You've heard of Miley Cyrus? This is what she has said about her Bangerz tour, which came to the Staples Center on Saturday night: "Even though parents probably won't like this, my show is educational for the kids - they're going to be exposed to art most people don't know about."
She was pretty much right. There was a midget dressed like the Liberty Bell, 50 foot high images of phallic candy, and Miley herself humping a giant hot dog sailing above the crowd.
It was a pretty good show.
See also: Our slideshow from the performance
For much of the latter half of 2013 critics, parents, celebrity-obsessives and just about everyone else debated Cyrus' merits; she was charged with racial appropriation, being a bad role model, and being a pawn of the system. But unlike her contemporaries that are spinning out of control - most prominently, her lookalike Justin Bieber - Cyrus somehow has kept her act together. Of course, she has the bad habit of sexualizing the shit out of everything (more on that later), but that doesn't mean she isn't a blast in concert.
The show opened with a giant projection of her, crazy-eyed, like a ventriloquist's dummy. Her mouth then opened wide, releasing a giant, pink slide shaped like a tongue, which she proceeded to slide down.
Kind of a subtle "fuck you" to everyone who complains about her always sticking her tongue out, and indeed the 'screw the haters' theme was strong throughout the night.
In glittery red granny panties and cowboy boots, she kicked things off with "SMS (Bangerz)."
The stage was bursting with color and movement with Ren and Stimpy-style cartoons - some depicting grotesque versions of Miley - flashing on the screen. (Indeed, the show's creator was behind the tour artwork).
She was accompanied by her twerk team, the L.A. Bakers, a midget, a gang of multi-colored fuzzy animals, and Amazon Ashley, the 6-and-a half-foot-tall black dancer whose butt Cyrus has controversially taken to spanking - which she did on Saturday night as well.
There were lots and lots of crotch grabs on Miley's part, and at one point a giant bed was brought out, which she climbed into and invited all of her dancers, including four shirtless black men, one of whose drawers she pawed.
There was a giant toy car with monster rims, an actor wearing an oversized cartoon head resembling Big Sean, fake cash blowing into the crowd, marijuana imagery galore, and even animations of purple drank cups.
But it wasn't all hip-hop appropriation; after the twerking she got into some line-dancing, clad in cowboy boots and chaps. In our opinion she took the act too far with her hoedown rendition of her bass-heavy song, "Do My Thing," however, as it's one of the best songs on Bangerz and we prefer the original version.
Even worse was her lackluster cover of OutKast's "Hey Ya," which featured dull backing-band instrumentals. But following that cover came one that positively blew our mind. Before we really knew what was happening Wayne Coyne and another of the Flaming Lips were up on stage, Coyne carrying a giant silver balloon that said "FUCK YEAH." No one in the audience - which was about 80% young girls, 15% gay guys, and the rest a mix of parents and dragged-along boyfriends - seemed to know what was going on, as Cyrus explained that the Oklahoma psych-rockers were inspirational to her.
They launched into "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," which went over just fine, though the entire row behind us took the opportunity to sit down and have a breather. But then, astonishingly, after a bit of banter about how that could have done better, they performed the song again, all the way through, five plus minutes. "You guys don't understand what the fuck is happening to me right now," Cyrus said to the crowd. Indeed.
Miley had a costume change every couple songs or so, and there was always something crazy onstage (like a giant, stomping, fuzzy Dr. Seuss monster or a blow-up wolf that literally went all the way to the rafters) or on the jumbotron, like the montage of her writhing around with black tape on her nipples or her driving a sea-do in a Borat-style bikini. The visuals were pretty amazing, though; vivid, colorful, and synced well with the music - essentially one long music video.
Miley herself took to making out with just about everything; when a fan threw a custom-made teddy bear on stage, she sucked its muzzle and rubbed it against her crotch. While an actor dressed like a mustard bottle helped her onto the giant hot dog, she made out with the side of his costume. And, of course, during "Party in the U.S.A." she mimed fellating a guy dressed like Abraham Lincoln.
Oh, and then during "Adore You" she bent down over the side of the stage to give Katy Perry a smooch on the lips.
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As the legions of hair-bunned, crop-topped fans left the building, the buzz was positive. "That was good, so good, like, really good," said one girl as she rushed to her group of giddy friends. It's hard to disagree with that sentiment.
See also: Our slideshow from the performance