The last time Miley Cyrus graced the stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, she twerked against Robin Thicke‘s crotch, faux-masturbated with a foam finger, stuck out her tongue and became the most famous pop star of 2013.
Last night, she was hellbent on continuing that momentum.
Over the past few months, the furor fueled by Miley’s shenanigans has dulled somewhat, cooling down from the flood of #CulturalAppropriation thinkpieces and Open Letters From Everyone To Everyone About Everything to a simple, exasperated sigh of “Oh, she’s just being Miley.” (Her best friend Lesley predicted this well before any of that, for the record.)
In that time, the “strategic hot mess” (her words) known as the VMAs performance has been given an even bigger budget and blown up to fill stadiums nationwide on the Bangerz Tour — a major label sensory overload that could have only been conceived by an oft-blazed 21-year-old pop princess on top of the world.
Before the superstar’s arrival on Saturday night, Swedish duo Icona Pop arrived first to the stage to deliver their shout-y, fizzy EDM beats to a moderately filled stadium, leading up to their raucous 2013 hit, “I Love It.”
Darkling diva (and Miley’s newfound BFF) Sky Ferreira came next, supplying a concise set of jagged cuts from her brooding masterpiece, Night Time, My Time, as well as her aching Ghost EP ballad, “Sad Dream” — and all behind those signature dark shades. Having only seen her perform in dingy New York clubs, it was surreal to now watch her howling those angst-filled records on giant stadium screens to the teenybopper crowd. Somehow, it worked. And despite still healing from a vocal injury, her voice truly never sounded better.
With two opening acts and extended breaks, the night was already running long and the crowd — made up of almost exclusively of teenage girls and baby gays — was growing impatient. To pass the time, they shrieked at one another and took selfies in their variations of Miley’s award show looks — mainly the double-knotted hair and pelvic bone-flaunting leotards. (Basically, a whole lot of underage tits and ass going on.)
And then the lights dropped.
A projection of Miley’s face glowed as “SMS (Bangerz)” kicked in, her eyes rolling around in her head. Slowly, her mouth began to open, revealing a slide inside — in the shape of a tongue, naturally. As it slowly crept onto the stage, the mini diva appeared in a cloud of smoke, waving triumphantly as she sailed down the slide spread-eagle to the tune of a goofy slide whistle. She stood, trotting around the stage and waving like a pageant princess: “Well, this place looks familiar,” she joked. “Barclays, can I hear you make some motherfucking noise?!” And just like that, we’d come full circle.
To say the Bangerz Tour is entertaining would be a severe understatement.
What Miley lacks in traditional choreography, she makes up for in spitfire energy and imagination: She do-si-doed her way through “4X4.” She dramatically sassed a giant puppet during her text message breakup anthem, “FU.” She rubbed, licked and groped her way through an orgy on a 20+ person-sized bed with future summer hit, “#GETITRIGHT.” During “Love, Money, Party,” she rode down the catwalk on top of a gold plated car wearing a marijuana leaf-laced leotard (complete with mini-backpack), throwing faux-Miley dollars in the sky and furiously self-spanking, weave-tapping and pussy-patting her way to ecstasy.
The Bangerz Tour stage alone is a visual paradise (or nightmare, depending on what you’ve ingested before the show): The colorful, eye-popping projections are full of stoner-friendly psychedelic visuals, iMessage chat bubbles and Adult Swim-like animations, including one Ren & Stimpy-inspired short, some utterly bizarre slow-motion CGI (butt plugs and spilled soda cups during “My Darlin'”?) and collages of her now infamous Terry Richardson photo shoots.
The night’s set is essentially the deluxe edition of Bangerz on shuffle, bonus tracks and all, with not even a single reference to her days as a Disney princess pre-2013 apart from “Party In The USA” and “Can’t Be Tamed.” Gone are any traces of the days of Hannah Montana, almost to an offensive degree: No “See You Again”! No “The Climb”! No “Fly On The Wall”! No “7 Things”!
