Miley Cyrus at The O2 – Review

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miley-cyrusIt’s safe to say that few would’ve predicted that in 2014, the world’s premiere pop provocateur would be 21-year-old Miley Cyrus. With her barnyard bleat, honky-tonk pedigree and Disney molding, Cyrus always seemed like a niche pop act that probably wouldn’t escape child stardom quite so easily as others of her ilk. But boy did Miley show us! Love it or hate it, her transformation over the last year has seen her land trans-Atlantic number one singles, shatter YouTube records and take over Twitter. She’s twerked on Robin Thicke, hoe-downed with Madonna and recorded with Pharrell and Britney. It’s safe to say that Miley Cyrus is now a global pop sensation.

But how does all this translate to the ever-important live show? It’s been a shaky start for our girl Miley. Several dates in the US and Europe have been cancelled as the poor mite was confined to a hospital bed after a ‘severe allergic reaction’, but there was little sign of that as Bangerz rolled in to Dublin, Tuesday night.

Opening tonight’s show is Miley’s alt-pop counterpart, Sky Ferreira. Also 21, the pint-sized fashionista has drummed up her fair share of controversy and critical acclaim as well. However, she seemed a poor fit for this show. Wearing a beanie and sunglasses, Sky appeared to have wandered on stage by mistake. Her husky, sultry vocals are far stronger than expected, but even pop master classes like ‘You’re Not The One’ and ‘Everything is Embarrassing’ are rewarded with a limp response from the (mostly) teenage crowd.

Her material is top-notch stuff, leagues above much of Cyrus’ songs, but in contrast to Miley’s exuberance, Sky’s shyness feels more frustrating than endearing.

Sky’s aloofness was counteracted by Miley’s zealous humour. A giant Monty Python-sized image of her face appears on screen. With one eye winking, its mouth opens as the real Miley slides down a giant tongue to make her grand entrance on stage, to great fanfare from an adoring crowd. Understatement is a dirty word at the Bangerz tour. Miley furiously twerks and grinds her way through a handful of fan favourites off her latest album, to the crowd’s delight. Unusual for a modern pop star, Miley seems to be enjoying her night on stage just as much, or perhaps even more, than the average tween at the O2. It is refreshingly brilliant to see a popstar as notorious as this truly her enjoying herself. Miley clearly lives to perform; grinning from ear to ear as she smacks a dancer’s gyrating buttocks with untold glee.

In contrast to all the madness on display here, a subdued ballad section hints at the artist Miley may have been – had she not found twerking to be such good fun. Stripped back versions of ‘Adore You’ and ‘Drive’ show that she is a fairly accomplished singer, and her throaty vocals do these big ballads justice. Of course, the on-stage visual fuckery doesn’t stop for any slow section, and during one ballad a giant orange bird is chasing Cyrus around.

She showed off an impressive love of music as an art form; switching from her usual fizzy pop madness to covers of the Arctic Monkeys and Bob Dylan. She really hits her stride during an expletive-ridden cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ that seems to be the perfect halfway point between her country routes and her own frenetic pop tunes.

Knowing the routine for a big pop show well, she rewards the crowd with not one, but two encores. It’s brave to save your biggest hits (‘We Can’t Stop’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’) to the end of a show like this, but they act as a perfect climax to tonight’s frantic tryst with Miley. Everyone could leave happy tonight… except perhaps the baffled parents of a flurry of twerking tweens.

Bangerz is a kid’s TV show… after dark. Cyrus serves up cute costumes, hilarious props and cuddly teddy-bear back-up dancers with plenty of her trademark raunchy new attitude. She’s a bad-ass Bugs Bunny. The show is offensive only in the most gloriously cartoonish of ways. It’s silly – to a charming extent. It’s hard to see why anyone would deign Cyrus’ antics to be ‘controversial’, when her tongue is so firmly in her cheek (or, more accurately, protruding as far as possible from her mouth). At just 21, Cyrus already seems like a seasoned performer. She revels in every single moment of her Bangerz tour, and the audience does too.

Review by Damien Ryan

 

Mark O'Brien

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