Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz
The Wiltern Theatre
December 19, 2015

According to Miley Cyrus, the tour with Her Dead Petz, which concluded at the Wiltern Theatre on Saturday night, is the most herself that she has ever been onstage.

For witnesses of 2013’s Bangerz arena tour, where the former Hannah Montana slithered down a giant tongue slide, rode on the hood of a car, and straddled a hot dog that swung around the venue, this statement may have seemed puzzling. Bangerz seemed to embrace the idea of fulfilling the artist’s whims. How much could she have been holding back?

On Saturday night, she explained that when her dog Floyd died during the Bangerz tour, the situation didn’t allow for her to mourn in the way she needed. “I wanted to surround myself with people that understand the pain involved in losing a pet,” she said of her latest project, which led her to collaborating with psychedelic rock royalty, The Flaming Lips.

In fact, it was the Los Angeles stop of the Bangerz tour that sparked the relationship between Cyrus and the Lips, when the Oklahoma City natives joined Cyrus on a cover of their own “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” From there, their work on a collaborative album was hardly kept secret, as a wave of social media posts on both party’s platforms teased nudity, drugs and, hopefully, inspired music creations.

When the album Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz arrived for free as Cyrus hosted the MTV Video Music Awards this summer, there was a moodiness to the collection that the singer's live show has a hard time capturing. Sure, Cyrus gave impassioned speeches over the course of the concert about trophy hunting, her deceased dog, and a departed blowfish that understood her better than any person ever has. But the over-the-top stage show struggled to convey the same emotional weight that is present in her recent material.

Part of the reason why the live rendition of, for example, “The Floyd Song (Sunrise)” failed hold the same emotional stakes as the album version was Cyrus’ singing. The Dead Petz album is characterized by the sort of subtle, psych-pop arrangements and intimate vocals the Lips are known for. But even though the Wiltern is much smaller than Cyrus' typical arenas, if often felt like she was singing for the rafters, losing any vocal vulnerability in favor of sheer volume.

Miley Cyrus; Credit: Photo by Hannah Verbeuren

Miley Cyrus; Credit: Photo by Hannah Verbeuren

The audience wasn't really in the mood for subtlety, either. When Cyrus attempted to play Tibetan bowls for, uh, “Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz,” the Lips’ Wayne Coyne shushed the audience repeatedly before giving up, realizing that getting a hushed moment for Cyrus to showcase her traditional Asian instrument just wasn’t in the cards for an audience ready to rage on a Saturday night.

Fortunately, the second hour of the set found both Cyrus and the Lips settle into a comfortable groove. Throughout the entire show, the singer would leave stage for costume changes that allowed the Lips to extend the intro of whatever song was coming. Then Cyrus would emerge in one of her trademark outrageous outfits, which included a baby, a stick of butter and a unicorn with (fake) exposed breasts and vagina.

Ahead of “Tiger Dreams,” a giant mirror ball descended near the back of the stage while Coyne swung a flashlight like a lasso, setting the stage for a triumphant Cyrus to appear dressed in her own mirror-ball garb. It was a stunning visual, sure, but the aesthetic also fed into the sonics of the Lips and the sultriness of Cyrus’ voice. More than on any other song, the pairing of artists on “Tiger Dreams” made total sense, with Cyrus and Coyne ending the number by locking hands and twirling in circles at center stage.

From there, the show cruised. Cyrus even finally got the quiet moment she deserved for her solo piano tribute to her dead blowfish, and relaxed her voice for a pair lush, dreamy tracks, “Karen Don’t Be Sad” and “Evil Is But a Shadow.”

If this is Cyrus as she truly is, the audience was left with dual impressions. One was of a young woman pushing the bombastic, for whom you could never have too many dancing lighters and marijuana leaves on a single stage. But the other, far more interesting Miley is an artist with enough taste to surround herself with inspiring collaborators, and the self-awareness to know that she has the presence and chops to completely overshadow them.

It would have been nice to see more of the latter Cyrus on Saturday night, if only because we have seen so much of the former. But in terms of sheer entertainment and stimulation, there are worse things to hide behind than confetti cannons and giant dildos.

Set list:
Party in the USA (Instrumental Intro)
Dooo It!
Love Money Party
1 Sun
The Floyd Song (Sunrise)
Something About Space Dude
Space Boots
Fuckin Fucked Up
BB Talk
Bang Me Box
Slab of Butter (Scorpion)
I Forgive Yiew
Milky Milky Milk
Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz
Tiger Dreams
Pablow the Blowfish
Karen Don't Be Sad
Evil Is But a Shadow
We Can't Stop

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