Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Britney Spears return to Belfast is a lesson for holed-up Cheryl Cole

Britney Spears

If Cheryl Cole needs any advice on how to stage a career comeback in the wake of public humiliation, she should look no further than Britney Spears.

While Cole remains holed up in London, licking her wounds following the US X Factor debacle, Spears - who was written off by many critics following a personal meltdown - is gearing up for what she is promising will be her most spectacular world tour yet.

The good news for local fans of the American pop princess is that she is including Belfast on her itinerary this time, playing the Odyssey Arena on October 25.

Spears hasn't performed in the province since her Onyx Hotel tour of 2004 - a few years prior to her high-profile breakdown, which saw her veer from an exciting to erratic star in the space of two years.

She did, however, play at the 02 in Dublin in 2009 with her Circus tour.

But despite many favourable reviews back then, others were left unimpressed by her lip syncing and subdued dancing.

One fan who travelled to Dublin to watch her concert recalled: "It was almost like she wasn't really there. The show was a great spectacle but it just happened to be that Britney was part of it."

They added: "She seemed a shadow of her former self."

Nevertheless, despite this and controversy in Australia, where one newspaper claimed fans had angrily walked out, Circus did mark something of a comeback for Spears and was the fifth highest grossing tour of 2009 by a solo artist.

That's not a bad statistic given her breakdown had been played out for all the world to see.

From as far back as February 2006, when the pop star had been photographed driving with her son, Sean Preston, on her lap and not strapped in a baby car seat, it was obvious she was in a fragile mental state.

Despite her continuing professional success and status as a global pop icon, Spears' behaviour was on a downward spiral.

Following her divorce from Kevin Federline, a bitter custody battle saw Spears being told to hand over her two children to their father.

Her behaviour became more unpredictable. She shaved her head, went out partying all night, was photographed wearing no underwear, was repeatedly hospitalised, and landed in trouble with the police for driving offences.

When she embarked on the Circus tour in 2009, it was hoped the comeback was complete. But sources maintain Spears was still in a delicate state of mind.

Two years on, she has returned with a seventh album, Femme Fatale, which debuted at Number One in the US.

Critics say the record shows her back to her confident best, and, in recent photographs, she looks healthier and fitter than she has done in years.

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