The afternoon downpour that struck Manila Thursday afternoon (Jun. 15) won’t stand against the cries longtime Britney Spears fans cheered for the superstar’s first concert in the country. It was a long day to say the least. Spears had just flown in from Taipei that morning for the sixth show on her Asia tour and was already working it at sound check in the SM Mall of Asia Arena by the time rain started trickling in.

By 9 p.m., waves of fans in matching shirts and daring outfits filled the Arena, sweeping up everything in the merch booth to snatching selfies with celebrities in the crowd. With the little movements of the black curtain on the stage, they all began to scream. Finally, it was actually happening.

Britney Spears performing at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City / Photo by Kara Bodegon

Donning a sparkling green outfit that flaunted her derrière, Spears opened with an eruption into “Work Bitch,” as backup dancers and her 4-piece live band introduced her to the stage. Laser lights illuminated every inch of the Arena as the crowd sang along to the bombastic Britney Jean track that kept everyone on their feet for “Womanizer.”

The singer’s incredible athleticism shone through her dance moves, revealing where her priorities lie: delivering an epic performance that would visually mesmerize rather than exercising her vocal cords throughout the set. “Is she lip-syncing?” a fan asked her friends, but it didn’t seem to matter to anyone until Spears spoke to the audience for the first time that night to break the ice. Her talking voice was loud and shrill, surprising members of the audience with the drastic shift in Spears’s mic levels.

Britney Spears performing at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City / Photo by Kara Bodegon

Lip-syncing or not, the most important thing to her fans was seeing the Princess of Pop in the flesh. It was all they’d been waiting for for nearly two decades, so the night turned out to be more of a celebration that a 35-year-old Britney Spears was in their midst, that she was alive and killing it.

Through a reimagined version of her 1998 debut “…Baby One More Time,” a Madonna-less performance of “Me Against the Music,” bringing in a dancing pole for “I’m A Slave 4 U,” inviting up a white man from Hawaii to join her onstage for “Freakshow” (making it look like he’d been part of the production all along), to an extraneously surprising Missy Elliott hit dance break, Spears ran the night like the pop legend she is.

Britney Spears performing at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City / Photo by Kara Bodegon

Spears performed 24 songs and could’ve easily given the audience at least two hours of her time, but that just wasn’t the case. She’s the total performer, except she barely engaged with the audience beyond a tiny screaming contest she threw against the different sections of the Arena.

Although Spears officially ended with “Till the Night Ends” and confetti cannons shooting from four corners of the venue, it wasn’t over for her fans, as they slowly walked out in a daze chanting the words to “Sometimes” like a choir singing praises to their queen. It was a beautifully hair-raising moment, a wonderful tribute to echo in their hearts into the night.

Britney Spears performing at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City / Photo by Kara Bodegon

Set List:

“Work Bitch”
“Womanizer”
“Break the Ice”
“Piece of Me”
“…Baby One More Time”
“Oops! I Did It Again”
“Me Against the Music”
“Gimme More”
“Scream & Shout”
“Boys”
“Do You Wanna Come Over?”
“I’m A Slave 4 U”
“Make Me…”
“Freakshow”
“Do Somethin'”
“Circus”
“If U Seek Amy”
“Breathe on Me”
“Slumber Party”
“Touch of My Hand”
“Toxic”
“Stronger”
“(You Drive Me) Crazy”
“Till the World Ends”

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