NEW ORLEANS – When Britney Spears kicks off her first tour in five years, it may seem as if she's picking up where she left off in 2004: She'll be promoting a platinum album with a grandiose stage show, a chiseled body and elaborately choreographed moves on display.
But whereas her last tour was more like a coronation, Spears' "The Circus" tour - which starts Tuesday night at the New Orleans Arena, in her home state of Louisiana -marks another step in the ongoing rehabilitation of Spears' image and her career.
PICTURE BOOK: Britney's last five years, in nursery rhyme form.
In the past five years, Spears has gone through more tumult than many endure in a lifetime: She's been married and divorced, had two kids, gone to rehab, gone through a custody battle, found herself briefly committed, and been so out of control that her father, Jamie Spears, was appointed by a court to oversee his daughters' personal and professional affairs indefinitely.
But over the past year, Spears' life and career has rebounded. Her "Circus" CD, released in December, has already sold more than 1.3 million copies, and she's had two hits off the CD, the No. 1 "Womanizer" and the top five "Circus."
Spears comeback has been carefully orchestrated, beginning with well-received appearances on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" last year to her comeback appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards last fall following her disastrous performance on the awards show in 2007. She has given few interviews, and those that have been granted have been heavily managed.
Tuesday's "Circus" tour, which takes her to 27 cities in the United States before heading to Europe in June, is her biggest opportunity to connect with her still formidable fan base. The tour is to feature a mix of her new material and some of the hits that made her one of the world's top-selling artists.
On Monday, MySpace Celebrity released snippets of video that gave a glimpse into what her show would look like: The circus-themed extravaganza includes dancers dangling from high wires, sultry dance moves and whip-wielding Spears dressed as the ringmaster, finally in control of her own circus.