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Growing pains aside, Cyrus was ready to rock

Posted by James Reed  November 9, 2009 10:57 PM

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MILEY CYRUS
With Metro Station
At: TD Garden, tonight

By James Reed
Globe Staff

Miley Cyrus rippled the waters last week when she essentially disowned her current radio hit, a tasty slice of dance pop called “Party in the USA.” Asked in a video interview what her favorite Jay-Z song is -- because “Party in the USA” references the radio playing it -- Cyrus admitted she didn’t know anything by the hip-hop titan.

In fact, Cyrus said she recorded the song only because she needed something for her clothing line and doesn’t really even listen to pop music. She prefers rockers Joan Jett and Janis Joplin. Feel free to insert a long eye roll here.

But after seeing Cyrus’s sold-out show at the TD Garden earlier tonight, her claim is much more palatable, even convincing. The 90-minute concert, at times surprisingly loose and driving, presented the 16-year-old in a tricky position -- not quite at a crossroads but definitely addressing some artistic growing pains. Cyrus seemed to be toeing the line between PG-rated tween pop star and an edgy rocker eager to transcend her “Hannah Montana” demographic.

Mind you, she played both roles well, but it was obvious Cyrus felt most at ease when the guitars were cranked and she was sprawled on the stage, her long brown tresses sometimes sweeping the floor.

Yet she was keenly aware that her audience wants her as both innocuous balladeer and hell-raising rock star. For the bland but inspirational fare (“Bottom of the Ocean,” “The Climb”), Cyrus played it safe, occasionally in a tasteful gown; for the spiky pop-punk detours (“Spotlight,” “Fly on the Wall”), out came the black leather shorts and streetwise break-dancers.

Cyrus covered Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n Roll” as she was air-lifted above the squealing crowd atop a red motorcycle. Interestingly, she dropped the Jay-Z reference during “Party in the USA,” instead swapping in a shout-out to Michael Jackson.

If the show was short on anything, it was Cyrus’s personality and ability to engage with the audience. We know she’s got impressive vocal chops, but now we need to feel what she’s trying to put across in her songs, something beyond the standard “you guys are awesome!” banter.

Her big brother had the opposite problem. Trace Cyrus co-fronts the emo-rock quartet Metro Station, which opened the show. Trace had the rock-star aesthetic (tattoos, shaggy mane, pants as skinny as his voice), but he was barely audible as a singer or guitarist. The only time he rose above a whisper was when he shouted, “Ladies, scream!” That’s called all bark and no bite.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

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1 comments so far...
  1. Clearly, you are a concert-goer reviewing this from a concert-goer's perspective. That's nice but let's take a real look at last night's event. When you looked around North Station, you saw a sea of girls ages 4 - 20. All dressed, for good or for bad, like their Disney Channel idol; tags barely off their new Wal-Mart digs sporting Miley’s moniker. More sequin fedoras then you would ever want to see. Some mothers looking equally ridiculous in their 'really, I look as good as my 16 year old daughter' clothing. Chubby over indulged suburban children grabbing up $10 glow sticks and $35 t-shirts like some kind of drug. Their mothers leading the way (and to be fair, some fathers as well) all looking like they just won the ‘Parent of the Year’ award for being there.

    They all anxiously took their seats. The cute 'I LOVE YOU MILEY' signs were everywhere being held by the pink clad girls. The lights dim, girls shriek, lights up and the air in the arena suddenly thins as 12,000 mothers simultaneously gasp. Metro Station has taken the stage. Miley's heroin thin brother is standing there looking like something between a character in a Tim Burton film and a guy passed in the red line asking for change. He is tattooed from chin to finger tip. He was, in short, every one of those mother's worst nightmare.

    He flies around with the confidence of Miley and the talent of, well, of the guy I passed in the red line asking for change.

    Then Miley takes the stage in what can only be called a not so Disney wardrobe. She doesn't walk the line of adulthood, she straddles it like a dancer looking for tips.

    It was too bad that she couldn't stick to her public persona. She sold the tickets with her hit film, her Disney life, and her Wal-Mart clothing. Then she hit us all with her leather corsets and suggestive dancing. It's too bad. She was absolutely terrific in her films, in her videos, and on TV. There's nothing wrong with looking showered and clothed.

    Suddenly, we're not on Disney Channel any more.

    Posted by T November 10, 09 10:46 AM
 

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The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.

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Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.

Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.

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