Early on in her Roberto Cavalli-costumed show at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday, Christina Aguilera fended off her male dancers in the French showgirl portion of the evening by admonishing each to "Slow Down Baby."
The bleach-blonde Betty Boop with the oversized voice would do well to take her own advice. The 26-year-old former Mouseketeer's 90-minute Back To Basics show - named after her self-consciously retro 2006 double CD - was always in a hurry, from its terrific "Ain't No Other Man" opening to its pounding, pugilistic "Fighter" at the finish.
In between, the peripatetic and oft-entertaining production moved from the juke joint (for the faux-gospel "Makes Me Want To Pray") to the circus (for "Nasty Naughty Boy," in which the stiletto-heeled, whip-wielding singer and female dancers teased a male audience member tied to a knife thrower's target) to the Moulin Rouge (for a lusty "Lady Marmalade").
Aguilera rarely wore the same outfit for two numbers in a row, but sang every song with enough high-volume intensity to knock any notion of subtlety out of the barrel-vaulted ceiling arena and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Everybody knows by now that of all the former Mouseketeers to emerge as teen stars at the turn of the century - from Britney to Justin - Xtina is the one with the industrial-strength vocal power. So why does she need to prove it in song after song, bludgeoning even the potentially tender anti-spousal-abuse plea "Oh Mother," until any chance of intimate personal expression is lost?
The scantily clad theme started with Danity Kane, the five-woman, prefab R & B group created by Sean "Diddy" Combs on MTV's Making the Band. The songs were slight, the sound shrill. But the ladies were largely up to holding a microphone with one hand and keeping their T-shirt dresses from climbing above their derrieres with the other.
More impressively slick were the Pussycat Dolls, the stripper-pop sextet fronted by alpha doll Nicole Scherzinger, who wore a Diana Rigg-as-Emma Peel bodysuit with strategic portions removed. "Don't Cha," the Dolls' unfortunately ubiquitous signature hit, is a mean-spirited taunt at heart, but at Boardwalk Hall it became bonding material for the largely female audience. Middle-aged moms and 14-year-old girls joined together to sing "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" in PCD solidarity.
Aguilera, Danity Kane and the Pussycat Dolls are scheduled to play the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia tomorrow.