It began as a lark. I think.
I had received a call from a friend I’ll refer to as Steve. No, Neil. Let’s call him Neil. Anyway, the city was trembling with excitement over the upcoming concert by teen idol Britney Spears. Neil insisted I pull some strings to get us a pair of tickets to the show. The way he figured it the two of us should go, the better to understand this latest pop music phenomenon.
So we did, leaving a party hosted by a respected local authority on roots and blues music in order to do so. “Sorry,” we said to all present, “but we have to get to the Britney Spears show.” After we’d left, I’m told, the guest of honour asked where we were really going. Sadly, he was not completely surprised to hear we were going to the Britney Spears show.
And what a thrill it is today to relive that concert with you. One solid hour (or near enough) of material from Britney’s lone album at the time, including the classic …Baby One More Time, plus a loving tribute to her idols Janet Jackson and Madonna. Seated 11 rows from the stage on the floor of the Palladium, moreover, there was little chance that our view of the spectacle would be obstructed by any of the 12-year-olds in front of us. The 12-year-olds directly behind us were less fortunate. The downside — other than a measure of embarrassment — is that we had an unobstructed view of a Britney Spears show. That, and the music itself. Hence, a few songs into the set, I informed Neil that for me, the novelty had worn off. I wasn’t keen on drawing attention to either of us by standing and making our way through the crowd to the exits, but I was willing to give it a go.
“Sometimes, man! We can’t leave before Sometimes,” was the response.
Fine. We’ll stay for Sometimes.
Sometimes was the encore.
Fortunately, Britney had provided distractions in the form of dancers and props. And for Neil and me, one dancer/prop in particular offered some redemption. I thought Britney had introduced her to us as Clarissa; Neil thought the name was Krista. Either way, we were smitten. Shame about the music, though. And no, there was no brush with greatness that night.
Fast-forward a month or two to the MuchMusic Awards in Toronto. (A bash that may well figure into a future Brushes With Greatness episode or two.) In a major coup, Much had secured Britney as the evening’s headliner. (Spotted among the pre-show crowd, rival Christina Aguilera made a point of leaving well before Britney’s appearance.) This, we figured after a few free beers (it’s a pretty great party, if you can stand the live music and the VJs) was our chance to meet Clarissa/Krista. Maybe, we figured, we’d even find out her name. Heck, that might even be an opening.
Somewhere in the Much archives is evidence of our presence at the night’s live telecast. We can be seen rocking out to Len, whose Steal My Sunshine we had come to see as the song most deserving of every award in every category. (I stand by that opinion.) More fittingly, our beers can be seen waving back and forth behind the heads of award winners Our Lady Peace, or I Mother Earth — whichever group won that year. Fortunately, we cannot be seen (or at least I hope not) plotting our meeting with our future dancer friend.
Neil had figured out that there was only one path Britney and co. could take to leave the stage, and that if we happened to be leaning against the wall in that hallway…
Which we did. Remember, beer was free. And plentiful.
Her song (or possibly two songs) completed to an appreciate crowd, Britney dashed off the stage and headed towards us.
“Britney!” one of us (probably not me) called out to the figure walking in front of us. She, if anything, quickened her pace in response and was soon out of sight.
No matter. We weren’t there to talk to Britney anyway. We were there to meet the girl of our collective dreams. And she was about to pass us, accompanied by Brit’s other presumably less-hot dancers.
Neil, in a flash of drunken brilliance, quickly concocted a clever solution to the dilemma presented by trying to address someone by name, despite not knowing her name.
“Krssa!” he slurred. (Come to think of it, he may have been attempting to speak clearly.)
And she stopped. Directly in front of us.
“Yes?” she said with a disarming smile and in a raspy voice that carried the lilt of missed dance practices spent smoking behind the studio.
“Well…” I said, “uh…”
Let me tell you, friend, this was a sobering moment. What could we possibly say that wouldn’t sound far more appropriate coming from any of the 12-year-olds that had been at the Palladium concert? What the hell were we thinking?
No time for analysis, though. Neil took over our introductory remarks, building on my eloquent opening.
“We saw you at the Ottawa show and really admire your dancing,” he offered — though probably not so articulately.
Again she smiled as we struggled to keep those knees from going weak. “Thank you so much,” she said, extending her hand to both of us.
Mission accomplished. Sort of. What was the mission again? Anyway, mystery solved.
Better, she wasted little time in turning to join her fellow dancers as she walked out of our lives forever. This is a good thing.
And, we reckoned, it called for another beer. Or maybe just more Len.