It’s clear that Miley’s on a mission to gloss over her earlier career in an X-rated coat of salaciousness, despite the fact that most of her best songs came before Bangerz. Even her innocuous Top 40 jam “Party In The USA” was re-swizzled with twerking patriotic dancers and Mileybird pretending to give a blowjob to a faux-Abe Lincoln. (Offensive? It’s hard to determine what we’re meant to be scandalized by — the show is basically a sing-along episode of South Park.)
One thing certainly rang true on Saturday: Miley Cyrus really misses her dog.
She spent a majority of the evening talking about her recently deceased puppy, Floyd, who she’s been publicly grieving on Instagram and Twitter over the past week. During the past few Bangerz shows, she’s burst into tears on stage. “I have to tell you, this is the first time I’ve genuinely smiled all week,” she explained to a thunderous roar of support early into the show.
It was almost a cruel joke, then, when a giant inflatable replica of Floyd grimly came floating out onto the stage, as she sang – or tried to sing — “Can’t Be Tamed.” She crumpled next to the puppy’s feet, barely keeping up and writhing in pain. (She did the same thing in Boston and New Jersey.) But the crowd cried out to her warmly, and so, she lept up in her chaps and rallied onward.
The repeated reminders of her dog (she spoke about Floyd at least three times over the course of the night) was the only thing that kept the night from being a complete blast, although she was still mostly able to have her fun. The crowd certainly did too: Miley kept the audience hyped with her playfully over-the-top banter, spitting an entire water bottle’s worth of liquid into the (mostly) willing general audience at one point. (Yum.)
During “Adore You,” she turned the attention to the crowd, demanding that they make out as the cameras closed in on unsuspecting couples (“Kiss Cam” Jumbotron style), causing total strangers and friends alike to panic and awkwardly lip-lock with the person standing next to them to the approving roar of the crowd. Guys, girls, whoever: “Yeah, get into it…grab his titty!” Miley encouraged two guys making out on-screen at one point. #ItGetsBetter!
By now, we all know that Miley’s a capable vocalist (when she wants to be), and she serves up a brief moment of Serious Face Artistry with her acoustic set. Last night, she tackled several covers — Coldplay‘s “The Scientist,” Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene,” Lana Del Rey‘s “Summertime Sadness” (which she’s already performed impeccably on Live Lounge last year) and Bob Dylan‘s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” “Y’all have got some homework to do,” she said after the song wrapped. “You gotta go home and listen every Bob Dylan song there is.” Good luck with that one, Miley.
If there was any lingering doubt before this concert, it’s gone now: Miley is the leading pop star of the new generation of twentysomething entertainers. (The Madonna of her pack, if you will — and no, I’m not saying she’s the “New Madonna.” She’s Madonn-esque.)
In case that wasn’t clear enough, the Queen Of Pop herself took a break from taking selfies in her bathroom to be in attendance last night. She sat regally next to the soundboard, closely watching the young pop tart in action. It was utterly surreal (and sort of hard to pay attention to the concert) to watch Madonna watching the show — especially when Miley performed “Summertime Sadness.” (What is this, personal fan-fiction come to life?) Madonna evidently had a good time: “The other M.C. Pays a visit to NY and KILLS it! Naughty naughty guuurlllllll!” she wrote on Instagram after the show, supplying her royal seal of approval.
But while Madonna’s shock and provocation tactics are often for the sake of a political or social cause, Miley’s mission is different: She’s just being Miley, The Pop Star — a pretty fearless one at that. She represents youth, partying to excess and all the hilarity, #drama and embarrassment that comes with the territory.
The Bangerz Tour is yet another successful strategic hot mess, and a whole fuckload of frivolous fun. I mean, hello…she rides out of the stadium on top of a giant hot dog.
Love, money, party y’all — enjoy it while it lasts.
‘Bangerz’ was released on October 8. (iTunes)