“Is this the future of America?”
A woman sitting in the row behind me at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday night asked me this after noticing my blatantly horrified facial expression, as two tween girls in front of me stood on their chairs and uncoordinatedly “twerked” in their booty shorts and braces.
Droves of these overly excited, underdressed and unchaperoned tweens were out in full force at the Forum for Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz tour. If the show reflected the future of America, then the future of America is probably going to be, well — weird.
When a giant Miley head with wonky, rolling eyes appeared on the screen, the arena exploded in a variety of hysterics (the aforementioned tween in front of me was definitely sobbing). The mouth opened, and Cyrus made her grand entrance via a giant tongue slide, her petite frame outfitted in sparkly gingham, high-waisted underwear and fur shoulder pads.
Backed by an eclectic crew — including teddy bears, dancers in sparkly tracksuits, a 6-foot-tall woman and a midget — Cyrus performed "SMS (Bangerz)," a track that features fellow pop princess, Britney Spears.
Separating herself from Spears and other young pop stars of the moment, Cyrus seems to possess a taste for the completely bizarre. Her stage is a visual smorgasbord of weirdness — complete with psychedelic onscreen visuals, puppets and inflatables.
Cyrus writhed on the hood of a tiny gold SUV during “Love Money Party,” and was joined by a gigantic (and somewhat terrifying) Big Sean puppet.
Cyrus’s vocals were muddy during the first few songs — although it was difficult to notice, due to the enormous amount of distractions on stage.
“My Darlin’” and “Maybe You’re Right” effectively showcased Cyrus’s voice, which has an undeniable richness and power.
During “Get it Right,” Cyrus writhed around in a giant bed, wearing fuzzy red lingerie and joined by several male and female backup dancers. While this was seemingly overtly sexual, the sexiness was (once again) combated by the weirdness of the onscreen visuals — this time, smiley faces created by pieces of licorice and fruit.
Cyrus channeled her inner Christina Auguilera circa 2002 with her performance of “Can’t be Tamed,” donning fuzzy chaps and a bra.
During “Adore You,” a Kiss Cam targeted members of the audience — all of whom were beyond excited to appear on the arena’s jumbo screen. A solid four minutes of uncomfortable (but entertaining) girl-on-girl kissing ensued.
After a costume change and a short S&M themed video — which featured Alt-J’s “Fitzpleasure” and was (once again) more strange than sexy — Cyrus appeared on a small stage on the opposite side of the arena, sitting on a stool and accompanied by a backup singer and acoustic band.
During a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” Cyrus took a video-selfie of her entire performance. She transitioned into unwavering covers of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness,” Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Cyrus’s vocals shine in an acoustic setting, proving that she can captivate an arena without spectacle or shock.
Back on the large stage, Cyrus performed producer Mike WiLL Made It’s “23,” and rode on a hot dog that ascended to the rafters during “Someone Else.”
Expectedly, the encore included mega-hits “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” — a ballad that (although overplayed) solidifies Cyrus’s vocal prowess.
Still, vocal prowess will never be Cyrus’s calling card — provocativeness and scandal will. But there is a uniqueness and artistry in the production of her Bangerz tour. And it is a weirdness that I can appreciate.