If there was one thing that was made perfectly clear at the Miley Cyrus Wonder World Contert Tour debut in Portland, it's that Hannah Montana is no more. Miley has clearly hit a turning point in her life and career where she's stopped being a child actress performer and is starting to explore her blossoming adulthood. It's that transition when a teenager slams their door and instead of hearing Avril Lavigne emanating from the room, you hear Led Zeppelin. This period of time is exciting, wonderful, awful, painful and confusing, which in many ways is captured in the immense spectacle that is Miley's concert tour.
Changing costumes with almost every number, Miley seemed to be trying on dozens of different looks, perhaps to see which best reflected herself. Musically this frenetic change of styles was also apparent. The show bounced around from rock to pop to ballad and then into songs which seemed to blend all those styles into one. It's entertaining to watch but you get the real sense that Miley isn't quite sure who exactly she's becoming.
Miley was very clear about who she isn't. In the hour and a half set, Miley barely touched any of the songs which made her a success, only flirting with the Hannah Montana library with a very sexed-up version of Girls Night Out and a nice rendition of The Climb. She seemed to steer very far away from her signature Hannah Montana theme song, something I think really disappointed the rather young audience.
There's no denying that the Miley Cyrus concert tour is a grand spectacle. Each song seemed to be accompanied by some sort of massive set piece and with ten dancers and constant and elaborate choreography; the show was a constant feast for the eyes. Miley Cyrus deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this accomplishment. The complexity of the staging and the sheer amount of choreography (not to mention the constant costume changes) would be a huge challenge even for the most seasoned of performers. Miley Cyrus tackles this aspect of her show masterfully and should be commended for it. Unfortunately, musically she didn't match the grand spectacle. It's not that Miley is a poor performer – when she hits the mark, she's got a solid voice, great stage presence and wonderful connection with the audience. I just don't think the bulk of her material is all that great. There are some real stand-outs among her work including her new hit Party in the USA, The Climb (the theme song from The Hannah Montana Movie) and When I Look at You (which is the theme from her upcoming 2010 film, The Last Song). The rest of the songs she performed never really break out and tended to fall a little on the dull side.
Miley Cyrus put to rest any question that she can rock, with a fantastic cover of Joan Jett And The Blackhearts 'I Love Rock N' Roll' which she sang while riding a motor cycle that was lifted up over the audience and flown through the air. It was frustrating to hear that she does have the talent, even to rock, but not the real material to back that up. Another frustrating moment came during a transition between numbers where Miley and the dancers teased with a short bit of the Thriller dance; I would have loved to see her cover Michael Jackson, but the number was only a quick tease and Miley did not sing.
Throughout the 90 minute show, Miley changed her costumes a dizzying 10 times. Most of the costumes were skin tight and accentuated her breasts. This sexually forward side to Miley might have been a bit of a shock to the parents of the younger kids in the audience who came to see 'Hannah Montana'. My daughter, who is 10, even commented on how much Miley showed off the fact that she's got breasts (it was that noticeable). Despite this obvious display of her blossoming sexuality, Miley kept her show fairly tame. Rather than shock or put off her audience in some sort of rebellion, she simply declared her womanhood and burgeoning sexuality.
Miley Cyrus on Tour catches a young artist at a real intersection in her career. There seems to be a dynamic performer emerging from the bubblegum pop child star she once was. Hopefully after this tour she'll be able to have some real time to work with a producer and song writers who can see her talent and bring out the best of it, because without a solid foundation of music under her, all the spectacle in the world won't be enough to ignite her career and carry her beyond Hannah Montana.
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