Yeah, that’s right. Had enough of SXSW coverage and all that damn hipster music? Armed with photo pass and camera and ready and willing to destroy any last vestige of my music-snob credibility, I joined thousands of fans, parents and curious observers for the biggest concert in town last night, Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls at the Verizon Center.

Photos of the Pussycat Dolls are in this Flickr gallery; for contractual reasons I have to post the Britney Spears photos right here on the blog, so you’ll find a huge number of photos after the jump, as well as some brief thoughts on the little bit of the show that I saw.

Given that listening to a Britney Spears concert is no different than listening to a Britney Spears CD—no music is actually played live as far as I can tell—there is obviously a huge emphasis placed on visuals. This concert was a monstrously over-the-top spectacle, even for the three songs I was allowed to photograph. A 15-minute circus act (acrobats, dancers etc) preceded the show proper, which kicked off with Spears being lowered from the rafters. It only got more ridiculous from there. This was one hell of a well-produced show, with 20 dancers onstage (or in the air) with Spears at all times, all kinds of props, pyro, video interludes, costume changes between every song, a bizarre S&M theme for the first couple songs… the works.

It’s arguable whether or not things were ever different, but for several years now (especially since Blackout) Spears has been little more than a delivery mechanism for other people’s songs. With her vocals auto-tuned into robotic oblivion, the only thing remaining for her to contribute are her dance moves. At least for what I saw, she was actually upstaged in that department by The Pussycat Dolls, who seemed more energetic, their choreography less dependent on gimmicks and elaborate props. This is kind of amazing considering that they were absolutely awful when I saw them open for Christina Aguilera a couple years ago—yes, I have a bit of history of going to concerts like this.

In fact, I’ll quote my review of that show, equally applicable to this one even though I only saw a bit of it:

Overall, this show was something that was definitely worth seeing once, if only for the ridiculous, gaudy spectacle of it all… It was really fascinating to see major-label corporate music in all its “glory” — I’ll always be much more comfortable in a dingy rock club or a tiny jazz club, but seeing what the majority of the country thinks of when they think of “live music” was quite the eye-opener.

(A final aside: one criticism people level at current-day Spears is that she doesn’t look like she did 10 years ago, and that’s one I vehemently disagree with. Of course she doesn’t look like she’s 18 anymore. She actually looks like a real person now, fit but not model-skinny, which is surely a healthier example for the mobs of teenage girls attending her shows.)

Click on any of the thumbnails below for a full version. Please do not re-use these photos.