Miley Cyrus slid onto the stage via a massive plastic tongue in the first of many skimpy leotard outfits that facilitated an excessive degree of crotch-grabbing - even by the late Michael Jackson’s standards.
The 21-year-old daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and godchild of Dolly Parton can really sing and has superstar charisma, which is why the cavorting - at one moment on the bonnet of a car in an skimpy catsuit made from dollar bills that was virtually crotchless, Miley moving like a twerking stripper in a nightclub - makes for such a disappointing and aggressive distraction from the music.
Which is not to say the Bangerz Tour Belfast show at a balloon-filled Odyssey Arena did not have innumerable high points and a sense of trippy madness that saw the stage peopled with giant furry animals, dancers of all shapes and sizes shaking their booty in red lycra and frills, a huge gingham patterned hen, a large constructed husky, visuals of Miley’s face undergoing strange contortions, and a sort of Sesame-Street style orange character that itself seemed bemused by the surrounding mix of cartoonish glee and sexual excess. And at one point the popstar sat astride a giant hotdog that moved ever higher into the air, like a scene from some acid-induced dream.
Part of this surreal mix was actually very funny, enliveningly weird, a full-on, liberating celebration of the odd, and Miley worked her way through a setlist that included a lot of lyrics about partying all night, which were cool and catchy (after all, do we expect popstars to sing about lust and angst or warm milk, early nights and double math?). Plus, Cyrus has a voice with voltage.
Covering There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths was an awesome surprise in gear change, while her cover of Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness had the crowd going wild.
Whatever you feel about her love of swearing and sexual gesturing, Wrecking Ball remains an amazing song and Miley sang it with intensity, leaving most of the stadium screaming very loudly and definitely wanting more. This girl has a sense of fun and is one of the most uninhibited performers around today.
Still, many will remain incensed by the sexy moves and bad language.
But, can we realistically blame a 21-year-old probably overcome by the excitement and thrall of her fame for pushing the boundaries and having fun in a way that only reflects the sex-obsessed pop culture she is surely a product of?
It’s unfair to level the full brunt of criticism of this need to twerk, swear, gad about with a big plastic spliff, be half-naked and sing on a bed with muscular male dancers at the door of someone so young. Cyrus is clearly being pushed to ever-increasing degrees of erotica and shock tactics to keep up with the mood of the contemporary pop market. Anyway, should pop be shaped to suit children, or isn’t it the responsibility of parents to attend to what they feel is suitable or offensive to the young minds they are in charge of?
A show chock-full of explicit content, for sure, but Cyrus is also an amazing singer and an electric performer.