There might not be a more relaxed performer on earth than Miley Cyrus.
Whether she was working her hips like a stripper on the hood of a car, spitting bottled water onto enthused fans with their mouths held open or belting out lyrics with the inflections of a rapper, a pop starlet or a country twanger, she did it all with the ease and comfortable swagger of someone who's been performing more than half her 21 years. For Cyrus, superstardom comes off as no biggie, ya'll.
Cyrus brought her Bangerz world tour to a sold-out Forum crowd of 14,558 Thursday night along everything you'd expect to come with it: Amazonian strippers, super skimpy costumes adorned with rhinestone pot leaves and an onstage slumber party/grind-fest with half-dressed men, women and dwarfs slinking around on a giant bed, for starters.
But the “den of perverted sin” the fiery sidewalk preachers advertised through bullhorns outside the Forum before the concert was more than a bit exaggerated.
Miley's slightly goofy, unapologetically sleazy dance moves on her openers “SMS (Bangerz),” “4x4” and “Love Money Party” brought to mind more a girl goofing off in her parents living room than a corrupter of young souls — a regular girl with regular girl sunburn and tan lines from a day on St. Pete Beach (which she happily pointed out near the start of the show).
Overall there wasn't anything on stage that wouldn't have made the cut in a PG-13 movie.
As Whit Lasseter, who was at the show with her 14-year-old daughter Lexi put it, “She's a little wild, but my generation had Madonna, the world didn't end.”
Lasseter and her daughter were the exception not the rule, though. While a few parents did bring younger kids, most of the diverse crowd appeared to be in their late teens or 20s. Their favored garment of the night, without a doubt, was extremely short shorts. Black beanies (the kind Cyrus wears on her head at the end of her “We Can't Stop” video) came in a close second.
One man, an employee of a local hip-hop radio station, had the unenviable job of standing outside the Forum and asking every single woman who passed — that includes young teens, women holding hands with their boyfriends and ladies who appeared old enough to be grandmothers — if they wanted to “make a twerk video.” Although he claimed to have found many enthusiastic volunteers to twerk for his cell phone camera, he didn't have a single taker in the 30 minutes I watched him.
Inside, the crowd seemed much more willing to let loose. Cyrus prompted the fans to “get weird” and “make out” when the camera focused on them during the ballad “Adore You,” and almost all obliged. Watching about a dozen pairs of women, a straight couple in their 50s and a hairy young man who basically got his beard licked all passionately make out with each other on a giant, high-def screen was both creepily voyeuristic and oddly sweet.
The sound wasn't always great, but Cyrus' strong pipes shined through when it counted, such as on a powerful “Wrecking Ball.” After working her way through most of “Bangerz,” she capably covered Coldplay's “The Scientist” and Lana Del Rey's “Summertime Sadness” before nailing a version of Dolly Parton's classic, “Jolene.”
The beginning of the Bangerz show is derivative of so much '90s and early 2000s pop culture, especially the newly materialistic hip hop culture of the Clinton era, that it's hard to tell if it's celebrating, parodying, or just ironically co-opting it.
Dancers wear metallic button-downs that look like they came straight out of a Bad Boy video, while the golden, Jesus-head medallions that came into favor with rappers in that era fly by on screen. This was all while Cyrus was "making it rain" on herself with piles of obviously fake-looking cash.
Much of the concert, though, was visually bonkers in the best ways. Her entrance down a ramp built to look like her own tongue, a fuzzy, neon dinosaur puppet that followed her around the stage, the still life photos of faces made from candy and fried eggs and an enormous, towering, inflatable wolf all stand out.
During one computer-generated video segment, a flying baby's head spewed a bolt of electricity that melted the skin off of a jet ski-riding Cyrus while death metal blasted through the arena. So yeah, it got weird.
The biggest cheers of the night came during an encore performance of "We Can't Stop." Cyrus returned to the stage for a second encore to perform her 2009 hit, “Party in the U.S.A.,” bringing much of the exiting crowd racing back to their seats.