerhouse singer she's been since her debut album came out in 1999. The difference is a new level of sophistication and an image, or series of images, removed from the plain pop starlet of her teenage years.

At Monday's concert, Aguilera, who wore leather (and not much of it) when she last came to town with her 2003 Dirrty Tour, showed an ambition to be a more classic kind of showgirl -- think the Copacabana with brassy rock energy. The 18-song performance may have lacked flow and continuity but it countered with plenty of visual razzle dazzle for the 11,372 fans, including a dozen costume changes for Aguilera and stage sets hat included a juke joint and a circus complete with stilt walkers and fire twirlers. Fourteen of the songs -- some presented as videos only -- came from Aguilera's latest album, "Back to Basics," while some older favorites were recast; "What a Girl Wants" as a reggae romp, "Come On Over" as a slightly messy number.

The show had its sexy moments -- though the how-to-be-a-stripper tutorials were mostly handled in inconsequential opening sets by Danity Kane and the Pussycat Dolls. Aguilera teased rather than titillated, which rendered one tired routine -- bringing a male fan onstage and for a "whipping" during "Nasty Naughty Boy" -- even less effective. And she still didn't quite command the stage, with a tendency to get lost amidst her 12-piece band and the eight dancers that swirled around her on production pieces such as "Back in the Day," "Makes Me Wanna Pray," "Lady Marmalade" and "Fighter."

Tellingly, her most effective moment was an encore rendition of "Beautiful," which Aguilera delivered alone at the front of the stage. Her singing as the show's greatest special effects; the rest was simply...well, whatever this girl wanted this time out.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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