Miley Cyrus US Airways Center 2/27/14
It was a pot -- and pop -- lover's paradise at 21-year-old Miley Cyrus' packed-house Bangerz tour stop Thursday night in Phoenix.
Concertgoers walked in to see multi-colored balloons hanging from the ceiling and covering giant fixtures throughout US Airways Center. The smell of marijuana permeated the air around the mostly high school-aged crowd (gasp). Trippy Dalí-esque animation and Ren & Stimpy-like cartoons played in the background during the show. And, of course, Cyrus donned a sparkly green ganja leaf onesie, complete with pot bling and a marijuana necklace she proceeded to wring between her legs.
Judging from one of Cyrus' fans, maybe a high school freshman, wearing a sparkly pot bra in a section near the front, it was just what the audience wanted. Good thing not many parents showed up to the concert, which has come under fire for its raunchiness since its debut.
The show started off as a stoner's dream, with brightly colored plushies dancing around the simple stage with a giant screen backdrop. As Cyrus' face appeared on the screen, a door appeared, and a giant tongue slide brought Cyrus to the stage for her screaming fans as balloons fell into the crowd.
She started off the show with two of her best songs off her current album, Bangerz, the title track and "4x4." This was a really energetic way to kick off the concert, with Cyrus dancing in glittery cowgirl boots with a slew of backup dancers (including 6-foot-7 burlesque dancer favorite Amazon Ashley and a little person) and a full band. She dropped the F-word right away to hype up the crowd and set the tone for the night. Forget Hannah Montana forever.
She scurried off for a costume change, one of about a dozen throughout the night, to appear back on stage atop a gold car with spinning rims, dressed in that pot get-up. The crowd, waving around foam fingers and wearing mouse one-piece swimsuits, a la Cyrus' infamous 2013 MTV Video Music Awards performance, and T-shirts declaring "Eat. Sleep. Twerk." gobbled it up.
Cyrus' stage setup was perfect. It wasn't overly complicated, where it didn't leave room for lots of improvisation and crowd interaction, but it was still visually hypnotic, as there was always something bizarre going on. There was a horse, a giant wolf, a bed where backup dancers crawled out of it, and colorful costumes galore -- including the little female backup dancer dressed as a joint.
Cyrus had a lot to juggle, with all the costume changes, but she still made time to take selfies on fan phones and show off her human side, like when her monitor fell out. "I lost one of my ears," Cyrus said, "that's how fucking hard I'm going for you guys."
She definitely went hard, especially when it came to sticking her tongue out at convention or the thought of being a role model for all the young ladies in the audience. She did plenty of touching herself you-know-where, she slapped her backup dancers' behinds without a care, and showed off more lower-body skin than you'd see on the beach. But, hey, she was just being Miley.
"This is not like any other show you're going to go to," Cyrus said, before explaining if she saw you sitting down, she'd command you to get up. She didn't have to worry about that much during the show, though. Even when she performed a string of stripped-down covers by Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and Outkast, she still energized the crowd by moving to the back of the arena and showing those fans some love -- and her bum.
One of the most prominent fans to feel the love at the show was Matt Peterson, the local viral sensation who asked Cyrus to be his date to his high school prom.
Cyrus brought Peterson, who created his own foam finger sport coat, on stage to deliver her a corsage, before slow dancing with him as she sang "Adore You." Though Cyrus ultimately denied the offer because of her tour, before the show, Peterson took pictures with dozens of girls, so he seems to be doing just fine.
The most striking thing about the show, besides the eye-popping visuals that would have been greatly enhanced by a high, was Cyrus' genuine interest in her fans. There's a reason why she sells out arenas -- she truly tried to make honest connections, whether that was making sure everyone in the arena could see her well, or putting on any T-shirt or hat thrown to her by fans. It was moments like those that made it evident Cyrus, at heart, is just a young adult who wants to have fun and make new friends.
Sure, she may have caused the few parents in the audience to gasp when she admitted to being "a little gay" or inserted, "You stupid bitch, I never trusted you anyway," into "Jolene." But she's still someone who has experienced heartbreak, as she mentioned in a couple of engagement references, and someone who is really silly, as she demonstrated by riding a giant hot dog during the heartwrenching ballad "Someone Else."
"The louder you scream, the higher I get. And the higher I get, the happier I am," Cyrus yelled. And despite the critical backlash she's been experiencing in some cities, at least Cyrus' vocals were strong and on point, and the fans in Phoenix were more than happy to scream loudly back.
Personal Bias: I'm almost in my '30s, and, yes, I bought Miley Cyrus' most recent album and several of her hits. I'm a real fan.
The Crowd: Probably 95 percent female and mostly high school-aged.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Our hair looks so cute!" the girls in front of me said, referencing their double high bun look in homage to Cyrus, a style seen throughout the arena.
Random Notebook Dump: I've never seen more underage midriffs in my life.
Set List SMS (Bangerz) 4x4 Love Money Party My Darlin' Maybe You're Right FU Do My Thang Get It Right Can't Be Tamed Adore You Drive Rooting for My Baby You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (Bob Dylan cover) Jolene (Dolly Parton cover) Hey Ya! (Outkast cover) 23 On My Own Someone Else Encore: We Can't Stop Wrecking Ball Party in the U.S.A.
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