If you were an unescorted 15-year-old girl, braving blustery conditions in a teddy bear unitard or glittery hot pants Sunday, the best case scenario was that you were headed to the Tacoma Dome. That's where America’s twerkiest pop star, Miley Cyrus, was unleashing her new Bangerz Tour on the United States, two days after launching it north of the border, in Vancouver, B.C.
For those of you who've been in a coma, Cyrus has gone to great lengths to shed the wholesome image she had last time she headlined the Dome, back in 2009. Then, she was best known for starring in Disney's “Hannah Montana.” Fresh in everyone's memory these days is how she dry humped her way through MTV's Video Music Awards last fall with a foam finger, an army of dancing “furries” and that guy who says he didn’t rip off Marvin Gaye.
Cyrus set a high bar for being gaudy and ridiculous with that TV appearance, yet it paled in comparison to the insanity fans witnessed at the Dome. Her set was a relentless barrage on the senses that was usually entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny.
At worst, though, her shtick felt incoherent, cynical and overly sexual for her youngish fan-base. It was like watching a Lady Gaga performance, stripped of any arty pretense, mashed up with “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Showgirls,” and viewed after ingesting magic mushrooms.
Head … spinning. So much to process. Huh? Was that a giant butt plug on the big screen?
Swedish duo Icona Pop got things warmed up with techno-pop anthems from last year's “This is … Icona Pop” album. It wouldn't be surprising to see them headlining next year based on how enthusiastically fans sang and pogo-hopped through their walk-off delivery of radio hit, “I Love It.”
Half an hour later it was Miley's turn, and she wasn't exactly going for subtlety. The pop star made her entrance sliding down a giant tongue that snaked out of a giant projection of her face. She got the party started with “SMS (Bangerz),” joined by a posse that included dancers in plushy costumes, a little person in latex and an amazon whose main role seemed to be displaying her jiggly booty. (The way Cyrus presented her dancers as freaky props and worst - caricatures of hyper-sexualized black women - was sometimes cringe-worthy.)
Backed by a 7-piece band, the pop star followed her opener with “4 X 4,” and her set got exponentially weirder as it unfolded. A b-boy bobble head joined her for “Love, Money, Party,” as she spun down the cat walk on the hood of a gold lowrider. She serenaded a giant puppet that looked like a cross between Snuffleupagus and an emu with “FU.” And a 30-foot, inflatable husky towered over the stage for “Can't Be Tamed,” one of the few cuts that didn't originate from Miley's “Bangerz” album.
For one of her best tricks, though, Cyrus turned into Justin Bieber. No, really, she and looked eerily like her embattled peer, sporting an oversized t-shirt and glittery, backwards baseball cap when she and her band reappeared on a secondary stage midway through the show. Thankfully, she provided a couple of crotch shots for anyone who might have been confused.
“I'm too early in my tour to take my panties off now,” she teased after “Rooting for My Baby.” You know, because it's all about the art with her.
That was during the semi-unplugged part of the set which actually included a couple of decent covers: a pedal-steel infused riff on Outkast's “Hey Ya” and a run at her godmother, Dolly Parton's, “Jolene.”
Miley seemed to be singing without the aid of a vocal track, unlike many of her pop peers, and the latter was a bold choice. But she pulled it off, and later she soared on her own ballads. She took a bow with “Someone Else,” or rather she floated off stage straddling a big hot dog. (Get it?) Soon she returned for the first of two encores, which kicked off with hit single “We Can't Stop.” (Mindless party anthem or cautionary tale? You decide.) Then there was her dramatic karaoke classic in the making, “Wrecking Ball.”
But a blast from the not-so-distant past served as the finale. She and her dancers wrapped up with “Party in the U.S.A.” sporting a presidential motif. The Abe Lincoln stilt walker and the Mount Rushmore costumes were cool, but I couldn't take my eyes off the giant kitten dancing on the big screen. Awwww.
Much of the show was highly entertaining.The whole show was at turns fun, hilarious, baffling and corny; probably not your cup of tea if you're a dude and over 25. And if you're a parent, you may want to reconsider sending your pre-teen daughter to the Dome next time Miley shows up.
Overheard from a grumpy and possibly drunk dad after the show: “That was the best concert I’ve ever seen - except for every other concert I’ve ever seen. I think Credence was kind of like that.”
For more images from Sunday's show, visit BillBungard.com.
Set list: “SMS (Bangerz),” “4 x 4,” “Love, Party, Money,” “My Darlin',” “Maybe You're Right,” “FU,” “Do My Thang,” “#GETITRIGHT,” “Can't Be Tamed,” “Adore You,” “Drive,” “Rooting for My Baby,” “Hey Ya” (Outkast cover), “Jolene” (Dolly Parton cover), “23,” “Someone Else,” “We Can't Stop,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Party in the U.S.A.”